Who puts a smile on the face of the village idiot?

I’ve been asking this question a lot lately. Most people laugh it off, probably turning me into the proverbial village idiot since I put the smile on their face, but no answer seems to be forthcoming. It was never intended to be a rhetorical question. At many points in my life I found myself abandoning that which was dear to me in favour of assisting others to achieve that which was dear to them. My philosophy then, which still influences my choices now, is that my life was never about me but rather about those around me. It’s a sound philosophy, but only if everyone subscribes to it.

The reality is, most don’t. The harsher reality is that my ego is probably the most unrelenting force I’ve ever had to deal with. So after going through endless cycles of hoping for that shared subscription, which in fact was a veiled desire for reciprocation, I would reach my tolerance levels of patience and then binge on a self-indulgent mission of getting what I believed was due. It was often justified, but nonetheless destructive. With each cycle though, I found my tolerance increasing and my expectations decreasing. But the question remained unanswered.

The same question can be asked of a physician. Who is the physician of the village physician, or the care giver of the care giver? My point is that we’re all so focused on receiving the services and care from so many around us, that we often forget to consider what their needs are, especially when their needs are not our primary responsibility. The generous amongst us are the most abused. It’s a strange dichotomy though, because it implies that the more abused we are the more beautiful our souls. At least from the outside looking in.

Unfortunately, the truth is not as pretty. The truth is closer to the fact that most beautiful people appear that way because they have abandoned their desires for themselves, at least within the context of what they desire from others, and they’ve filled that vacancy with seeking fulfilment and purpose in contributing towards the ease of the lives of those around them, not because they are expected to, but because they don’t want others to experience the same void that exists within their lives. I think the most beautiful smiles on the faces of dying people are not because they feel fulfilled but because they feel relieved that the struggle is finally over.

I think those smiles say more about their willingness to leave behind what others still cling to than it does about feeling contentment about what they’ve achieved. I think those smiles lie, but the ones around them take comfort in it nonetheless, because that is what people do around apparently beautiful souls. They take comfort from them more than they give comfort to them. After all, a soul that appears to be beautiful cannot possibly be in need of the comforting from the pain that the overtly troubled souls require. It is then no wonder at all that the most forgotten are often the most tender. They’re the ones that demand less, give more, and expect little.

I guess the answer then would be that no one puts a smile on the face of the village idiot. The village idiot has no needs because they appear to be out of touch with reality. We are inclined to believe that they lack any sense of the suffering and the pain of others which is why they always find a reason to smile, or to make others smile. Because as long as they have tears of laughter on their faces, no one will see the tears of loss or yearning that hides behind that beautiful smile. Village idiots are like the air we breathe. They’re taken for granted when they’re there, lamented for a short while when they’re gone, and quickly replaced when an alternate source is found.

The problem is, we’re almost all village idiots waiting for someone to put a smile on our faces. If we weren’t, there wouldn’t be so much anger and bitterness in this world. Only a small group of idiots have realised that waiting for such an effort from others is an exercise in futility. While we’re waiting for others to care, we lose sight of the fact that they are also waiting for us to care, especially when we suspend our compassion in protest of the absence of their awareness of our needs. If ever there was a polarised state of being, this would be it. Neutrality is not possible, let alone an option. You either contribute or you consume, doing nothing denies another what is their dues, or their needs, in the same way that their inaction denies you of yours.

Holystic Healing

It’s so interesting (read ‘entertaining’) to note how people convince themselves that everything is solved through faith and struggle. It’s probably one of the cleverest disguises of feigning strength that I’ve come across. You see, the moment we profess to be answering to a higher calling in our efforts to rid ourselves of our demons, people are automatically obliged to show reverence for our beliefs, which puts any criticism or analysis off limits. But even that is not the most important part of all this because what lies beneath, as always, is what really counts.

Most people I meet are so proud of their ability to cloak their true emotions that it’s become a source of strength for them. The irony is just, astounding. We find strength in reinforcing our weaknesses! Just the reality of that statement forces me to pause and consider how much else do we do that is this destructively self-serving. It’s as if we focus on finding a sense of composure about our current state, and presenting an image of contentment or confidence about it. Once that is achieved, we assume we’ve triumphed. Until the next wave of tribulations that strike, which forces us into defence mode, once again driving our focus towards building those walls so that others don’t see our pain or vulnerabilities.

Fortunately, that is not sustainable. Those that persist beyond the realisation of how unsustainable and damaging it is, commit suicide through self-inflicted ailments that the world has convinced them is an attack from outside their body. And so they become martyred heroes from being such successful victims. And yes, I believe that the realisation does enter their consciousness at some point, but usually at a point when the validation and compassion that their established defences solicit is too great for them to want to reveal the truth behind their misery.

