IS SOCIETY SICK?

James R. Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. 1978

May we not be justified in reaching the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilizations, or some epochs of civilization – possibly the whole of mankind –have become neurotic? We may expect that one day someone will venture to embark upon a pathology of cultural communities.” Sigmund Freud (1930)

We are taught from an early age not to think but to do; to accept formulated programming by society. This is reinforced in school and church and sustained by media. Natural skepticism is blunted by an incessant bombardment of a cultural point of view.

Consequently, the last person one cues on is oneself. The last authority one respects is that of one’s own authority. Many observers, among them Erich Fromm, Eric Hoffer, Pitirim Sorokin, R.D. Laing and T. S. Szasz, echo the sentiments of the man-on-the-street.

The shift away from a community-centered society finds the individual on his own. The Renaissance spirit is disregarded in the lives and works of ordinary citizens. For that reason, these pathfinders appear strangely as “societal misfits” or outsiders.

They have had the courage to see and to be. It is time for correction; time to shed illusory and iconic images, and to endure the pain and surprise of a new dawn. If society is sick, it can only be saved one person at a time, a person not afraid to proclaim the emperor has on no clothes.

Authenticity is needed to come to grips with this plight. My pastor confesses to his parishioners, “It is impossible to know whom to believe,” a direct reference to disclosures of Watergate. “I held out to the very last that the president would be exonerated, that the whole thing was a media fiasco.” He throws his sermon to the floor. “Never again will I believe in any of them!”

Melodramatic? Juvenile? He is not through. “I should have been born in the twelfth century when sanity ruled.”

Of course, he is wrong but feels everyone listening is equally ignorant, mesmerized by his theological office. Sanity, if anything, has taken a holiday with a return to “The Age of the Crusades and Inquisitions.”

What he should have said is that the twelfth century was an era of transition as is the present. Then he would have given his parishioners a perspective to consider in the light of current events. Society was sick not only because of that Inquisition, but because of the monarchial authority and feudalistic zeal of the church to dominate and control ordinary souls in all phases of their existence.

To romanticize this period is to give short shrift to good sense. This happens when public trust is put on a pedestal to see people and events as more than human to treat them as less than human. When we fail to see humanity, as it is, evil as well as good, it makes a mockery of us all. Our cloying dependence on outside authority for internal security demonstrates how completely immature that young priest was in one sense, and how well he knew his parishioners in another.

He was shaped and molded, in part, by the media he despises. He has since left the church, cynical and disenchanted, still clinging to his illusions. He was not prepared to cope with Watergate, he says, but that is not quite the case. He managed to project and transfer his frustrations to this convenient scapegoat – as many of us have done – without gaining an iota of insight in either Watergate or in himself.

He epitomizes the person totally shaped by other men’s minds without being introduced to his own. He represents a prototype of the times that uses events outside experience to justify his self-indulgence.

Our society never mentions our secret desires, but they are behind every word.  We live in a culture where the passivity of hope dominates.  This leads to missed opportunity and wasted energy that we all know so well. In the end, chances are the reader decides the issue of sickness or wellness on the basis of his or her own perspective and experience, as it should be.

HAVE A LOVE AFFAIR WITH WHAT YOU DO!

There are pauses amidst study, and even pauses of seeming idleness, in which a process goes on which may be likened to the digestion of food. In those seasons of repose, our powers are gathering their strength for new efforts; as land which lies fallow recovers itself for tillage. J. W. Alexander (1854)

All of us must work, but we differ widely in our interpretation of that experience. We differ in our sense of role, duty, obligation and responsibility. It is more likely that work happens to us rather than is created out of love. Since it is more likely something we have to do rather than want to do, it is doubtful that love is a consideration. We fall into work but not the way we fall into love. There is intense pleasure and anticipation when we fall into love. We take leave of our senses to rediscover them. Words such as fulfillment, completion, and wholeness only come to mind after the fact when we are one with our mate.

Why not the same with work? There is a simple answer. Love is a relationship. It is personal. It is intimate. It makes us more than we are. It is appreciative. We never tire of telling our mate how much we love him or her because it is more than we ever expected, more than we sense we deserve. Every moment of every day is a blessing.

