|Emerson's Study. Photo by Benjamin F. Mills, Boston. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
She was thinking of her mother, now in her 70s, who's frozen in a state of not exactly misery, but of futility. Stuck with the idea that there's nothing much left for her to do or be. Limited. Let's call it limited. And this woman, the daughter, feels there's so much possibility for her mother, only her mother doesn't see it.
I can think of people I know like that.
What happens if you never find your unique gift a la Chopra? Really, this is just another form of the question, "What if I don't succeed?"
In fact, her mother's situation is almost zen-like in it's representation of both question and answer.
If I don't find my unique uniqueness, my motivating, Flow-generating, intrinsically rewarding Thing (capital T intentional), then what? I fail?
Sadder than that. That's right, my dozens of readers, sadder than failure.
Not trying. Feeling futile. Being static.
Coincidentally, I opened up my volume of Emerson--alright, I'll admit it was in the bathroom--to "Self Reliance."
I'd quote the first page, but that would be too long. So I'll summarize. Emerson opens by talking about how every time he responds to poetry, music, art or philosphy, it's an admonition to him to pay attention to the flashes of insight or inspiration he experiences himself; that what he responds to in "Moses, Plato and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought."
They spoke their minds and felt that what they said was worth saying. Meanwhile the average Joe "dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty."
I think I've seen that on a poster before; but I haven't really considered what he means.
In other words, when someone else says what we've thought, we value what we tossed aside with little consideration when we thought it. And if someone else says what we've thought and becomes famous for it, then that really galls. Emerson says this is one of the greatest lessons great works of art have for us. We should trust our inspirations, which he, being a 19th Century man, says are expressions of the divine within us.
"Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." I believe Deepak Chopra would've said it that way if he could.
So the point is to be brave and try, to scrabble around in the sand and build sandcastles, to try to express the difficult to express, or to create the difficult to create, because, as Emerson says, "A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace."
So the point, to answer my friend's question, is that her mother's frozen state is not proof of the inapplicability of Chopra's or Emerson's or anybody's notions of approaching success. It's simply and sadly proof of the result of not trying.
I agree. Fear is paralyzing. But so is comfort...ReplyDelete
Yes, comfort can be. On the other hand, a baseline of comfort frees you to explore things.ReplyDelete
I often think about so many people who give up, and you (and Emerson) are dead on right, I think. Life seems to be about expressing ourselves in all the unique ways we each can do that if we let ourselves...and those of us who don't end up leading lives "of quiet desperation," I think. Yet, it's SO hard to put ourselves out there. I know I struggle with that. It's easy to understand, maybe, why people don't for one of many, many reasons - fear, lack of self knowledge or confidence, all the ways others have damaged us, too much work...anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts - and bringing in Emerson!ReplyDelete
I agree with you, Denise. So many ways that it's hard to try. But after trying for a while, I find I feel good just trying. Sure, I'd like to succeed in a bigger way; but my life feels meaningful as it is.Delete
Interesting so many wise people throughout the ages say the same thing in many different ways. I particularly like what you had to say about these people feeling confident about speaking their minds and feeling that what they had to say was important. That we are important. That's what we all need to learn.Delete
Her mom and mine are from the same generation—when women lived up to expectations of selfless motherhood/wifehood. They hadn't been exposed to the thought, until much later ("too late," as some of them may think) that while parenting is a noble purpose, there's also a life's purpose beyond it. So they didn't know trying was even an option. Maybe our generation, just by being so aware about purpose, could be causing them needless angst.ReplyDelete
I loved "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." Without your post I may not have fully understood its context.
I'm all for mindfulness of insight and inspiration when they strike us; I don't necessarily think it would be galling for me, personally, to see someone else succeed if they expressed it before I did and in a more eloquent manner. I think I might just feel validated that one more facile with expression realized the same truth I did. (And then I'd blog while I have the fire lit under me!)
My mother worked, and it gave her an identity.Delete
I like what you say about having a life's purpose beyond parenting. That's the part that's hard to remember when the kids are demanding.
I doubt our generation is causing needless angst. I suspect we're giving it a more specific domain; but feeling at a loss or unneeded or futile can happen to anyone
I think Chopra has misunderstood.What if the unique thing we are here to do has nothing to do with "out there" and everything to do with "inside here." Recognizing our true nature is what we're here to do. People who don't fully understand tell us that the feeling we have, that sense that drives us to tap into something we can't even name, is something the world offers to us, something it would acknowledge as an accomplishment. That thinking is a product of egoic consciousness, not anything transcendent. We're all pretty much in the same boat here whether it appears that we've succeeded, found what you were looking for or not. For we're still afraid and that's a dead giveaway.ReplyDelete
Interesting perspective. I can't speak for Chopra, having only read one of his books (where he did talk about identifying this uniqueness.) Overall, in the literature I've read on success, the writers usually suggest that finding something that's really meaningful to pursue helps us pursue it to a point where it earns us public recognition. There's much talk of giving something to the world, or serving a larger good than just our own.Delete
On the other hand, as you suggest, inner transformation can be one method of improving the world. That's very Buddhist--creating peace and transcendence within one person helps the world move towards it.
Thanks, for commenting.
There's another possibility regarding your friend's mother -- she may be depressed. We live in a society that doesn't value older people, especially if they are no longer in the workplace. It can be difficult to reinvent yourself at that time of life, especially if people you know and love are stricken with illness or have died.ReplyDelete
It's easier to define success for people in their middle years. How do we define it for the older years?
Absolutely true, she could be depressed. I don't mean to make light of it at all.Delete
Of course, I make light of many things, but usually they're related to myself.
As for defining success for the older years--let me work on the middle years first!
Yes! Great post. Just do it, to quote directly from that megalithic corporation that shall not be named. Jump off the cliff, is how I think of it to myself. At some point, and it's almost always very early on, I shut down all thought and all self-doubt and just jump off that cliff into the "doing." Otherwise I'd paralyze myself with overthink.ReplyDelete
Lucky you! I have trouble shutting down all thought and self-doubt!Delete
Thought and self-doubt and fear can be very comforting caves to crawl into, though. They're comforting ways to stop yourself from trying.ReplyDelete
That is so true, sadly. Self-doubt and fear become whole topics in themselves. Meanwhile, you're not doing the work you're afraid of.Delete