A Pause

A pause from futility. Does it make the pause fruitful or futile? Futility is the state of a jaded mind. It’s the mind that looks at a happy moment, recognises its ephemeral nature and waits patiently for it to pass, while taking comfort from being right about its passing. Does it make that mind jaded, or realistic?

The irony of life is that it passes us by while contemplating it, yet we miss important moments if we don’t. Striking the balance is elusive, as those that stop to contemplate are left behind by the incessant pace of the crowd. The crowd, distracted by their togetherness, fail to notice the passing scenery. While sitting and reflecting, the introspective one looks at the crowd and yearns for such inclusion, but in the moments that the crowd pauses to take a breath, a solitary soul chasing the inclusion looks beyond the crowd and wishes for the apparent peace on the face of the introspective one.

There are those that chase without thought or contemplation. Driven by a need to feel progress while simultaneously anxious about being left behind. They don’t pause, they don’t breathe, they just chase. They draw strength from the crowd and in turn they feed the momentum that carries them along. Because they don’t pause, or breathe, they never realise that it is them that create that which they chase.

Human connections develop while we’re chasing similar things. Those that go out in search of it rarely find it. The introspective ones are often left wandering, while the crowd incestuously lunges on.

Is sanity defined by acceptance, or the recognition of rejection? Does assimilation require a suspension of sanity, or does it breed insanity? Leading a solitary life, introspective by design, and restless by nature, the introspective one finds themselves in choppy waters when the crowd grows weary of the chase, and suddenly chases the pause. What was once cause for isolation becomes cause for inclusion. The crowd seeks the pause, while those that breathed deeply until now surrender their breath in favour of the elusive inclusion that suddenly teases their senses.

The sway from both sides slowly find harmony, but when left unbridled, they eventually pass each other, outstretched nails clawing at the other, hoping to hold on to that which they pursued, but finding their misguided momentum too much to restrain, slowly finding themselves adrift, again. The crowd floating in a sea of debris, sharing tales with each other about how much more beautiful it was when they were young, spawn a generation of repulsion at their indulgence.

The new ones set out searching for a pause, but find themselves surrounded by the clutter of what went before. Inherited debris of an indulgence that was not theirs to enjoy, they grow impatient, searching for their allotment of indulgence, but finding none. Rebellion is the only option, but even rebellion is aimed at achieving something. That something can only take form after growing aware of what is needed, and what is needed is only visible to those who contemplate. Suddenly the introspective are in vogue, and the crowd is dispersed, only to form a different motion.

This time the motion sways more purposefully, spawned by a pause, not by a lunge, it takes on a less indulgent hue, and instead aims to offer before it consumes. Each has its own time. The consumerism of some breed purpose for others. Without the crowd, a moment of pause will hold less meaning. Without that moment of pause, the crowd with have no purpose.

Sometimes in our struggles for balance, perhaps that balance becomes elusive because we’re struggling. Do we struggle because we’re distracted, or because we’re desperate to achieve an end whose nature conflicts with our circumstances? Should we change our circumstances before we set out to conquer, or are circumstances changed because of what we conquer?

There is no composed end to this thought process. So let this be a cryptic start to end a cryptic past, or not.

Dying is Easy

During my morbid years, you know, the years that are accompanied by knowing everything, followed by the years of futility before we realise that adults are weighed down with responsibility rather than just being deliberately boring, I found it attractive to look forward to death. Living beyond the age of 23 was not a life goal of mine, not because I was suicidal, but because it just didn’t seem like a probable outcome at the time. This improbability allowed me to live with a sense of freedom in my heart, feeling unrestrained by the burdens of deep contemplations of a future that I saw no reason to look forward to.

This is not morbidity, and I’m not saying that to convince myself either. I’ve always viewed the advent of death to be one of liberation and ease. Life is a struggle, and the struggle is real for all of us. We find different ways to cope, to distract ourselves, and to push forward beyond the current state, but it doesn’t come easily. It requires effort. If that effort is not met with relief or joy at the perceived success of it, it intensifies that struggle. Those perceptions of success therefore become the trappings of morbidity or ease. If poorly informed, it convinces us that success may be in the shape and form of something that is detrimental to us. If well-informed, it may reveal that we’re not as celebrated as we thought we were, which has its own ball and chain to bear.