Work, on the hand, has been reduced to money. We measure success, status, clout, importance, and security in terms of money. Money is a thing without personality; with no chance of intimacy; no sense of satisfaction, which always makes us feel less than we are. It is a reward for doing something that we are paid to do, and therefore it is a material, not a spiritual connection.

Money becomes so important to us that even love is measured in terms of money. We would rather give our mate an expensive gift than our loving attention. Indeed, love has been reduced to commerce: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Diamonds are cold, hard, and inanimate and reflect brilliance without having any. They are love’s substitute for intimacy of a personal nature, which translates into spending quality time together. With money, we never have enough because someone always has more.

We compare and compete with others by having better homes, bigger cars, larger wardrobes, bigger bank accounts and stock portfolios, always more. We never have enough. The axiom follows the less we enjoy work the more important is money. Money becomes an unconscious effort to punish our employer for making us do something we don’t want to do, but have talked ourselves into believing we have to do.

All of us fall across a spectrum of love and hate when it comes to work. No work is ever perfect, nor is any worker. Our approach to work differs according to our state of mind. We live in a material world, but we also live in a spiritual world. We live in a world of things, but also a world of people. If we have a job we love, and a mate that completes us, we are blessed with an angelic touch of heaven. We don’t have to say a word to let the world know how we feel about work. It shows in our countenance, the way we move, clearly demonstrating rather work is a chore or a joy.

The disgruntled worker acts as if the world owes him a living when the employer owes him only a full day’s pay for a full day’s work, and no more. The employer is not his keeper, not there to bail him out for his poor money management; not there to excuse his excesses; not there as apologist to placate the consequences of his actions. We are master or slave of our existence. What is there about those who seem always happy at work, who tackle each assignment with enthusiasm, and who embrace challenge and ride disappointment with equal ease?

Better yet, whom do they most resemble? Obviously, the adult. Then why are there so few? Think of high achievers you know in any endeavor, who never tire raising the bar and achieving at a higher level, then ask yourself why there are not more of them? We are all part of nature and grow once we seed our effort, and tend to grow consistent with nature’s requirements.

But the ground must be fertile, the climate conducive, and the cultivation appropriate to the growing. Perhaps that is what is missing. It is no accident that some students work to learn while others work only for grades. The learner derives something new that is part of him or her for life. The grade grabber leaves learning behind clinging to credentials.

Work is love made visible when our outsides catch up with our insides for work is a measure of all things.

START CUING ON YOURSELF!

The problem is that literate and civilized people do not understand that their brains are much smarter than their minds. Alan W. Watts (1938)

The very last voice we hear, the very last place we look to for answers is ourselves. This is as true of the educated as the uneducated, in fact even more so. The educated are programmed to conform and respond to the system. They cannot write a paper without an access of references meant to give the paper credence when it only demonstrates the lack of imagination and originality.

We hold ourselves in the lowest of esteem when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Infrequently, when our intuitive voice cuts through conformity, we make decisions consistent with ourselves. Otherwise, we look everywhere for answers but where they reside. Small wonder marriage counselors, psychic gurus, management consultants, psychotherapist and clinical psychologists have a full calendar of obliging prospects to swallow their bromides as implicit wisdom.

Dr. Thomas Harris states that ninety percent of us see everyone else as “okay,” but ourselves as “not okay.” No matter what our situation, we never see ourselves as having either enough education or income to consider ourselves “okay.”

Incredible as it may seem, we see ourselves as under educated, under skilled, and under qualified to deal with our own lives. We think others are better able to address what is only salient to us. This doesn’t throw us into action to right this deficiency. It throws us into a swoon of inertia. We believe the key to our destiny is in an authority figure unfamiliar with us as a person, when we already have that key in our hands. We don’t want to do something. We want someone to alleviate our angst. Many of us are like the man who is starving with a loaf of bread under his arm.

So terrified are we of events over which we have no control that we box ourselves in and then hand our fate over to someone else. Take the mother who watches the six o’clock news on television and is so overwhelmed she cannot make dinner, or the father who hears rumors of the plant closing and cannot get out of bed to go to work. In both instances, mother and father are living on the edge abdicating their harmony and equilibrium to a foreign voice, a proposition carried to the extreme.

