This article examines where the place of dissent and idealism fits in with needing to accept and be content with where we are at.Essentially asking ,when is being realistic, in fact comprising ones truth and when is it that remaining fixated to our truth is preventing us from being realistic and grounded in the reality we inhabit?
One thing that used to annoy me when I was a teenager, and still annoys me today, is how someone older , who also assumed they were wiser, would dismiss something you said regarding an aspiration of a better world, as “youthful Idealism” .There self-righteous assumption was, when you got older and more attuned to how the “real world” worked, you would soon forgo these lofty dreams of the world being a better place and get on with the business living a “normal life.”
Another way of seeing it would be, as the crushing weight of ones mediocre and robotic existence was realised and all the dreams and aspiration of one’s youth was finally accepted as futile, against the automated system we are all violently sucked into, the only avenue left to feel even slightly good about one’s life, was to think anyone that had who wishes for anything more than consumption and docility was blinded by their excess of romanticism and youthful naivety. Giving the unrealistic kid an affectionate pat on the head and assuring them that eventually “they will see” helps us affirm how we helpless we are against these forces that shape the world, make the rules and set out the parameters of what is and is not possible.
Of course, the wise elder doesn’t perceive that their life ,doing whatever it is they do, is boring, dreary or docile. They do what they do, because it’s what has to be done, because they have matured past their youthful folly, they have gotten “realistic.” As anything other than this perspective is just a form of self-torture. Wanting something you can’t have ,is a pointless act of masochism . So you get on with what you have, knuckle down and make the best of what’s before you.
Being on the receiving end of this type of “real world” type lecture when I was a teenager probably more than annoying me, it scared me. The fact that despite an avid commitment to wanting to live a life of meaning and purpose, there was the possibility you just end up with a life like everyone else. That is, mundane, predictable and enslaved by the force of conformity, status and debt. That one’s ambitions of significance were vain misdirects of the ego, that would inevitable end up diluted, eventually forgone and conveniently forgotten by the relentless forces of circumstance, choices, fate, habit and mostly time. As what we believed was possible at 18 years of age is no longer tenable or doable at age 40. Each person’s vision of what that is may differ, for some it may be the dream of becoming an outstanding professional athlete, others a successful business titan, for some the acclaimed musician, then there are those who thought they contribute to eradicating poverty or feed the homeless, invent a cure for cancer.Those who had a dream and achieved their dream are presented and paraded before us, as evidence, that in this world, with right attitude and the right application, anyone can achieve their dream .Books are written on how, movies are made about who and when and where. Adding to this is our ever expanding and encircling media giving a visual and auditory homage to those who make it .The media is an echo chamber of that unquestioned and pervasive message of “Anyone can achieve their dream!!!”. Yet how many of us look at our lives now and examine them in contrast to our more youthful and passionate ambitions and see a match? The truth is those of us that actually achieved their teenage aspiration or fantasy would be less than 1% maybe even .001% .Many of us have had to painfully let go and accept, that the older and arrogant 40+ adult, that told us we were naive and would be reality spot on in their predication of the trajectory we were on .That realisation that my youthful dreams, where just that, innocent but naive fantasies that had no coloration to the real world, is called “growing up” and being “mature”. That it is in fact best to just section off your life from big ideals and try to build small stable of loving and caring relationships, with some basic good health added on, some happy holidays, some beers and good time with your mates, and humbly accept this the most we can hope for.
I think that process of having to finally be “realistic” and “growing up” is a very painful and confronting thing to have to go through. As our culture firmly puts the lack of anything you personally want down to something lacking in you. It then says anything you want related to wider and more social and collective goals will always be limited to restrictions and laws of life that set the parameters of what is or is not possible. Such as “all people are greedy and selfish” or “there will always be war and those who have and have not” with all of human history being brought out as the unquestionable evidence of these laws.
Yet there is a part of me that struggles against this view, the same part of me that passionately argued some other vision of my life when I was 18, the part of me that is labelled either “unrealistic” or “immature”. At first by others and then over time you eventual internalise those external voices and it then becomes the wording for a script that becomes your own self talk. Society is no longer required to bring me back into line, as do that for them. I tell myself what I am or am not allowed to wish and strive for. I myself have to limit the scope or grandness of these strivings to ensure I am not just setting myself up for more disappointment and despair. So if I am unable to convince myself that I should in fact be happy with all I have and all of what surrounds me, this is considered a problem. This inability can be perceived as both a lack of gratitude considering the reality of all those who have it so much worse than me, as well being the musings of some vain, egotistical and ignorant part of myself that’s unable to let go of his youthful dreams of a life of magic and meaningfulness.