Perceptions are therefore at the heart of the matter. How we perceive life or death draws us closer to either, or rarely to both. But we find ourselves facing life with a binary disposition. The debates and the philosophising is far too often focused on how to cheat death or live a fuller life, but is rarely focused on true balance. That true balance, for me, is how to appreciate life while embracing death. The one is meaningless without the other.

People die a million deaths in a single lifetime, but very few live a single wholesome life before death. This is not surprising since many focus on understanding the definition of wholesome relative to someone else’s views without reflecting on their own needs, and then are convinced that they have a wholesome life, while never truly experiencing it for themselves. Life becomes a tick-box exercise when we are so externally focused and so internally ignorant. This is probably what I find most fascinating about the self-help book culture. We spend so much time looking for insights from others, that we spend only a fraction of that time seeking insights into ourselves. I know many would disagree by suggesting that their poring through those self-help books is their efforts to find what resonates with them, but that’s still like a child going to their mother, looking at the sun shining through the window, and asking if it’s morning yet.

That seems to be at the core of it all. We’re often so insecure about our own capability that we need someone else to affirm it for us before we believe it for ourselves. I’ve never understood why the opinions of others are so important to our own lives, because I’ve always seen how two people acting independently but sincerely, regardless of race, religion, or culture, align with the same human ideals, and goals. But we’ve distracted ourselves with labels and compartments that go as fickle as defining our perceptions of others based on the compartments to which they belong, before we even see them as independently minded human beings.

That’s where the chicken and egg situation arises. Do we behave the way we do because we’re conditioned to align with the traits and attributes of the labels that we subscribe to, or do we subscribe to those labels because we find familiarity in their traits and attributes? For this reason I despise labels, token events, and the like. It preconditions us to a conformed response to life rather than encouraging us to live and think independently. I think the insecurity that drives us as a point of departure is what informs our inclination to first be surrounded by nurturers before we believe that we are capable of exploring and overcoming on our own.

I’m not suggesting that we only learn from our own mistakes, and that we ignore the experiences of others. I’m saying that we set out with the belief that it is achievable, and then draw wisdom from sources that talk to our goals. However, defining that goal first before seeking such guidance is the difference between leading and following.

Dying is easy. We kill our spirits regularly, often several times a day, because the threat of failure and its perceived humiliation is so daunting, that we’d rather slay our souls than believe in ourselves. Humiliation is relative. A failure only becomes humiliating if the opinions of those around us defines who we are, and what we think of ourselves. But that’s the problem right there. Most of us know no other way of living, and then die a thousand deaths in the face of rejection.

A Legacy of Beauty

Reminiscing about childhood is a popular pastime. Idyllic recollections of a life that never truly was is bolstered by time that is kind to us . It allows us to forget the harrowing details as we protect our fragile souls from the harsh reality of life. Those that treated us harshly often became a memory of those who cared, especially when their harshness was all we had access to. We become captives of the weakness of brutes because our submission is the only significance that they may feel in life. I sometimes wonder how many realise that their self-worth is based on their ability to subdue others.

Time creeps by, as time tends to, while I find the present moment to pale in comparison to my selective recollections of a childhood that never was. Moments of peace that were in fact moments of isolation, and collective laughter that was often exclusive by nature. I speak of this as if it’s my own, but the incomplete smiles around me suggest that it is a shared reality that is often denied.

As time morphs the pain into beauty it also morphs the beasts into angels. Those that manipulate the vulnerable suddenly appear as the downtrodden when their loss of control is lamented as a betrayal of love or affection. I sit with morbid amazement as I watch kids who are barely teens reminiscing about childhood and the wonderment that went with it as if it’s a long lost part of their lives, and I feel sad. The sadness deepens when I witness how their recollections embellish events to make it more wholesome or inclusive than it really was. The disease of the adults appears to have transcended a generation that used to be symbols of hope. Those symbols of hope are quickly becoming reminders of despair instead.