Consequently, the last person we trust is ourselves; the last person we have confidence in is ourselves; the last person we gamble on is ourselves; and the last person we invest in is ourselves. We will invest in a house to shelter us and as a hedge against inflation. We will invest in an automobile to carry us from here to there. We will invest in nice clothes to make the correct impression on people that count. But we will feel guilty if we seek education with no apparent instrumental justification.

We see people reading books that have nothing to do with work and sense that they are idlers, but we think nothing of those spending happy hours after work in local pubs. They are unwinding.

The cultivation of the mind for its own enjoyment is best kept a secret to avoid ridicule, but it needn’t be. Few see it as a waste to gamble over which we have no control: stock market, athletic contests, and the lottery. The essence of gambling is that the stakes are loaded against us. Even if we win, it is not earned. What is not earned is not appreciated. Then too, it is avoiding the struggle, which is life, where only what we earn is ever valued. It is well to remember that the inner voice tells us not only where we are going, but also why we are going there. To hear it we must cue on ourselves.

SO, YOU HAVE ROCKS IN YOUR HEAD! WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

The great breakthrough in the contemporary theory of mental illness is that it represents a kind of stupidity, a limitation or obtuseness of perception, a failure to see the world as it is. It is not a disease in the medical sense, but a failure to assign correct priorities to the real world. Ernest Becker (1964)

To be human is to be mysterious and mystifying. There is not a man alive without secrets, deep and dark secrets that he fears would be his undoing if they “got out.” Nor is there a man alive without perverted ways. We tend to see such ways only in sexual terms, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are far more damaging perversions in society notwithstanding myths to the contrary.

Morality is in the mind of the time. Morality is itself a perversion. It is constructed of taboos and perverted myths that poison the soul from generation to generation. The Inquisition and witch-hunts come to mind. Monstrous perversions have been done in the name of religion that today would quake the immortal soul. Depravity yesterday is common practice today.

We create a private hell for ourselves by buying into what society sanctions in its ambivalence. The decadence of the 1920s, the Flapper Era, when young people reportedly “went wild,” would be considered mild fare today.

People of the Great Gatsby ilk line both coastlines in conspicuous ostentation, while being celebrated as leading citizens. Then there are those that cue on self-righteous themes in the midst of hedonism. Many have been “born again.” In surrendering to a new austerity, they forget why wine, women and song consume a time.

People depart from moral restriction for reason. Society finds it necessary to break from stultifying rectitude to breathe, when transitioning from one form of society to another results in spinning off in a maddening dash to new meanings.

People have little sense why such diversions from the previous norm surface. They see excess as sin, which is meaningless, when waste is the culprit. The lack of limits is the sin of our times and why society is in the throes of a nervous breakdown.

When everyone behaves the same, when leadership mimics this sameness, society is adrift and no one is in charge. We are in a decade of confused leadership where authority has no meaning at any level: home, school, church, work, or government. This is largely due to the fact that those in authority attempt to hide their weakness: that is, parents, teachers, priests, bosses, and politicians.

Great leaders are plagued by great weakness. Lincoln suffered depression and melancholy most of his life; Churchill was an alcoholic and suffered depression. Hitler and Napoleon behaved civilly in their personal life, neither smoking nor drinking, but barbarically in their military ambitions. Hitler was extremely careful in his diet with a regiment of proper sleep and exercise. Neither Lincoln nor Churchill worked regular hours pushing themselves often beyond their limits.

What these leaders held in common was an awareness of their historic significance, careful to manage their image away from their human failings. Only Hitler failed to see humor in his limitations while the others shared theirs if obliquely.

Why is man unable to tolerate what he is not? Why is it so hard for him to see the natural connection between strength and weakness, the bond between good and evil that exists in us all? Why the ambiguity of madness, as if madness is a rarity when madness is as common to the human spirit as is sanity?

It is madness that sparks creativity. It took madness to create the great symphonies, paintings, literature and architecture. Madness escapes the norm. How could Milton create “Paradise Lost,” or Dante “The Divine Comedy” without an acquaintance with madness?

