This deception of powerlessness is pervasive and consequential. It keeps people locked inside themselves. The rubber band of self-loathing pulls us back over and over again from taking the next right step toward our vision of life.
There is a healthy sort of self-loathing that keeps one from taking life too seriously. It maintains one’s humility. But it is ultimately less like loathing and more like honest assessment of our limitations. Loathing may start with this honesty.
It will start with mocking the over-confidence of someone who’s pride may have gone array (or may not have). We can start to be judgmental in this stage. Everyone else has a pride problem. Why can’t they just admit to their suffering?
Rest assured everyone suffers. Loathing longs for others to show their weakness. Not in a shared suffering sort of way, but in a proud “I know you are weak” sort of way. Loathing wants others to fail, to suffer, to miss out on things just like we do.
This sort of antagonistic loathing eventually turns on its owner. Once alone and quiet it begins its attack. What we thought was innocent sarcastic banter zeros in on us. “Who do we think we are? What have we got to show for ourselves.”
...recognizing the vast web of brokenness, greed, manipulation, and so on in the world can easily lead to cynicism (or the right to withdraw from our own battle). We can almost absorb the disenchantment into our own life.
With it comes a convenient sort of justification for not trying. “Why bother, everything is determinedly against the good guys making it.” Behind every success story we find some economic advantage that keeps us further out from the pie.
This is scarcity thinking at its best. There is one pie, and we are kept far at bay. The world’s wealthiest guard the pie with only their closest family and connections getting to it. No matter what we do, how hard we work, how talented we are, we can’t get in.
That thinking of course leads to absolute powerlessness.
We have been told from our infancy that we can do whatever we want. We have been surrounded by myths where the princess gets the prince, where things come together, where we find the dream job doing “what we have always wanted.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? We should be able to do what we want and get paid for it. Or better yet, we “deserve” it. Do we? And why do we deserve it more than the citizen of Nepal who has to work as a farmer or else his family starves to death?
Doesn’t he deserve to be happy doing only what he wants? Or what he is designed to do? “Well, I can’t help his circumstances there. Only he can figure that out.” Maybe. Or maybe he is onto something that we all need to be reminded of.
There is no way around thinking about work as an obligation. From the beginning of time humans have had to do things they did not want to do in order to survive, sustain, and even prosper. Work was built into the very fabric of life.
Our ancient ancestors may have had the advantage of not analyzing every area of our existence as we do. They lived out of necessity. They did not have the luxury to ponder, at least to the degree we do. Certainly they ached existentially.
Still the men knew that if they did not hunt or gather the family would not eat. They knew there was something driving them toward things they may not have wanted to do, namely survival. And today we are ultimately in the same dilemma.
We work for one reason ultimately: survival. We work for money. The money buys food, clothes, and shelter. We call them necessities. If we don’t work, we don’t have them. We are driven to find ways to make money in order to survive.
That instinct is ultimately good. We should survive. Life is worth surviving for. Think about what the will to survive is actually saying. Life is good. Existence is good. The continuation of life is good. The will to survive is the foundation of hope.
Well, this is it. This is the end of all things. We are staring into the casket with our name on it. We have been given a sure and certain diagnosis. Two months to go. What matters in those two months that has never mattered before?
Really think about it. What rises to the top of the to-do list? Would you keep working, just to have something to do? Would you need to work to eat? Would you be extravagant? Would you savor moments more? Could you?
Or would it inevitably be a series of factors outside of our control? Would it be a series of things that we try but can not necessarily pull off? After all, just because we know we are going to die doesn’t mean we are given some super power.
Or does it? Are we given a keen awareness of life? Do we cut through tape that most people stop for? Do we disregard unnecessary pauses? Do we get to sort of a holy urgency, not of the unimportant but of making the important happen?
Inevitably we will have options. We will have some opportunity to make an easier living. Doing something easy is always in our grasps. But we all have this nagging sense, this aggravating luring toward something important.