It’s at this juncture I get stuck. As this isn’t an article as such, with a closing point where I conclude and summarize what I think is or is not the point. It’s more of sharing of the struggle I go through with this inner conflict and a desire to share this, with the awareness that maybe I am not alone in this dilemma. I personally don’t think there is some shadowy cabal or secret organisation that is hell bent on enslaving humankind under an illuminati type world order. Yet without going quite that far, I do feel the life I am living is artificial, that it’s forced and that it’s a struggle to feel fulfilled and happy. I find happiness where I can, family , my friendships, parts of my work ,my writing, yet even with that, something is missing, something is not right about how we live and the society I live in. I know some of that is me, it is my thoughts, my past wounds and unresolved hurt that bleed into and impact my present but I don’t think it’s all me. I think that our schooling, our financial system,our media, our governments are not benign and neutral variables, like the weather or the orbiting moon. These institutions are colossal , far reaching entities that literally shape and control the environment we all inhabit. The greed and self-interest that drives those external bodies has substantial impact on what goes into making my life either rewarding and joyful or banal, spiritless and bleak.
Just look the fact that it is mainly civilians, who in the last 50 years who have either been killed or force to flee their homes due to a war or conflict. Not those who choose the wars, organised the wars, profited from these wars, or their children. As for these civilians, no matter how positive an attitude to life they may have, losing a mother, a child ,violently to a pointless war you had no choice in, being force to escape your home country, all this make happiness for that person extremely difficult. It’s a testament of the human spirit, that those that go through this kind of hardship still find it in their hearts to love, to be kind, to find humour and warmth despite what they have been through, but surely it shouldn’t have to be so hard. Yet the same goes with most of the hardships people endure from poverty, to food scarcity, unemployment, lack of access to health care and education. All the things that create these type of hardships are social forces, shaped and set up our political and economic systems. Yet these are just the obvious and tangible hardships, let alone more subtle difficulties, such as loathing a job you have to turn up to in order to pay your rent, or feeling insecure because you unable to conform to a body type to the desired image the media surrounds you in. I have covered an aspect of this in my article about the media and the role they play is actively working to make people insecure and unhappy with themselves. Yet that is just one aspect of far wider and more all-encompassing framework we are all exist within.
This brings me a full circle to the original question being explored. What is me just accepting life is just this way and I need to work with what I have, grow up and make good on the opportunities life has provided me?Then, what is me allowing myself to be tricked and deceived into accepting something, that in fact is unacceptable? Why should I kowtow to an inhuman and soul destroy system that deserves to be challenged and defied, and is that spirit of defiance that is the only things ensuring my essential spirit remains active and alive? That thinking I can be happy, whilst occupying a space in this current system, is that the real delusion and naivety that I need to question and see through?
The answer to this question I can sincerely say I have no idea. In my days and weeks I vacillate between these two perspectives, these two opposes forces and feelings within myself. Its tiring and makes me feel exhausted and feed up at times, mainly with myself. It weird turning 40 this year has really getting me to think on things, my life, where it is, where it’s going .It’s not a midlife crisis, as I think I started that crisis about eight years ago and never came out the other end. I guess it’s just one of those life milestones that can get to you look at all the personal and social expectations that goes with being “forty”. Some of these I fit to a tee, married,with mortgage ,belly and children and others I guess I’m still not there or far off. Things you would think I would feel good about I don’t, if that just mopey morbid me, or the fact they in truth have no real value, again I don’t know. What I do know is these questions, these conundrums don’t seem to be going away, rather they seem to be deepening in the divide they create inside myself. As my current life and trajectory cements itself further, it brings those question of “What is this all for?” to the forefront. With this, I am left to look within, remain open and trust that life does have a way of supporting us to find meaning, draw conclusions. To trust that our pain is often a clarion call to dig deeper and trust more fully is life , the universe and oneself. As some questions maybe don’t have definitive “answers”, and this maybe one them. Rather it seems we are drip feed small pieces of a complicated puzzle that will only make sense when all the pieces fit, and then discover that all those fitted pieces are but just one piece in an even larger puzzle. So for now I will worked to unburden myself with finding the answer and let life unfold and reveal the best way forward ,in the hope that things will get lighter, clear and more at ease. That I will have to work with and find contentment in the fact I don’t know, that I have to walk both these paths simultaneously and that’s OK .Here is hoping!!!