Creativity is not rare but common. Alas, it is killed in many of us before it catches hold. The instinct for self-preservation and approval clashes with the impulse for internal widening and spiritual awakening. Outsiders have penetrated these barriers and have built the society we know by cuing on themselves as individuals at great sacrifice. They are change agents standing for truth that Colin Wilson suggests in “The Outsider” (1956) begin as outsiders and finish as saints.

It is impossible to grow as an individual unless strength is understood in terms of weakness, goodness in terms of evil instincts, energetic commitment in terms of laziness, and sanity in terms of its twin, madness.

Since madness is where creativity lies, it must be employed for sanity to triumph. Growth of a man is the orchestration of self-acceptance complemented by the acceptance of others as they are. The only person you can change is yourself, no other. Without that understanding, there is no growth, only parody. These secrets are part of your essence. To tap them only takes their acknowledgement.

CELEBRATE YOUR ADVERSITY!

A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner, neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify for usefulness and happiness. The storms of adversity, like those of the ocean, rouse the faculties, and excite the invention, prudence, and skill, and fortitude of the voyager. The martyrs of ancient times, in bracing their minds to outward calamities, acquired a loftiness of purpose and a moral heroism worth a lifetime of softness and security. Anonymous

The most common story told with each success is devoid of the more compelling story, which is its brother, failure.

Failure is a precious gift of experience that no one can give to another no matter how much love they hold for that person. Failure is the scent of the wine’s bouquet before its taste passes the pallid. The scent precedes the taste of success; its essence its bouquet. Failure is an expression of having the mettle to try with no chance of being held up by someone else should failure come. There is little appreciation of success unless it is preceded by failure.

Fermentation gives a wine its bouquet; failure gives success its essence. There is no substitute for the fermentation of experience. Nor is there any chance of growth without pain. Information can be acquired, precaution can be taken, but the progression from inadequate to adequate to proficient involves pain and risk and failure. Struggle is therefore not something to avoid but something to embrace. The greatest learning experience is limited to situations that might otherwise be described as risky or ill advised. That is not to say one should court adversity at the expense of good fortune. It means simply that adversity is likely to touch everyone’s life in the course of living and should not cripple one, or cause one to view life as hopeless when it occurs.

Genius is the name of persistence. Adversity has many faces. One man’s adversity may be another man’s good fortune. It is all in the mind of the beholder. One takes his bumps in the road and chalks them up to experience; someone else is traumatized by the bumps, and looks for a less demanding course. Good fortune comes to those who take all shades of trouble in stride as part of the cycle of failure and success to be encountered in that quest.

Think back over your life and reflect on your successes and failures and ask yourself this question: what did I learn and when did I learn it?

Frequently, what happens when we are enjoying success is that we don’t think at all. If we do think, we wonder when the other shoe will fall, and failure will return. Failure is always the ghost in the wing taunting us off stage. It stands to reason a string of good fortune must be followed with failure, right?

No one can always be successful, but yet some people are. Why is that? Could it be that they constantly review the lessons learned in failure, and reapply them to success? We wonder in this odd way when we are failing but not when we are succeeding. It is apt to find us up tight when the best of all worlds are visiting us, strange as it may seem. We fear the worse and everyone’s face is its reflection, and so the caution.

Then there is the possibility we cover ourselves in martyrdom garb when we are failing licking our wounds and scorning others who refuse to lick them for us. As natural as failure is to our development, and as important as it is in building our character, failure is terribly misunderstood.

It is failure, or adversity that wakes us out of our doldrums, kicks us into action as our instincts come into play. We have little awareness of our capacity to survive until motivated to prevail. Odd as it may seem, some fold up their tent, retreat into themselves, and wait to be rescued. They ignore their strengths and play on their weakness.

This is not to say that retreat is always a bad strategy. There are times when it is the best strategy, such times as when the heart and mind need a respite of healing before moving on. Depression often takes hold when the mind is overwhelmed and the body is racked with debilitating illness. We treat depression as a disease with drugs and talking cures, and even electric shock, God help us for that, yet depression pivots on the constant war between fight and flight. Discretion is the better part of valor when we take flight and recognize it is time to take a “time out.”

The mind can only process so much information. When that information doubles, our capacity to cope is strained to the breaking point, and all kinds of alarm signals are going off telling us to slow down or even stop. We ignore them at our peril. The major reason we have wars between people is to escape the constant war within.