The torch bearers have handed over the soot but retained the flames that should have been passed on as generational wisdom to guide the next. The next appear comfortable to accept the association with the soot as a gift of love while not noticing it is the self-love of their captors and not the love of their captors for them. That distorted reality shapes a distorted world that they set out to change, not realising that their efforts to change it merely taint it.

I looked across the bathroom at the mirror from behind the shower door and suddenly realised how many would see the mirror as foggy while ignoring the steamed door in front of them. Those that are living an assumption of reality would seek to clean the mirror, while those that embrace reality will open the door.

We all need to believe that our contribution, even if not appreciated, is a wholesome one. When we are deliberately offensive or destructive, we convince ourselves that it is needed to restore balance. When it works out in our favour, we believe we were right, and when it doesn’t, we believe we were wronged. The selective views we nurtured through life in our efforts to establish our significance and self-worth betray us with such subtlety that it leaves us convinced that we’re the misunderstood or unappreciated while everyone else is self-indulgent and ungrateful of our efforts to uplift them. Accountability rarely features for the distracted ones because it erodes the fantasy that has become their reality.

Our collective subscription to such distraction leaves us sympathetic towards this feeble state in which we find them. If they weren’t echoing our own weaknesses so loudly, perhaps we would be able to see beyond their feigned sincerity and disrupt the fantasy just enough for reality to peep through. But that would rob us of our legacy of beauty that we have to believe is our contribution to this world. Without it, we become that which we despise, so we find kindred souls that are equally tainted so that we are secure in the fact that any effort on their part to expose our weakness will be rendered incredible simply because the kettle cannot call the teapot black. In there lies weakness in numbers.

[I set out challenging myself to write a post about something beautiful and uplifting. My alternate view of reality insists that I achieved it, because if anyone sees this as dark, they don’t appreciate my beauty that I offer so selflessly to the world. So the darkness must surely be in them and not in me.]

P.S. If you can understand this ramble, or worse, if you can relate to it, I question your sanity, and pray for your peace.

Sincerely Dishonest

I’ve always believed that dishonesty is the worst sign of disrespect. I just wish I could dismiss it as pure dishonesty that easily. That burden of awareness can really weigh you down at times like this. Being aware of what drives others to be weak enough to be dishonest makes it nearly impossible to shun them.

The reality behind the dishonesty is that we’re weak enough to believe that the truth of us will repulse those around us, and so we create alternate realities to court the affection of others, forgetting what a dark web it spins for us. I can only imagine how dreary those quiet moments must be when we are faced with the stark contrast between our life and the life we present to others about ourselves. It can only tear away at your self-respect even more, which is the irony of it all because it was that same low self-worth, or lack of respect for your self, that drove you to create that alternate reality in the first place.

I’ve often looked at scum bags, really low life schmucks that are blatant about their immoral or underhanded behaviour without any concern for the perceptions of others. I wondered as to whether that is a reflection of confidence or a total disregard for acceptance, or perhaps it’s the total abandon of hope in receiving any such affection which makes the entire purpose of their life a protest against the wholesomeness of that which they’ve been denied.

Provide those same scum bags with a teaser of hope in being included in something larger than themselves, and withhold it the moment they edge towards it, and you’re likely to see a level of anger and bitterness that drives them to violence. Violence in such cases is the ultimate form of protest while at the same time being the deepest cry for compassion. But the risk of any such compassion being temporary or unfulfilled is so real based on the past betrayals of their lives that they are more likely to spurn it rather than embrace it, because protecting themselves from loss is better than having and losing again. Or so it seems at the time.

But I started out writing this post with a very different angle to this that played on my mind. I thought that only the most deliberate of lies must reflect disrespect, because you can’t possibly lie to someone that you claim to respect. While I believe there is truth in that, I also believe that a greater truth lies closer to the fact that it implies that your disrespect for yourself is greater than your respect for that person that you claim to respect, and when that dynamic comes into play, you’d rather sacrifice your standing with that person than reveal the ugly that swims around inside of you. Hence the lie that follows.