In the end what is the essence of being? What is at the very heart of our being human? How do we really get a hold of a nature that is invisibly yet indelibly imprinted on us? Are we even capable of imagining or beholding this reality?
Are we even ready to really see ourselves for all we are? A human being. The penultimate of the creation of God. Higher even than the angels. Superior in craft and in nature. The pinnacle of God’s creative hand.
Are we ready to look in that mirror? Reflecting back at us is something beyond our ability to imagine, a mystery even to ourselves, the owner so to speak. In that dark reflection we can begin to embrace the profound stillness of being.
For a moment we are like Adam, the man made of sand, animated by the very breath of God. Suddenly from non-existence we are given life, being, consciousness. We are able to consider from inside ourselves as we in wonder gaze at his handiwork.
Ash Wednesday on one hand is such a morbid ceremony. With ash on the forehead we are reminded: “from ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” All these millions of particles that are being held together right now will slowly start un-connecting.
We must answer a fundamental question during withdraw, one that will change the orientation of our very life: to be or not to be? When we get away from all the crashing sounds and urgent pressures we understand the greater mystery.
Our life is silenced in the overwhelming flow of life. And we are really given the legitimate choice to be or not to be. Life could and will go on without us. We could with great monkish fervor go out withdrawing into prayer and meditation.
One understands in meditation that we are not essential. We learn our humble place in the universe which can leave us wanting. Yet we are still given the choice: to be or not to be? “What do you want?” still reverberates in the halls of our soul.
That is really the question. And there is ultimately no one else who can answer that question except us. There is no right answer, no best answer, no only for me answer. There is simply the lingering wait for our response. What will we do?
So eventually we must take a leap. We must literally move our feet in a direction in which we do not know the outcome. We must be willing to live in that state of ambiguity without guarantees.
That is the necessary risk-jump and every business or humanitarian effort has had to take. It started with one person willing to risk their own comforts in their own futures for the sake of a dream birthed in faith.
Don't give up because it is hard. Don't give up when it seems like you made the wrong choice. Don't give up when you feel discouraged, unsupported, neglected by those who have committed to serve.
Right around the corner is a break. Not all breaks are good ones but they all lead to increased clarity. That ultimately is what we're after. But we will not get there without a serious amount of determination.
*So we keep climbing. And we realize that the struggle for life is life itself. There is no better way to live, no greater use of our short time on earth, than to struggle on behalf of others with our gifts. There is nothing else to do.
There's an absolutely huge responsibility to know and foster the right sort of ideas, primarily because ideas become reality. We become what we think. Or we create what we sync up.
It's the secret behind Murphy's Law. Once someone imagines that life is picking on them they literally start to create realities that line up with those ideas. And things literally do start to happen to them.
It's almost as if their thoughts go out and seek the kind of things that will vindicate or prove their suspicions. Their thoughts will quite literally send vibrations into the universe seeking affinities. It becomes sort of a closed circuit of self-fulfilling prophecy.
What most do not realize in that state is that if they are able to change the way they think, realities will line up differently for them. Our most valuable asset in the true sense of our freedom is found in our thoughts. We really are in charge of what we think about.
Discover, I did. Self-control is just what it sounds like: Control of the self. No one else will do it for us, Not even God. There are two things we must always protect and control: our thoughts (mind) and our heart (emotions).
All behaviors start in our minds. We let in thoughts through memory triggers and our brain’s powerful auto-flow. These thoughts create or utilize pictures and windows from our history to either inspire us or shut us down.
Like the brilliant animated movie Inside Out captures, our emotions can control which memories are triggered and can lock in windows in our mind that can ultimately shut us down. At least it feels that way. It feels like we don’t have control.
We do. We ultimately have the final say as to what pictures are allowed to be utilized and created. We can choose what we think about. Any unwanted windows can simply be closed. Another one will need to be put in its place.