We project the object of our wrath on someone or something that reminds us of our horror. In our desperation to escape such confinement, we declare war on someone else. War is never rationale. War is always about hidden shame. It is the conflict generated by doing something even if it is wrong versus the inertia of doing nothing that plagues the spirit when dominated by the insanity of action.

Failure and adversity see through the con to what is hidden behind, which is the reality of experience. Einstein failed many examinations until he finally passed the one marked “truth.” Edison and Tesla failed many times before they tasted success in the world of electricity. Failure is a great teaching tool. Failure is not merely a “trial and error” methodology. It is an exercise in persistence and a matter of retrial and correction.

A popular example is that of Colonel Sanders and the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” franchise. The colonel was sixty-five when an interstate highway cut right through the location of his restaurant. He had every reason to give up, retire, and go peacefully into the sunset. Instead, he took his recipe on the road in an attempt to sell it to restaurants. He had hundreds of rejections until he found success in a little restaurant in Utah. The rest is history. He lived to be a wealthy octogenarian, active and happy to the end. His wealth could not be measured in dollars for it was priceless.

IS IT REALLY SERIOUS?

“Had I but died an hour before this chance,

I had liv’d a blessed time; for, from this instant,

There’s nothing serious in mortality;

All is but toys; renown and grace is dead,

The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees

Is left this vault to brag of.” Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Look at all the long frowning and sad faces that greet you coming and going every day. Is your face one of them? What is it that really matters to you? Is it your money? Your car? Your house? Your family? Your girl or boyfriend? Your wife or husband? Your children? Your education? Your career? The questions are endless.

What is it that life is all about anyway? Is it fame and fortune, pleasure and comfort, security and a worry free existence? It is a fair question. I’m wagering you don’t have the foggiest idea because there are no definitive answers. At best, our answers would be subjective and ambiguous. We worry about what has not yet happened, and probably won’t because anxiety has become the luxury of a people with too much, too many, and too soon.

This is the sum and substance of life for whether you take it in stride or stridently, life goes on. Thank you very much. Worry surfaces when toys become more important than tools and distraction more appealing than attention.

Why is it we develop personal space and then fortify it with all sorts of disposable things, and then compound this insulation closeting ourselves in fenced in communities? Is it our fear of others and life that we hide from display? Or is it because we are ill humored, lonely, shy, and afraid to venture beyond ourselves? Nothing is private and therefore no one is.

We gave that all up when we became an industrial society. Community is now an anachronism. Have you taken inventory of your priorities? Have you checked your mind for its grand design? Some people plan as if they intend to live forever, putting off living until they retire only to find they have run out of energy as well as time.

Why are we afraid? What do we fear? One of the most common fears is getting up in front of an audience and making a speech. Why is that? What do we want to protect? Our name? Our profession? Our reputation? Are we embarrassed for looking a fool? We think speakers are different than we are, when they are the same only with a sense of humor about the folly of exposure. So-called thinkers are no surer of themselves than the rest of us. They express their ideas to hear them outside themselves to calibrate the affirmation of the echo.

We do the same thing as talkers to our friends. For that matter, what is a thinker? Granted, some thinkers take themselves seriously, but that is because of arrogance. They truly believe they have answers to everything and for everyone. It is why smart people fail. They are so enamored of the purity of their thinking they lack an appreciation of its limitations. Consequently, they eventually make horrible blunders and come crashing down into humiliating disgrace.

There is no thinker, only conditioned thinking. Thought is conditioned. The mind is the storehouse of experience. Memory itself arises from conditioned thought. So, whoever the thinker, deep or superficial, the movement of the mind in any direction produces its own limits.

When the mind makes an effort to transform itself, it merely builds another pattern on top of the old. It is an effort of the mind to free itself from itself while only giving rise to a continuance of thought. It may be at a higher level but it remains in its own sphere framed in that circle of thought and time. It is why more than one mind on a problem is prudence personified.

Is the world situation all that serious? Is the state of the economy all that serious? Is the state of your health all that serious? If you say, “yes” to these questions, then you are part of the collective con. I have heard these questions repeated all my life with circumstances rather than actions controlling the agenda, and always circling back on the same serious concerns.

