Self-Deception

We claim that we are content — that our lives, as we lead them, give us all that we could ever need. Yet we are so occupied convincing ourselves of this that we ignore the true promptings of our inner selves. We fear our own emptiness. We’re afraid to be alone with ourselves. Thus, we are always seeking a distraction lest we begin to see ourselves as we truly are.

Those who seek something such as fame are really attempting to run from the loneliness in their own lives. They believe that accolades, success, and recognition will give them the approval that they are consciously or unconsciously withholding from themselves. But the attention and admiration of the multitude rarely present anything but momentary satisfaction. Why? Because down deep within ourselves we know that someone else’s opinion of us never changes what we think about ourselves.

If we but followed Socrates’s sage advice, “Know thyself,” instead of merely paying lip service to it, we would be on a journey of self-discovery instead of on an adventure of temporary pleasure and self-gratification. Perhaps, you say, it is impossible to ever completely know oneself. Well, even if it is, there is something admirable about the person who has the courage to begin this daunting quest for self-knowledge.

When we begin to see ourselves clearly, we see many truths that are painful to acknowledge. We may see that we have deceived ourselves for as long as we can remember — that the deceit we thought we have perceived in others has actually been self-deception instead. We may also see that the hurt and pain we have caused ourselves far exceeds any hurt or pain that others have caused.

Ah, how easy it is to find fault with other people! Yet, how difficult it is to acknowledge the ingrained flaws within ourselve.! For, we must completely destroy our self-pride if we are to see ourselves as we truly are. We must stop listening to the compliments, the flattery, and the praise of other people because their words, though they are kind and gratifying, will give us a false sense of self-confidence that has no genuine foundation beneath it.

If we feel proud of a false self, what does this tell us about who we are? How can we be so deceived as to believe what other people tell us about ourselves when their conception of us is completely different from our real selves? Do we imagine that believing the flattery and praise we hear in some way elevates us as human beings? Can we not see the folly of accepting this flattery? To even accept it as sincere is self-betrayal. Yet, who can blame us? Who wouldn’t like to hold on to an idealized conception of himself or herself?

The problem is, self-pride cancels out humility, thereby making it impossible to peer clearly into our soul. But if we are brave enough to choose to look within not only with honesty but also with a certain amount of ruthlessness, we will see that there is no reason for self-pride. At the same time, there is undoubtedly every reason for humility. After all, we are all guilty of the sins that we condemn in other people. Each one of us is capable of committing crimes that we judge as horrendous when someone else commits them. We look at another person’s life and imagine how much better we would have handled their opportunities, challenges, and circumstances than they have. But how do we know unless we are living in their shoes?

If we continue to run from our true selves, there will come a time when we are no longer capable of distinguishing between the person whom other people praise, flatter, and admire and the person we genuinely are. Ultimately, then, we will have given up any chance to be authentic. For, we will have deceived ourselves to the point where even we no longer know who we are.

~Sascha

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright by Sascha Norris 2012. All Rights Reserved.

~Desire, Redefined~

In a society where sex and lust have been dissected, examined, and obsessed over, why is it that many of us still believe that desire is generally, if not automatically, associated with one or both of these things? All that we have been taught about sex and lust should have led us to the truth– that desire can well be a component of these two things but is not always present, even if it seems to be. We should understand that desire can and does exist apart from sex or lust. Indeed, we should be aware of the fact that desire is what keeps many of us alive. For, without desire, what would any of us have to live for?

Desire, when understood for what it is, can serve as an impetus to achieve anything one wants–whether it be a specific accomplishment or series of accomplishments or merely the ability to survive and thrive in spite of obstacles and tribulation. Without desire, life loses its color for it is no longer energized by passion. Thus, it becomes a humdrum existence where each day is lived mechanically instead of enthusiastically. What is there to look forward to, to work towards, to pursue, if one ceases to desire anything? In many ways, a lack of desire demonstrates an indifference to life itself. And living indifferently is not really living–it is merely existing.

One problem with desire being so frequently associated with sex and lust is that many people are afraid to talk about it. Instead of giving us more freedom, our sexually “liberated” society has represssed our freedom. Now that sexual messages are found even when they’re not there, desire is viewed with suspicion. How is it that more freedom can make us less free? Could it be because no society or culture or outside power can give freedom to those who remain enslaved to themselves?

If only we could curb our instincts to pick everything apart . If only we could cease trying to find darkness where there is light and evil where there is good, perhaps we might began to see things more as they truly are. For if one is too intent upon finding something, one will discover it whether it is there . . . or not. But the discovery will only exist in one’s own individual perception.