Our response to that determines a number of things about us, not least of which is our commitment to the one that lies. Are we invested in raising their level of self-respect more than we are in gaining our rightful respect and appreciation from them, or is our investment in our rights greater? But it’s not that simple, because at some point the investment may cause a denial of rights to others because we have a limited capacity, both emotionally and materially. So we find ourselves in murky waters feeling contaminated by the murk while also feeling undeniably attached to it. Pulling away to save ourselves spawns the burden of guilt or responsibility that goes with such a decision, while remaining tethered weighs us down because of the lack of sweetness from such an investment. Any sweetness that it may hold is on hold until our investment pays off. If ever. And it’s that gamble that gnaws away at us in the quiet moments when we don’t have the distractions of life to save us from its contemplation.

I am convinced that the liar holds more self-loathing than any loathing we may hold for them. I also think that we spurn their weakness because it can easily spawn similar weaknesses in us when we find ourselves faced with difficult choices. In those difficult moments, it’s easy to justify a dishonest response because ‘everyone’ else does it, so it is entirely understandable. But such justification only provides some peace as long as we’re convinced of its truthfulness. That’s when we choose to surrender our principles in favour of ease, or we grudgingly hold on while also denying the reality of our weakness. That creates the tension within us that drives us to seek distractions around us, eventually leading to chronic ailments of the heart and the body that robs us of our sanity and self-respect as we grow older.

My thoughts are almost entirely incoherent this morning, so this is my attempt at seeking sanity among the insane. I guess it’s also entirely possible that scum bags are not really scum after all, and that the true scum bags are the ones that betrayed their trust (probably at an early age) that resulted in their loathing for this world, and anyone that represents the warmth that they’ve been denied.

The Ebb and Flow of Harmony

In every situation there is a provocateur and the provoked. I always fancied myself as the provocateur because more often than not, others lack the courage to disrupt because of the overwhelming need to be liked or celebrated. Popularity drives more actions than purpose ever will. Anyway, I’m sure most can relate to the setting where two strong characters clash because each is attempting to establish their view as being the dominant one. Sometimes this is understandable where both may have valid points around a contentious issue, but most often one is more right than the other, but ego prevents the other from backing down and accepting defeat. Perhaps defeat is too strong a term, because the reality is closer to accepting having learnt something new from someone we hoped would not be in a position to teach us something new because it implies that they knew more than us. Hence the ego kicking in.

The same plays out constantly in relationships with significant others. I recently became aware of an awkward truth, or perhaps just an awkwardness that defines a large part of my life, and probably yours. Given that I am regularly drawn into contentious situations for reasons that are unimportant at this point, it was always easy for me to assume that it was someone else’s drama that I was compelled to resolve, or at least needed to resolve. While some of that may be true, I’m quite certain that it’s not always true despite what my ego may prompt me to believe. As I took a closer look I grew more aware of this phenomenon, and I’m convinced that in every relationship, and more accurately, in every scenario in every relationship there is one that sets the tone, and the other that harmonises that tone. As an example, if I arrive home in a flustered state after a long slog at the office and just want to be left alone, my wife could either insist that I give my family their dues and pay attention to their needs regardless of my preferences at that point, or she could create a space that doesn’t place those immediate demands on me, while also allowing for a distraction that defuses the tone that I set. In that case, I set the tone, and she harmonises it.

The important thing I noticed around this is that both parties set the tone at different points, even though in some relationships one person assumes the dominant role more often, while the other is comfortable to constantly follow their lead and harmonise their lives around that tone that was set. The problem sets in when both want to set the tone, or both want to harmonise. That’s when egos are triggered, and demands for significance play out in cryptic ways that do everything but make plain the real issue at hand.

The impact of both wanting to set the tone is fairly obvious, but not so for the situation where both wish to harmonise. I’ve found this to take place at times when the usually dominant one feels the fatigue of playing the lead role and suddenly steps back hoping to be led for a change. The other that was comfortable to follow and harmonise up to that point suddenly feels uncomfortable being forced into a lead role, thereby causing them to question their competence in that setting in the relationship. It also causes them to question the value of their contribution up to that point, leading to frayed tempers and subsequent upheaval.

This may be a simplification of the dynamics that play out in relationships, be they personal or professional, but it’s a theme that is common and from what I’ve seen, consistent. If we assume that we only play one or the other, then we firstly undermine the contribution of the other, and secondly we grow oblivious to the true impact of our contribution to the relationship, both positive and negative.