The paralysis of analysis finds thinkers, whomever they are, failing to get beyond the barrier of conventional wisdom to meaningful action. That is why the problems solved are the problems thinking creates, ad infinitum. In one breath, we mouth, “This is serious,” and in the other, “not my problem.”

We fail to read the newspaper because it depresses us. We don’t vote because “all politicians are crooked, and it doesn’t matter anyway.” We wish we could give up cigarettes, but say, “we’ve got to die from something.  Why not something that gives us pleasure?” We think we take life seriously but we don’t take it seriously at all.

What has happened to our inner fortitude? Are we traumatized by what is real and should be taken seriously, while fooled by what is not and beyond the pale of our consciousness? The evidence of this dilemma is that we wax serious when we don’t actually give a damn, or as fools fooling ourselves.  If so, who is the ultimate loser in this game if not us? The evidence is all around us.

After a century of “progress,” we are leaving our planet a wasteland to be cleansed by some future global miraculous strategy. Does seriousness produce anything worthwhile? Are we happier or healthier, wiser or wealthier for being addicted to the rhetoric of progress? Where does this seriousness fit into a life plan where there are only remote and ambiguous sacrifices? These are questions only the reader can answer from the cast of characters in the gallery of his life.

LIFE IS A JOURNEY NOT AN END, SO ENJOY!

Following another is merely an effect of a deeper cause, and without understanding that cause, whether one outwardly follows or not has very little meaning. The desire to arrive, to reach the other shore, is the beginning of our human search. We crave success, permanency, comfort, love, and enduring state of peace, and unless the mind is free of this desire, there must be following in direct or devious ways. Following is merely a symptom of a deep longing for security. Krishnarmurti (1960)

What are you thinking at this moment? Ideas fly up from the page and set off little explosions in the mind, chasing you here and there, from this to that, to what and when as if you are on a magic carpet.

The mind is processing the words read to your unique kingdom of experience. In a way, you are in the embrace of the dream, which transports you, to another place. The dreamer in you has been released from its prison of doubt and conformity to speculate in the stillness of the mind where there is no interfering force. There is only stillness. There is no beginning, middle, or end. Your mind and this stillness are one. You are outside of time.

Nothing so much convinces me of the boundlessness of the human mind as its operation in dreaming. William Benton Clulow (1872)

There is no before, now, or after. There is only “what is.” Art and science have no business in your dream. There is no desire to analyze, no need to shade and select. There is no pain or pleasure, happiness or sadness. There is no construction of reality. There is no payoff for the dreaming has no design or product, no need for cleverness or strategy, no need for symbols or processes, and most apparent of all, no need for continuity.

The dreamer goes where he wills govern by no strictures of logic. We are more than ourselves in our sleep for the slumber wakes up our souls. The experience, something that man has enjoyed since the dawn of consciousness, has come to have many names, but our dream has only one name, joy.

We like to call this stillness transcendental or meditation for it is beyond time and classification, a bit of heaven while we are still alive. The release of the mind from its confinement regenerates the individual so that dividends accrue without effort, pain, or conscious thought. In the course of dreaming, the imagination crystallizes into imagery, which is revealed in fragments after the fact.

It is as futile to control the content of a dream as it would be to capture love in a bottle. Scientists declare dreaming as REM (rapid eye movement) or fitful sleep. Yet, we cannot be fully awake unless we have truly dreamed. We cannot fathom the world if we have not first dreamt it. Everything must stop before it starts, and that stopping is the stillness of the mind in the luxury of the dream. You cannot convince yourself that you are alert if you have never been otherwise. You cannot enjoy the moment if you are never in it fully. This is counterintuitive, but that is because we understand everything in terms of effort and there is no effort in the dream, no past or fear of the future.

We have sacrificed the dream for dread and live in the consequence of that decision. All the symbols and concepts and ideas drilled into our heads in school do not constitute thinking. They constitute knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom.

Understanding the simple is the meter of wisdom, and the simple first comes to us in our dreams. That is why we often solve complex problems in our sleep. Cut away all the posturing and complexity, and we discover life in reflection is a process, not a product, a journey, not an end, a dream and not a plan, a joy and not a chore.