We long for moments that we didn’t quite enjoy when we were in them, but they appear so much more appealing later on when what we have is considerably worse than what those moments offered us. This reminds me of the lyrics of that song by Gladys Knight where she reminisces about memories, and wonders if time has rewritten every line. I think it has. I think that failed relationships of the past seem to hold more appeal when the shortcomings of our current relationships cause those to pale in comparison. But this is not only true for relationships, but instead it is true for everything we do or experience in life. Nostalgia can be quite the selective spouse at times, and it is this very same sense of longing for what was that defines our perception of what is, which ultimately robs us of what we can be.

And so in our efforts to hide from these awkward truths, we present the ultimate defence, faith. But even that is not an entirely bad thing. I’ve often considered whether or not psychosomatic relief is a valuable remedy or not. I’m inclined to believe that it is. If the objective is healing, rather than how one is healed, then by all means, draw on the healing effects of faith through identifying token markers that shift our minds towards that healing cycle. However, unless we reflect on those conversations we have in our heads and have the courage to honestly pick it apart, we’ll always be subject to the presence of those markers to heal ourselves, which will most likely result in the destructive behaviours persisting, which eventually leads to a rot beyond repair.

It’s the same old analogy of the car once again. Driving the hell out of it wears it down, and no matter how many times you rigorously service it, or how much love and attention you smother it with, eventually the result of the on-going abuse will cause it to fail beyond repair. That is when death overtakes us, leaving us bewildered at its approach because the defences that served us so well for so long suddenly appears to be deserting us. No. We deserted ourselves long before that moment. We deserted ourselves each moment we chose to indulge our fears to feed our ego, instead of facing our fears and suppressing our ego.

There is nothing in this world that is wholesome if applied excessively, and faith is not free of this flaw. The world only remains in balance if we apply moderation in our lives. Be it spiritually or physically, regardless of your professions of faith or spirituality, the result is the same. Even the atheist or the agnostic, or the ascetic or the religious scholar, all need that balance. But that balance is relative, and can only be found when we reflect and sincerely apply what the realisations of our reflections reveal. Unfortunately too many are looking to others to instil that balance in their lives. We look for gurus and frameworks and funky philosophies that worked for someone else, then call it this big secret to happiness and assume that if we follow the textbook, we’ll be fine. We won’t. As long as you’re living someone else’s reality in your life, your life is a lie. It is a painful delusion that will kill you in unpleasant ways while you’re praying for a peaceful death.

Stop fooling yourself. It’s the greatest gift you could ever give yourself and the people around you.

Ties That Blind

There are times when we’re so fixated on wanting to remove ourselves from a situation because we fear contaminating it, that we lose sight of the fact that our absence is in fact the greatest contamination of all. I find this most relevant in families, where our insecurity to fulfil our roles as role models leaves us receding and convincing ourselves that they’re better off without us. Unfortunately that insecurity rarely presents itself as that. More often than not it manifests itself as either selfishness or arrogance, both of which are simply defence mechanisms that we employ to prevent others from seeing our weakness.

But it’s not about us as individuals. It never has been. The desire we all have to be part of something greater, or to be part of a wholesome social structure that is nurturing rather than destructive is what we undermine when we succumb to those insecurities. The most intriguing change in my life has been my need to recognise when I stopped being the nurtured and when I started being the nurturer. At some point I stopped being just the son, or cousin, and I started being the father, and the uncle. But it is my singular focus on needing to be nurtured that blinds me from realising that my nurturing is now dependent on being the nurturer.

It all sounds so complicated, and it will complicate even further when I need to transition to being an elder, and not just the uncle or fatherly figure. But if I resist these changes in the rightful expectations that others have of me, I will be denying the next generation of the very essence of that which gave me a sense of community, family, and belonging. Sometimes it’s not being valued as an individual that gives us the comfort that we need to feel appreciated. Sometimes it’s simply that feeling of being part of a wholesome support structure that defines our self worth. Our innate need for significance is not only fed by recognition for our individual efforts, but more importantly it is fed by being part of something greater than us, and even more critical, having a pride of association with that belonging.

And so I started contemplating these ties that blind us. It’s ties we maintain to who we were without realising that we have yet to embrace who we are, or who we aspire to be. It’s ties that hold us back in our belief that we have a right to take before we have a right to give. It’s that same sick mentality that convinces us that unless we’re responsible, we’re not accountable. Unless it is related to a responsibility we have over our own children or family members, then we’re not accountable for contributing towards the wellbeing of society at large. We forget that what strengths we have, others have as weaknesses, with the reverse being just as true. So when we stand arrogantly proclaiming that to each their own because we’re doing our bit and they must do theirs, we’re assuming that we’re superior to them in every way because we forget that they probably see similarly frustrating flaws in us.