Perhaps, we need to redefine desire. Maybe, if we viewed it as being completely separate from everything else, we would be able to use it constructively. If we could see that it can be used to bring about radical changes instead of merely to stimulate sexual appetites, we would cease to fear or repress it and would allow ourselves to nourish it.

~Sascha

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2012 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved.

~Grief~

Are we only to feel grief when we lose someone precious to us? Is grief reserved for the loss of a loved one? Or can we also grieve when we lose part of ourselves or when our most precious, cherished dreams have been shattered?

We are encouraged to believe that grief is not an everyday emotion. It is not something one feels in the gloom of life’s “little” tragedies. It is only something one can feel while in the midst of life’s enormous catastrophes. We are allowed to experience grief when someone close — a spouse, a family member, a pet — dies,  but not when we feel a dying of our innermost selves. Perhaps, if grief were a more acceptable emotion to feel outside of the death of someone or something we have loved, we would be better equipped to cope with it. Perhaps, if we allowed ourselves to mourn the loss of our former selves, we would be better able to accept the people we are right now. Is not becoming entwined to the past to the point where we cannot break free from it often a form of grief? And might not what feels like sadness, disappointment, or even bitterness at the way our lives have turned out thus far be a form of grief?

Of course, we already know that the world doesn’t want to see our tears. We are supposed to be sensitive enough to cry at the “right” moments (whatever these are — and, yes, generally they are chosen for us). But to weep when, to the outside world, we have no viable reason to do so, is unacceptable. If you’re alive and have your basic needs met, why should you grieve? You shouldn’t, of course. Rather, you should be grateful. Ah yes, forget about the beautiful, exhilarating dreams you waltzed to when you were a child. That was before you understood how the world works. To aspire towards being or having more than what has been allotted to you is mere foolishness. You must be satisfied to read about great men and women in biographies and history books. As for eternal, everlasting love, if you believe in that you must surely have read too many fairy tales when you were growing up.

Self-help gurus tell us that we have the power within ourselves to be whatever we want to be — that the “seeds of greatness” are within us. But, in the real world, life steps in and snatches anything we get that might seem “too good to be true,” as the saying goes. And since we are to focus on all of the blessings we have, acknowledging our grief over any lack that exists in our lives is, we are told, a form of ingratitude. Indeed, it is egregious of us to grieve for that we don’t have or what we failed to achieve when we have so much more to be thankful for than so many other people.

Sadly, though, telling those who are grieving that they must be grateful doesn’t seem to do an enormous amount of good. I know when I am grieving that someone reprimanding me for not being grateful enough doesn’t seem to help. At the same time, I find that in addition to grief I begin to blame myself for my lack of gratitude. Granted, the self-blame only makes the grief more intense, but to those who have so kindly pointed out my folly (i.e., ingratitude) I assure them that they have done their part.

The thing about grief — and those who have genuinely experienced it know this — is that there is no magical remedy for it. You can’t find pills of happiness somewhere or bottles filled with joy. And even if you could, who imagines that joy or happiness will eradicate grief? In many ways, one can experience joy and/or happiness at the same time as grief, for one can feel joy or happiness about one aspect of his life while simultaneously grieving for another part of his existence. Joy and happiness seem, to me, at least, to be far more ephemeral than grief. Joy flies on sparkling wings like a gigantic, bejeweled butterfly, and happiness beams down upon one like a dazzling but fleeting morning sun.

But what about grief? Grief neither flies on wings nor does it give forth light. Grief creates a dark tunnel inside the center of ourselves and burrows deeper and deeper until it strangles all other emotions with its tenacious grip. Grief is the weed that kills the most glorious flowers in the garden of our heart. And yet, its effect can never really be explained, can it? If we try to, we either sound ridiculous or, at the least, melodramatic. So, those of us who feel it often become quite reticent about it, using vague terms like “dissatisfaction,” “sadness,” “despondency,” or “depression,” even though these words do not begin to define the essence of grief. If we are more honest about expressing our feelings, we may say that we are in “a state of despair.” But oft-times, the kinds of explanations that must be forthcoming when we make such a confession make it seem scarcely worth the trouble. And even though grief and despair may be close cousins, they are not the same thing. They may be garments fashioned from similar materials, but they are different.

So how, taking all this into consideration, are we expected to bear grief? Should we smother it with petty worries or suffocate it by staying busy? Should we stab grief in the heart by focusing on being grateful? Since grief cannot be killed, all of these so-called solutions are useless. What one can do, however, is allow oneself to experience grief — to even embrace grief with love rather than attempt to cast it aside with hate. For sorrows, like joys, are given to us for a reason, whether we fully comprehend that reason or not.

~Sascha

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2012 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved.