It is difficult to categorically measure change within the context of a lifetime. Of course exceptions to this can be made, however for most of us the day-to-day business of living is entirely effective at obscuring any indication of time’s continuance to flow quietly through our fingers. Few things in life are so elusive. Sometimes we need to clinch our fists and hold the moment, savor it, and reflect upon its significance before letting it slip from our grasp.
We so often hear stories of those living the life of their dreams. Definitions will differ and be unique for each and every one of those so fortunate. But a common thread to each story is that these individuals had an awareness of what they wanted to pursue, knew it early enough to change course, and then put into action a plan that would position them optimally for attaining their goals. Yet what I find most interesting is that while each of us has heard these stories, very few of us can claim to have personally witnessed anyone living such a life. Even fewer yet can claim to be living it themselves.
I’m at a loss when attempting to understand my quasi-epiphany, but suspect it has something to do with questioning the traditional path of entering adulthood utilizing the guidance and direction of those who have entered before us. And as it so often happens, many of our guides and directors are themselves still grappling with the source of their chronic disappointment and unhappiness. This is, however, rarely cause for them to withhold advice. It seems that the need to provide some measure of direction, to be an authority, prevails, while the innate source of their impending unhappiness remains subjugated and unrecognized.
Societies and the cultures living within have their own momentum. Momentum is generated when activities and expectations become accepted practice, and, in due course, those wanting to be successful in that social structure or culture must conduct themselves according to pre-determined rules. At face value it sounds logical, and, if questions pertaining to unexpected consequences are never asked, would appear entirely beneficial.
So, am I begging the question when I ask why so many people are unhappy? These good folks are following the rule of law and observing the expectations of accepted behavior collectively decided by society. So, it should follow that they reap the rewards of living a life in accordance with the will of their fellow man. Yet, ironically I say, for too many this expectation is not consistent with the reality. For my simple intellect the logical question is; why are they so unhappy?
Social deviance is taboo for many of us, and history would indicate this is not a recent development or discovery in human nature. We expect compliance with the rules and laws which govern us, and most of us choose to live in what we consider to be a civilized society for the structure and protection it provides. After all, it was not so long ago that living outside the protective sphere of city walls and the King’s graces was cause for grave concern. Only after agreeing to abide by the King’s laws were we allowed to traverse the draw-bridge over the moat, and proceed behind the protective envelope of city walls and His Majesty’s army.
Of course we now realize that with every benefit provided there is an associated cost. And as our societies become more sophisticated, and each of us places a higher expectation on what society should provide, we have experienced a corresponding loss in our identity, and, subsequently, appreciation of life. In the process of seeking out, building and providing security and predictability, we didn’t bother to get acquainted with ourselves. And here we find an additional associated cost; the impossible task of identifying the source of fulfillment and happiness when we remain a stranger in our own company.
I’ve frequently shared the company of many unhappy souls, and quietly listened as they recited personal perspective, often followed by advice. It’s interesting – sometimes – but I remain less than inclined to give their words much credence. It’s not that I prefer to be indifferent. In fact, I enjoy hearing a perspective I’ve not considered before if it can be supported by logic or evidence. But the logic and positions of the ‘unhappy crowd’ remains just a little too judgemental and self-righteous for my tastes. Their ‘caring’ seems disingenuous. And I find it curious that these same individuals remain steadfastly guided by logic which possesses little to no substantive merit.
Of course the solution remains as elusive as our own identity, and I certainly do not pretend to offer any that I know to work. Perhaps the answer has been available to us all along, as evidenced in the passion and energy of childhood. With our earliest understanding of what interests us, and as soon as our paths begin to diverge independantly with the approach of adulthood, we should pause to reflect upon and examine the unique dynamics of what we identify with.
Our world does not pause to collect such evidence. And it should not be expected that the most unhappy among us, those unable to find such evidence within, are capable of offering useful perspective without. We are responsible for obtaining our own enlightenment, which in our formative youth is often a very difficult task to muster. And with that in mind, maybe the best advice to give is to remind ourselves to always follow our heart, our passion, and to be the lone arbitrator of our time, pursuing that which is most important and uniquely ours, and to steadfastly resist the empty hollowness of society’s momentum.
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