This is not an abstract notion. It’s not a philosophical debate either. It’s simply the realisation that if we act selfishly, we will deny the next generation the very security that now allows us the luxury to act selfishly. There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are shaped by society, and even when rejected by that same society, it is those that we surrounded ourselves with to find comfort in our rejection that formed the society from which we drew strength. I think the gravest delusion we suffer from is the assumption that we first need to receive before we can reciprocate. That’s the problem with this world. Everyone is waiting for everyone else, because the fear of rejection or insignificance is so great, that we’d rather demand it through obligation instead of earning that acceptance and inclusion through sacrifice.

Worse still is the fact that the few that do sacrifice before they receive are most often the ones most trampled upon by the very same ones that cry foul when they are dealt a poor hand by life.

The Vehicle of My Life

The analogy of the car has always been the most versatile and relatable of all when used to describe the complexities of our existence. Recently I’ve found myself preoccupied by its relevance in how we relate our bodies to our souls. But the analogy extends almost seamlessly to reflect how we interpret or experience relationships as well. It’s fascinating but also dulling, because something as complex as life can be explained by something as simple as a commodity used for daily commutes, but dulling because it enforces the realisation of the ephemeral nature of life, and everything we associate with it.

Like with any car, the more you abuse it, the less likely it is to give you a pleasant drive and a long service. The same applies to relationships that are imbalanced. When one partner is constantly demanding more and giving less in return, it wears down that vehicle of marriage. The longer that continues, the more likely it is that the vehicle will eventually stall, or fall into total disrepair, often beyond a state of economic repair. But we miss this obvious truth. So the reality often plays out where the offending party continues in their erroneous ways for an extended period of time, and eventually when they realise the abuse that they’ve been subjecting their partner to, they resolve to be better and in the process expect everything to suddenly continue as it was intended in the first place. Regardless of their good intentions, the reality of the damage caused up to that point cannot be dismissed.

That would be like driving the absolute hell out of a car from the day you bought it, and then realising that it’s starting to show signs of malfunction and possibly breakdown, at which point you decide to drive it nicely. No matter how smoothly you handle it after that, the damage done will still require a massive effort, and often expense, before the car will be in a good condition. However, the creaks and rattles will never be entirely gone, so those reminders of its original abuse will always remain. The same applies to an imbalanced relationship. Regardless of how many good reasons may exist for the disruptive partner to have behaved in a disruptive way, they need to accept that they lose the right to be treated without prejudice or bias when they eventually realise the error of their ways. At that point, their sincerity of resolve will be tested in a way that will reduce them to a humbled subject that must begin by earning the respect and commitment from the one whose trust and kindness they may have abused up to that point.

This is an unnecessarily complicated post to explain a really simple truth. If you’re not willing to reap what you sow, don’t be upset when your crop fails. Don’t blame the earth, or the rains, nor the labourers, or the tools. And if you’re not willing to accept your accountability in the process, then expect to spend what will feel like an eternity before you let go of the ego that drove you to believe that the problem was with everyone else, rather than with you.

This world lacks accountability and community. In the absence of these it is not surprising that we are prone to take more than we give. We feel entitled to claim more than we feel responsible to contribute. But worse than all this, our small efforts are almost always dispensed with an expectation of reciprocation. We present our contribution as selfless but quickly grow vindictive when it goes unappreciated. The world is in an imbalanced state, and everyone thinks that problem will be solved by farting less.

Solitude

The rhythm and rhyme of this poem dances to the melody of my life. It has resonated with me since I first read it, and continues to echo the sentiments that unravel my composure, while simultaneously providing me with the awkward comfort of knowing that my struggles are not new, nor unique. As troubled as I may be, it confirms that what plagues me is as common as the cold which demands no special treatment except a common remedy for a common ailment. Let her words speak.

Solitude by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh, and the world laughs with you:
Weep, and you weep alone;
For the sad old earth
Must borrow its mirth,
It has trouble enough of its own.

Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost on the air;
The echoes bound
To a joyful sound,
But shrink from voicing care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they turn and go;
They want full measure
Of all your pleasure,
But they do not want your woe.

Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all;
There are none to decline
Your nectared wine,
But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by;
Succeed and give,
And it helps you live,
But it cannot help you die.

There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train;
But one by one
We must all file on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.

Probably Possible

It seems that one area of frustration for me is that I have a tendency to look at what is possible and then pursue that as the end goal, while most others look at what is probable, and surrender to it before even starting. Probabilities are so much easier to work with. But even in writing that I know that every possibility is a probability as well. Problem is, my tolerance level for obstacles is often significantly higher than most people around me, and that is where the rub starts.

