The more complex society becomes, the more powerless we feel.
If we have to take a hurting child to the emergency ward, we wait, powerless. When the bureaucracy – corporate, provincial or federal – makes one of its inane decision, we feel powerless as we stumble through its Byzantine bowels trying to right a wrong.
But we seem to like that feeling because even when we don’t have to, we give away our own power. We don’t need a Delilah to betray us; we cut our own hair and give our power to any guru or huckster hawking something they swear is what we’re looking for, whether it’s a new philosophy, car, or 100-inch TV.
Let’s say we use 100 units of power to run out lives. If we spend 20 units keeping alive memories of an abusive childhood, 10 on a failed relationship, another 10 complaining about work, we have a problem.
No wonder we’re sick, tired, and need constant pick-me ups to get us through one more exhausting day.
We abdicate responsibility for our lives when we do what our parents want, what our groups want, what our employer wants, what society wants, what our spouse wants.
We tread the beaten path instead of blazing our own. Certainly, we have a duty to family, friends and employer, but not at the cost of our soul. We’ve become like politicians who vote the party line rather than their conscience
We give away out power when we:
- opt for security rather than risking all on a dream
- when we keep silent because it’s to our advantage
- when we tell someone needing help there is nothing we can do
- trade our integrity for the right social invitation or the right promotion.
“People who are passionate about something – no matter how small or large it is – are the most successful and most happy,” said Simon Whitfield, who romped to glory in the first Olympic triathlon.
To reach their potential, neither Olympic champions nor great artists can punch into the nine-to-five mentality. Leonardo da Vinci didn’t paint the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo sculpture David by following society’s rules.
“Follow your bliss,” mythologist Joseph Campbell advised. “The heroic life is living the individual adventure.”
It takes courage, confidence and conviction to champion an unpopular cause, to hold to a belief when challenged by people we consider superior. Too often we assume they’re better and we stay silent because we don’t want to be embarrassed.
“Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate,” said Marianne Williamson. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
“It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve this world.
"There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you."
The ancient Greeks would have applauded that sentiment. They practised a concept called arete – excellence, duty to oneself, an ideal of self-realization.
When Achilles, Ajax, Odysseus and the boys sat around the campfire after a hard day’s battle munching on a leg of mutton and emptying a few wine skins, they didn’t go “Ah, shucks, twern’t nothin’” if complimented on their prowess.
Self-effacement wasn’t in their vocabulary and they would have considered it dishonest not to claim the glory that was theirs.
They thumped themselves on the chest and boasted about how great they were. But for them, boasting was demanded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson would have understood. “Insist on yourself; never imitate,” he said. “Nothing can bring you peace except yourself.”
Playing it safe and imitating is built into the fabric of our time. We might miss that inclination in ourselves, but the trend is obvious every time we turn on a TV and find a dozen imitators of last year’s most successful show.
We must be smarter than TV producers. Each moment we are born anew, but if we keep telling ourselves the same old stories, we’ll never get past the repeats.
As usual, Rumi, that wonderful Sufi poet who polished wisdom into little nuggets, said it simply and elegantly: “It makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.”
So why do we live as though it did? We do ourselves a gross injustice by thinking small when we are children of the universe.
One theory maintains that the universe is God and as he/she/it grows, we, too, expand mentally and spiritually. Granted, we have a sliver of divinity, but a thimble full of the ocean still has it essence
D.H. Lawrence had the right idea in his poem, Shadows:
And if tonight my soul
may find her peace in sleep,
and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake
like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God,
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.