Shatter your illusions

We'd rather be ruined than changed
We'd rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die.

— W.H. Auden

We sure like our stuff, our drama, our life situations, the movies we create in which we are victim or hero, or both.

On the other hand, we don't like our life much: the kids crying, bills overdue, the toilet backing up and the cat throwing up.

We cling to the illusions that we are separate, that we are limited, that we are flawed.

But our greatest fear is not that we are limited, but that we are powerful. We want to believe we are victims, that we have excuses for not writing that novel or climbing that mountain, or achieving our secret dream.

We cling to these illusions because when we cut through them, shatter them, we have no excuses for not being the best we can be.

We pick at our wounds and the people we like are the ones we can talk wound-ology with, the ones who will sympathize and empathize with our long list of hurts.

We describe how hard done by we are, like a he-done-me-wrong song on an iPod player stuck on play. Our body seems to produce a chemical cocktail of bliss when we tell an attentive listener that we aren't better or more successful because...

We love our children when they're good or make us proud, when they make the dean's list. But how do we feel when they're on the janitor's list, when they come home drunk, stoned or end up pregnant or in jail, when they turn out the way we don't want.

We have become so attached to outcome, that we forget what happens in between. Psychologist Abraham Maslow said that a self-actualized person is never concerned about outcome or what other people think of him.

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be," he wrote.

“This is the need we may call self-actualization ... referring to a person's desire for fulfilment, namely to the tendency to become actually what we are potentially.”

But that isn't nearly as much fun as judging ourselves and others, something we do from the moment the clock goes off in the morning until we re-set it at night: I like her, I don't like him; listening to music is good, fixing a plugged-up toilet isn't.

We see in our children, our spouses, our friends and ourselves what we don't like, instead of shifting and seeing what is good and worthwhile.

We need to replace "the horror, the horror" of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with the wonder of an infant exploring its world, and experience the absolute joy and awe of this amazing world, our bewilderment.

Imagine seeing the world every day with childish awe. We would probably appreciate our children, our spouses, our parents, our job, our lives, even ourselves.

We might even remember that life is a dance and that we don't waltz to get to the other side of the room. We do that for the sheer experience, for the joy of moving, of being in the moment.

Should we treat our lives with any less enthusiasm than we would do the funky chicken or whatever dance grabs us?

We're amazed at the altruism of Mother Teresa, but it is the athlete, the actor and the rich we want to emulate. We know money doesn't buy happiness -- if it did, the brightest stars in Hollywood's firmament wouldn't switch partners, gurus and hairdressers so often.

But we still line up to buy lottery tickets hoping the winnings will buy a good imitation of joy.

We have forgotten that the coin we should run after is peace of mind and we find by accepting that the most important person who has ever lived is us, each of us. The most important relationship is with ourselves. We must accept that we were chosen — by God, fate, circumstance or the universe — to be here.

We must become like the Indian god who proclaimed, "I am Shiva, destroyer, shatterer of worlds." We might consider shattering the pretend worlds we create to avoid living in this one.

Before we can create a new us, we must destroy the illusions that keep us shackled to an image we don't like. We create the world daily in our own image. But it's time to create a new image; to remember who we are.

Every atom of us — except hydrogen and helium, which were formed during the Big Bang — was forged in a star.

Yet, we don't look up to our birthright, to the lights in the night sky that call to us to be who we should be. Instead we look down at the mundane: mortgages, bills and traffic jams.

Every moment we are at a crossroads. We can choose the well-worn path or we can take the road less travelled, like the knights of the Round Table who always blazed a new trail, never, never following someone else's path.

In this world of 9-5, we have forgotten that we, too, are on as important and as romantic a quest as Gaiwan, Lancelot or Perceval.

We, too, search for the Holy Grail — ourselves. But unlike those knights, we must remove the armour of illusion and face the lance of life with the only weapon we'll ever need: faith in ourselves.

All we have to do is choose to believe. 

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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