A hollow life
“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks — we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.” ― Parker J. Palmer
It hardly makes for the best headline but it’s true.
We live a life devoid of meaning.
And when I say ‘meaning’, I’m not suggesting we can’t find meaning but it’s in the wrong things: material wealth, experiences — the more extreme the better — and wanting no less, in every way, than we’ve experienced before.
But it never lasts.
That’s not quite true. If you can stay with the 20th Century programme, the one built atop the Capitalist ideal, you’re fine. But if the pressure overwhelms you, the mask slips or you find your inner self at odds with the outer realm, you’re doomed to live a life devoid of meaning or anything meaningful with which to occupy your time.
At this juncture, most writers in the personal development genre would have you believe that there’s a system or technique to right the wrong, but there’s not. In fact, all you’re doing is replacing one faux life for another. And to be clear, I’m not trying to persuade you of my paradigm — awaken, to true self — save to the extent that it’s right to question that sense of unease in not living out the truest, soulful version of you.
As you know from last week’s post, I’m riven with a lifelong quest to live out my unlived life. In the early days, I thought I’d find myself in a vocational setting — and I tried my hand at a few things — but, through self-enquiry, I’ve come to realise that true self is the apotheosis of a life of meaning, which means exploring that gnarly subject of “Who am I?”.
Be honest, when was the last time, except in a fit of pique or existential panic, you sat down and asked yourself anything more meaningful than “What’s next?”.
Think about it this way:
“And we’re going on a journey together. We’re going on a Dreaming Journey in pursuit of the impossible. We’re intent upon waking up the voice in you, the voice that has been trying to speak to you for as long as you’ve lived.” — Michael E Gerber
In pursuing the meaning of meaning, it means questioning so much of what you’ve been told. For a start, it means challenging the stereotypical fantasy life where you follow a linear path: dream, desire, success. (And you usually need some celebrity to persuade you that the time/energy is worth the proverbial candle.)
Yes, that’s it. You’re following a script but not of your making.
But what if you ignored the script, rewrote it on your terms and came alive to true self?
Would it mean throwing baby out with the bathwater?
Would it mean jettisoning a secure job for an insecure one?
Or, would it mean starting with a blank sheet of paper and trying to reconnect with your inner self?
Who really knows.
But one thing’s for sure, if you don’t, you’ll go to sleep on life (if you’re not comatose already).
For some people, they recognise the gap between where they are and where they’d like to be. Parker J. Palmer calls this the ‘tragic gap’. That’s probably a fair reflection of what I’m referring to but I’m less interested in the naming but understanding how or why so few people become who they truly are.
In the end, as much at it pains me, all I can hope for is that you might be sufficiently turned on to enquire what it means to pursue a higher purpose life, where we remember what it means to live closer to the person we were born to be. That might mean revisiting one or two dark places, places which you’ve buried beneath a mountain of work, consumption and life-avoidance techniques, but, if like me, you’ve had a sudden seeing, a moment of profound clarity about true self, then you’ll find you have no choice but to follow the rabbit down the hole to the bitter end.