“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
So many people, in a desperate need to fit in, are lost.
It wasn’t always this way: as children, we didn’t need to think about things, we just were.
It would be too easy to dismiss this as our conditioned self — it’s far more complicated than that — but it doesn’t help when we don’t question the dream we’re pursuing beyond moribund, oh-so-obvious labels.
You might think I’m edging towards a slightly condescending tone — sorry — but, actually, all I’m doing is shining a light on my life and those of my generation (I was born in 1967). But in reality it’s not that different to now where my children are encouraged (or is it told?) to get the best education possible, choose a career, work hard…and the rest (what exactly?) will look after itself.
It’s not just the linear nature of this dream-realisation process that’s at stake, it’s the fact that very few of these institutions (who underpin our life) ever look to put a brake on the process and say “Yes, but who are you?”. Why would they? That’s not their purpose; and, in any event, this sort of self-inquiry is never talked about for appearing just a little bit odd.
Let me skip a few places.
Why do I think all this so important — understanding the true versus false self (see the work of Thomas Merton)? Not to eradicate the sense of desperation people feel in pursuing soulless work, or to narrow the gap between the hedonistic lifestyle they wish for or to pursue a happiness agenda.
The reason: to find inner peace. (These words are of course no more than penultimate.)
What I’m really getting at is that if we want to get beneath the flag-waving style of personal development that promises so much but delivers so little, we need to understand that to cope in a world that seems always to conspire against us, we won’t find a place of inner quiet without going on a journey. And I don’t mean one where we buy into another contrived system but one where we enquire deeply within.
Unfortunately, before then comes a lot of hurt in opening our hearts to something more real and beautiful than acquiring a whole heap of stuff.
I’d like to think this inevitable for us all but it’s not. So many people are afraid to step out of the dark and shine a light on their true, genius self. If nothing else, once they’re confronted with the realisation that they haven’t lost their true self, they’re then faced with having to do something every day to lift the veil. But they don’t. Instead, they go back to living a life that allows them to exist — no more.
At this point, I’m reminded of the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
When you get down to it there’s so many ways to live, but if all we do is see the world through a dualistic landscape, then our ego (the small self) will always maintain the whip hand. Instead, perhaps we should see every moment as precious, drop the pretence of fitting in and open our hearts to what might be.
It might not answer all the questions, but it’s an amazing place to start.