Dreaming is a force when the brilliance of the dream is never allowed to fade, as the future opens to us. Education is a process not to open doors or fill our pockets with gold, but to open our minds to the dream that lies dormant within us waiting to be released. Intelligence is the connection of the mind with the dream so that we live in the real and surreal world without anguish or apology as complements to each other.

Postponing joy is to miss the point. Joy is not something to bank but something to be. Life is not an endurance contest meant to cope in misery. No one should be in a job or a career or a marriage that kills the spirit and thus the joy. Joy is the dream materialized. If the dream is dead and there is no place for joy, it is likely because the focus is on tomorrow, and what might be.

Misery joins self-pity in mournful embrace. Yet, life can be a creative journey filled with joy instead of sorrow and stridency. True, few of us can capture our dreams in our waking hours as Dante and Milton did theirs, but we can determine to make choices that keep our imaginations alive.

YOU MUST DISBELIEVE BEFORE YOU CAN BELIEVE!

We feel we cannot act without belief, because it is belief that gives us something to live for, to work for. To most of us, life has no meaning but that which belief gives it; belief has greater significance than life. We think that life must be lived in the pattern of belief; for without a pattern of some kind, how can there be action? So our action is based on idea, or is the outcome of an idea; and action, then, is not as important as idea. Krishnamurti, (1956)

Belief is a blindness of culture. Since we are all products of our culture, we share in this blindness. Belief is a stop sign telling the mind to turn off because “we have arrived.” The problem with this is that someone else is defining our destiny and the nature of our arrival. When you force the mind to believe what it cannot believe, its obedience is a lie. To have a culture that insists on beliefs that are no longer relevant or realistic is to give substance to the lie.

The weight of that culture is directed at self-preservation rather than challenging its beliefs. We live in such a culture. Fear is held over our heads if we confess doubt to such beliefs. This fear is compounded when a web of deceit and chicanery smothers doubters into silence.

When there is no room for doubt, when the collective will impinges on individual choice, then imagination, creativity, and growth and developed are squeezed through a psychological strainer. The output is often the stench of rotting belief.

During this mind blindness, true believers carry the day, the herd mentality that seeks comfort and advantage in the bosom of the popular norm. Clichés and stereotypes rule. True believers are actually cynical. They think everyone has an angle and is out to get as much as they can while the getting is good. They lack identity beyond the group, which explains the attraction.

As true believers, they have a cause to compensate for self-hatred. The words they use resonate with like-minded souls, yet they are always prepared to abandon the cause should it go out of favor. The attraction of true believers is to belong to something bigger than themselves, the envy of others, where special privileges and compensations accrue.

Each of us is blessed with the powerful filter of natural skepticism, which is far removed from cynicism. Skepticism prevents us from being taken in with what makes no sense to us, or which is not consistent with what we are and have experienced. It is a protective mechanism of the body and soul. We are limited to how our minds operate and process belief. It is well for us to disbelieve everything and anything before we entertain the possibility of belief.

This is because the mind can operate only with its own projections, that is, with the things that are of its own self. The mind has no relationship to the things that are not of its own origin. It cannot process what it cannot fathom in the realm of what it has already experienced or contemplated or reasoned out before.

The trick that is used on the mind is that a word or symbol or phrase or emotionally laden disclosure touches a theme buried in our unconscious. All of us want approval. All of us want to belong. All of us want to be accepted. These basic needs can be exploited if our skepticism filter is not reinforced with self-identity, self-approval and self-acceptance.

If not, then the mind can be cultivated and carried away with the bombast of someone else’s agenda. That is why the promise of something for nothing, success without struggle, wealth without risk, or other clarion calls of similar nonsense should not dissuade us from our tasks. Don’t ever apologize for being skeptical. It means you are in good health.

TIME OUT IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL!

Everything comes if a man will only wait. Tancred Norman Crusader (1078 –1112)

If this essay does nothing more than cause you to pause and reflect, it has accomplished its aim. Life is very short, and as a friend recently reminded me: “We hiccup and a day, a week, a month, a year has gone by, making it even shorter than we think.”  So enjoy every moment.  And you will always be well.

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