While it may be true that some are naturally inclined to take a leading role, I would hazard a guess that there is not a human being alive or dead that never had a need to be led, instead of always shouldering the burden of leading others. There is much comfort that can be obtained from learning and being led, but our egos often tend to prevent us from enjoying such benefits when we convince ourselves that we are expected to know everything or lead in everything. Chances are, those expectations are entirely self-imposed, even if others believe it to be true.

Harmony is experienced when there is a mutual and willing contribution in equitable parts to a common aspirational goal. In the absence of mutuality, and more importantly willing subscription, the pursuit and the ultimate goal will always be lacking in sweetness. Perhaps this is why so many lead busy lives full of responsibility and activity while still feeling hollow and unfulfilled.

Genetic Convenience

Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, while others apparently land with their bum in the butter. But neither promises a good life if you don’t know what to do with good fortune. On the other hand, some say that good things happen to those who wait, but I know that those who wait usually get left behind. Striking a balance is only easy if we know what balance we’re pursuing.

Fate, as some would like to believe, deals us a hand that we cannot change. Those that have a healthier view of fate are usually not as ill-fated as those who surrender to the outcomes of the choices of others. And so it is with the silver spoon brigade and all the rest that have access to privileges that they did not earn, but inherited instead.

But what does that mean for those that didn’t inherit such privilege? In fact, is such an inheritance a privilege or a burden? I guess it all depends on how well we know ourselves. And that’s part of the problem of a bountiful inheritance. It provides us with enough to avoid having to look deeper. It raises expectations of entitlement while distracting us from the reality of the privilege that we assume to be rights. We forget, inheritance or not, that rights cannot be bought, only privileges can.

But that’s a side issue. The real issue goes beyond privilege and inheritance. The real issue cuts much closer to the bone. There’s a popular Afrikaans saying that (roughly translated) means that some people are made and then just left that way. And that is how many people live their lives. It’s so easy to blame our upbringing and our genes for how we turned out in life that you’d swear our power of rational thought and limited free will doesn’t exist.

When I see someone behaving offensively and others excusing it by saying that that is just their way, I see the hypocrisy oozing out of their pores as they excuse behaviour in some that they would never tolerate in others. Worse still, I see the hypocrisy of crying foul at a degrading social standard that robs us all of our dignity, while we complacently condone the rot in our own circles that directly feeds that degraded state that we hate.

You’d swear that everyone needs to be hit on the head by a falling apple before they understand the simple logic of cause and effect. If I bribe a cop, I shouldn’t complain when the president steals the wealth of the country for self-enrichment. Similarly, if I overlook the transgressions of those around me, or even my own, and I justify it with flimsy excuses, I should wait patiently for the wheel to turn, because it always does. However, we forget that the same wheel travels through the muck and mire of society and gathers excess as it does, so that by the time it revisits our little corners of delusion, it has a payload equal to the effect of our actions, not the effort of it. In other words, to state it plainly, shit rolls downhill with a snowball effect.

Justice and harmony is not established in society by an eye for an eye, because the eye of a surgeon is significantly more valuable than that of a labourer. The eye of a surgeon for the hand of a labourer is closer to any concept of justice we may contemplate. And all of this comes back to one simple point. When we go through life feeling entitled because we serve our base desires before we consider the impact of our actions, we shouldn’t complain about the hollow feeling that visits us in those quiet moments when it’s just us, our conscience, and a falling body to keep us company.

We reap what we sow. Simple logic. But not so simple that we get what we give. We don’t. Because this world, as ruled by man, only provides respite and a hint of harmony. Justice is not possible because most don’t appreciate the true gravity of it. Genetic inheritance is what shapes our character in our childhood, but living consciously is what shapes our being when we’re adults. Unfortunately, too many only outgrow their growing pains, but rarely outgrow their childish brains.

Distracted Beauty

The gravity of reality. I vaguely recall a quote by John Lennon, if I’m not mistaken, where he said that the more aware you become, the harsher the world is. The process of enlightenment is not a difficult one. It’s a matter of paying attention. That’s it. See what is in front of you, and choose a response relative to the arsenal of means you have at your disposal.