That Shakespearean rub is not a comforting one either. Comfort. That word is almost as strange to me as peace or tranquillity. There is an annoying undertone in life that prompts me to continue on the journey despite my fading conviction to want to prevail. Words, a bleeding keyboard, whispered sentiments that carry on the wind, or the putrid stench of regrets. They all amount to nothing. They dance or flirt with my composure for a few brief moments, threatening to unsettle me either pleasantly, or mostly unpleasantly, but the insincere hope that they carry with them tugs at the fool within me. That fool that I hold in a despicable embrace. That embrace that jealously protects the hint of innocence within, while outwardly despising the ridicule that it often solicits.

It’s probably possible to live oblivious to all this and to focus on just the trinkets that distract me enough to keep me pacified, but such complacency always reeked with insincerity for me. Half measures are for cowards. Conviction is a lost art. Sincerity a political tool. Indeed, if despite my best efforts this world still holds no peace for me, then surely I must have been created for another purpose or place. But how vexing is the thought that the rejection I suffer in this world may yield such venom from my character that the world I was created for may reject me as well.

I am reminded again about what I would want from heaven. At times like this, a simple nothingness. A nothingness of expectations, either of me, or of what pleasures it may offer. A nothingness of words or the need to express. A nothingness of purpose or the need to achieve. But mostly, a nothingness of realisations beyond the absolute present moment. To be left to cower in awe at the majesty of the dust of its confines, the unworldly shimmer of its magnificence, and the embracing silence of the nothingness that accompanies it all. No expectations to meet, no aspirations to achieve. Just me and that beautiful dust enveloped by the joy of being, and nothing more.

It’s probably possible, but the cycles of my lifetimes suggest that it will continue to flit at the tips of my fingers, goading me on to reach out for it, despite knowing that it will forever be beyond my reach. Perhaps the joy of the pursuit is the reward, and the acquisition of its goal will betray the dream. Perhaps the elusiveness of its acquisition is therefore the blessing I seek but do not appreciate, while what I seek is in fact a mirage.

These ramblings sometimes deny me the release that I crave. Tonight is one such time when all such comforts appear distinctly elusive.

Distracted Moments

There are times when the idealistic bull that I see about people’s expectations from their marriages and relationships in general make me want to puke. It goes well beyond just a mild annoyance or a light giggle because it is so pervasive that it makes me wretch. The reason why it has that effect is because it is spewed by those with barely any experience in an unsupervised setting. People that have yet to experience life outside of earshot of their parent’s nurturing stares or comforts of home should really stop short of telling others what they should or shouldn’t tolerate or expect in life or their relationships.

It’s not a romantic novel waiting to be cracked open, nor is it a fairytale waiting to be lived. Consider this…if the life you’ve been exposed to so far has already made you yearn for such idealistic outcomes, imagine how much more you’ll yearn for when you’ve had that many more experiences behind you which will open your eyes to realities you always thought belonged in someone else’s life?

Every mistake that you thought you made just once because you’ll know better in future suddenly slaps you with a different glove concealing its cynical lesson that needs to be taught. Every foul-mouthed man or woman that you saw bitterly cursing others or their mere existence suddenly  becomes a point of anxious familiarity rather than a source of pity on a good day. Suddenly they possess the voice that is stifled within you but your cultural subscription prevents you from betraying the facade that is proper.

Life is not a romantic notion that needs to be pursued. Every single expectation you have will be tested within breaths of you feeling that sense of accomplishment. Accomplishment and fulfilment will be ever elusive because the more you learn, the more you yearn. The greater the detail you notice, the greater the void you see between what you are and what you always wanted to be.

Servitude, even if embraced with total abandon will not yield the fulfilment you seek. It is like filling that leaking bucket and at times you can fill slightly faster than it leaks, but it always leaks more than the sum of your efforts to fill it. That is how people are. That is how we all are. We only appreciate what is for as long as the sense of comfort it gives is felt by our fickle souls. Once that moment is passed, it quickly fades into a rose coloured yearning for moments to come that we hope will meet the exaggerated memory that we caress of lesser moments that passed.

The longer the period between what has been and what needs to be, the more intense that slip into the slump of unfulfilled expectations. The very same expectations that we built on the exaggerated recollections of moments that we never fully appreciated while we were mentally distracted by measuring what was being presented against what we presented to others before, or what we believed we deserved in the first place. And so the beauty of the moment is lost, but whose loss is only ever truly grasped in grey moments that finally allow us to be detached from the distractions of that moment for long enough to realise the truth of what we didn’t notice.

Regret always comes too late. Idealism just ensures that when it arrives, it is accompanied with the tunes of the ballads that stir that longing for what has been so that we are consistently distracted from what is, while stupidly yearning for what will never be.