An Allegory for Relationships

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A small story crafted by Schopenhauer (in his book Parerga and Paralipomena) amidst his philosophical ramblings:

Imagine a family of porcupines (a.k.a hedgehogs) assembled in their underground burrow, one cold winter's night. The air and the ground around them is chilling to the bone and the only warmth comes from their own bodies. In order to share the warmth with each other, they try to move closer. However as they get closer, their quills start pricking each other. Instantly, they recoil and move farther. The cold gets to them again and they make another attempt at proximity, but this time with caution. Over repeated attempts, they finally settle at a balance, a distance where the maximum body heat can be shared without the quills pricking too much. The porcupines have hence learnt to sacrifice a little warmth, for the sake of comfort.  
Now! this is how humans should establish relationships too- if distances are too wide, then a chill of contempt sets in, whereas if intimacy is too much, then the prick of egoistic expectations is inevitable. One should keep relationships social enough to partake the joy of communion, yet isolated enough to allow sufficent freedom for one's own priorities.

In simple terms, it explains how relationships are needed, yet a little 'reasonable and respectable distance' is imperative in them. A balanced intimacy is one where each partner carries their own personal space too. We are all reflective beings and at some point we invariably descend into introspective journeys, and there will always be moments that we spend alone, in our reflections, and this makes our 'personal space' very important to have. Make no mistake, this personal space is not for the sake of privacy, but for exercising one's identity and experiencing the reality of one's self not in relation to anything else but in terms of its own intrinsic worth.

All extremities are to be avoided- the desire to isolate oneself from the world, the desire to completely surrender oneself to the other, or the desire to dominate and own the other- none of these will result in a longlasting relationship as the 'quills of reason' are sure to create discomfort someday.

This analogy holds ground not just in interpersonal relationships but in inter-religious and international dialogues as well.

PS: Would you want to explore this further, search for the 'The Porcupine's Dilemma' on the internet.


Bharat Desai said...

I am impressed by the clarity of thoughts and their explanation in smallest sentences on the subject "An allergy for relationship".
You have rightly pointed out this:
1.Relationship needs reasonable and respectable distance.
2.A balanced intimacy is where each partner has own personnel space too.
3.All extremities are to be avoided.

Vicky Dada (Vikas) said...

Thanks sir! :)
small correction- the post is an 'allegory' for relationships, not so much of an 'allergy' for it :)

Harini Koushik said...

Rightly said, I need lot of time to accept this!

Varsha Prabhu said...

So aptly said.. Wish I was a porcupine rather than a human .. Then the distance would becom imperative...

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