Oh, wait, you need to be paying attention for that too. Knowing what your arsenal consists of that is. But it seems like attention is an expensive commodity. No, wait, it’s not. If it were expensive, we wouldn’t have so much of it for the distractions, so attention is not what we struggle to muster when faced with reality. Wobbling around looking for a post to lean against, we look like we’re swaying to the rhythms of life, when in fact we’re simply wobbling to the rhythm of dodging life.

I sway through my day noticing too many that subscribe to distractions to maintain their sanity. For some it’s the act of immersing themselves in music with earphones permanently attached to their ears as they go about doing almost everything. Others drink until reality is more palatable than the alcohol, while some smoke, filling their lungs with the toxins that they know beckons the inevitable, while believing that they’re simply enjoying a moment of indulgence. With such distractions, I doubt we even have good enough reason to trust our judgement as to what is an indulgence and what is self-loathing.

It’s all clothed in pretty trinkets and ‘like’ buttons. Our distractions don’t need to travel far to find subscription from others in order to be validated. There is no shortage of nihilistic behaviour that is considered mainstream pop culture which makes self-destruction a romantic comedy these days. If only it was funny to those left behind.

Ramblings aside, the problem with distractions is that they eventually become our avenues of expression. Most interpret this as a healthy creative outlet, but fail to realise that it does exactly the opposite. A creative outlet aids our growth, not our demise. It allows us to shed with beautiful expression that which accumulates inside us. It’s the longing to share with others what we hold dear, or at the least, what we hold true. So we find ways to share it that will garner appreciation, because in the appreciation we find fulfilment. Those that celebrate the distractions of others are culpable in the denial of the same beauty that is withheld by those that have the capacity and potential to contribute so much more.

I often consider the Quranic text that says that no soul shall have a burden greater than it can bear. At face value it seems to be self-explanatory, but for me it has always held a deeper meaning. That deeper meaning alludes to the subject of this post. I’ve witnessed first hand, and experienced personally, the resilience of the human spirit if only it is allowed to be resilient. That resilience is our ability to let go and move on, while acknowledging the value of the experience and our contribution to its sometimes distasteful outcome, but using that after taste to inform the beauty of our future convictions. Allowing it to be resilient sounds overly simplistic, but we complicate it when we assume that it’s anything less. We allow it to be resilient when we set aside agendas and egos and focus on the value we were pursuing to begin with. We lose sight of that value when we insist on making a point of protest to the world when life doesn’t pan out the way we’d hoped it would.

Resilience is our ability to cope with adversity when we focus on rising above, rather than sinking below waiting for a sympathetic outstretched hand to lift us because we’ve convinced ourselves that we need lifting, because only in that lifting do we find purpose and relevance, without which our spirit must not be worthy enough for celebration or appreciation. A toxic mind leads to an intoxicated body. That intoxication is the crutch with which we face the world because the world is cruel and we played no part in making it so. If only that were true. With every self-indulgent distraction we deny someone the beauty that they deserve from us, and in turn prompt a cycle in them akin to the cycle we’ve nurtured in ourselves. Then we lament their distractedness and feel deprived or betrayed at the fact that they find little reason to offer to us what we need from them.

We find reason to celebrate the supposed strength of others who face the world in spite of their distractions, because their weakness echoes our own. We see their distractions as struggles, but fail to see their contribution to the scale of their struggles. Allowing leniency to others is too often a result of the leniency we desire from others. If we are hard on them about something, we make damn sure we’re not guilty of the weakness we spurn in them. Similarly, we recognise and affirm the validity of their weakness when we know that we’re unwilling to rise above the same in our own lives.

Hypocrites therefore subscribe to distractions more than anyone else, and by extension, our level of distractedness ultimately defines our rank as hypocrites. But we’re all too brave and strong little weak souls to be hypocrites because life is tough, and the hypocrites are just victims trying to make a life in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, whose compromises of conviction and principle are not any fault of theirs, but instead must be blamed on the dysfunctional society that we’re apparently not responsible for contaminating in the first place.

[Apparently sarcasm is the weakest form of wit…says those that lack the wit to be sarcastic]

 

In search of reality

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