It’s night time at the end of a cold day. The rain has spattered occasionally and I’m trying to unwind a body that has been acting fatigued all day.
Normally and opening like this would require me writing something on my personal blog, but I’m feeling more publicky today. Maybe it’s the election now nearly only 1 year away. Maybe it’s the 12 hours of jedi training I had today. Maybe it’s the booze.
Probably not the booze. Didn’t have any booze. Only had grape juice and casserole.
A couple of thoughts tonight, though probably nothing to spark discussion like the whole “Losing faith” comment I made a while back.
1. It’s nice to see self improvement. I remember being in training just a few months back and thinking “I have no idea what is going on.” Now I’m teaching the newbies – who, incidentally, have the “I have no idea what is going on” look on their faces.
2. I feel good about life and people in general. I’m not extreme in any direction. If I were a shape I would be a sphere with a slightly rippled surface. No poky parts that I’m aware of. It’s not that life is easy or people always treat me well. (I’ve had my share of trauma and stress.) It’s just that the bad things fade gradually to a dim nothing and the good come into sharper relief in my mind. I don’t know precisely why this is. It certainly wasn’t always this way.
3. This leads me to my real thought:
Close your eyes and think of yourself – your “Self Concept.” Now open your eyes and read the words “Now open your eyes…” and continue on from this point. Good. Now keep that idea in your mind.
Seriously, when you close your eyes and think “Me.” who do you see? What characteristics does this person have which are hidden from the world at large but overwhelming in the black behind your eyelids? Is this person someone who has created his or her self or who is a creation only of the forces that press endlessly against you? Who is this person that only you know? Why are you who you have become – what has made you who you are?
I am bothered by those who have the automatic and instant response. Those who can say (and often do say) at any given opportunity “I am this and that. I had this and that happen to me. This is what defines me.” Such a response indicates that once upon a time this person did some amount of introspection, then committed what he or she felt was important to memory for use in conversation. The problem is that the conversation topic of “me” seems to eventually overlay the true identity. Frequent and meaningful introspection decreases. Sense of worth diminishes. Sense of control over one’s life decreases as experiences occur outside the realm of the ‘self description.’
I hope I’m being clear. You’ve seen people do this. Especially those who have traumatizing experiences. Some people say “I am/was a victim.” And while it was true, it was never that persons identity. But over time the ‘victim’ comes to identify him or herself as… “Victim.” Have you had conversations with recent acquaintances where your new friend contributes to the conversation by saying something like “I was abused,” as if it were the same thing as “I used to be a redhead?” Or am I the only one with this particular experience?
Here’s how I see it – and prepare yourself for pure opinion on my part here.
What defines us as individuals is not our pain or suffering or trials. It’s not our successes or good luck. Who we are is not what we do or what is done to us. What defines who we are is how we react to those things – what we do with ourselves after.
Here’s another angle that may illustrate my thoughts better: There are people who reach a certain point in their growth and then stop. You know these people too. These are the people who found something either so bad or so good that they never talk about anything else. I know that sometimes we all need time to “wrap our minds around” big changes in life. But when we take so long ‘getting used to it’ that we form long-term habits it’s pretty hard to continue to grow and experience the world in new ways. As an example: Think of those who leave high school for college, find an intelligent and charismatic professor and take all of his classes and re-spout all of his teachings and opinions to everybody else as if there were nothing else as important. I, for one, know tons of these students. They found something they see as so good that they are unwilling to find anything else.
Another example: I spent many years as a teenager playing the part of the martyr. I would always give up something good for other people and try to draw attention to how tough I had it. I don’t remember what the event was that happened that caused me to develop the habit, but develop it I did. It finally took my own mom saying “Stop being such a martyr!” one day for me to begin the process of escaping my own personal trap. But escape it I did. And I’m glad.
Back then if I were to close my eyes and examine myself I would have seen a skinny white boy with no fashion sense and who had a pitiful and unhappy life. A couple years later I would have seen a skinny white boy with no fashion sense who was generally happy. The boy hadn’t changed, only his thoughts on who he was.
I guess what I’m saying is that I hope we always grow beyond the negative parts of our pasts and add everything that’s positive as best we are able to. I feel bad for those who see themselves as somebody who is ‘happier’ being the cynic or critic or depressed person; because that seems to me to be the most difficult attitude to overcome. Especially when that person also believes that anybody who is happy is only faking it. (You know – the people who think of themselves as the intellectual elite, often wearing black and listening to poetry and telling others around them in what ways they’ve recently heard the world is awful and disagreeing with everyone except certain students, professors, and musicians who share thier bleak world view and who believe that the only art that is real art is that which was inspired by something depressing. You know?) I’ve been that person. It sucks.
Note from people who are content and, yes, happy: We’re not faking. Life really is good. Finding it out is by far the best experience of life.