Wayne C. Allen's "Works in Progress"
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Life is not as it is. Life is as you are. Part 4

Our topic continues.

What follows is taken from a new book I'm working on. We'll look at some beliefs that we could well do without over the next few weeks. This is a bit of  the introductory stuff.

A myth is defined as "a theme or character type embodying an idea." In other words, a story that conveniently explains how some aspect of the world works. For example, virtually all cultures have a creation myth, and a myth about how people came to be. And even myths about how people are blessed by God or the gods, and have dominion  over the earth. We have created political myths, hero myths, myths about wealth creation (typically called "economic theories,") and assuredly scientific myths. Those of you born in the early 50's will remember being taught, in grade school, the solar system model for the atom. Big nucleus, little electrons circling in orbits. Then, in High School, we got to learn how many electrons could occupy each orbit.

Now, we know that there are no such things as orbits, that sub atomic particles make up the atom, that they are actually waves, that we cannot know both their speed and their location, making them sort of not there, and then, we find out that atoms are 99.9999999 per cent nothing. At least, that's this decade's myth. We seem to need someone in authority to tell us what is real, as opposed to understanding that nothing and everything is real. When asked what is real, a good, truthful scientist (the shamans of our age) will say, "That depends."

Let's explore a couple of our cultural myths.

The Myth of Limitations

Much like the rest of the myths, limitations are imposed and usually for no good reason. Now, I'm not talking about jumping off a ten story building and thinking I’m going to land safely. I'm talking about what we tell ourselves about our relationships, our skills and talents, our bodies and our minds.

Our culture seems to equate being positive about strengths and abilities as bragging, or being too wrapped up in ourselves.

If we admit to how much talent and ability we actually have, someone might expect us to actually use them. So we shy away. "What would people think?"

Years ago, as a kid, I learned from a very wise person that I should determine for myself what I wanted to be and who I was.

If I sat around listening to people around me, I'd be running from one thing to the next, trying to be everything to everyone. I learned that lesson well. I've also learned that not everyone likes me. Especially as I push myself to the extreme edges of whom I am in the world.

I'd rather deal with the consequences of not being liked by everyone than to live my life as they do; pushed in, repressed, drugged, drunk, and numb. I accept the price I pay. I accept it because I challenge my talents and energies, rather than believe I am limited by who others say that I am. Or should be.

In truth, limitations are artificial constructs. By believing in them, you get to whine along with others. I guess it's true: misery really does love company. To believe that we are limitless; that we can create, achieve, and really make a difference - this is the mark of wholeness - and of life truly lived.

I would suggest that you take a moment from your reading, and note down anything that has occurred to you regarding your own limiting behaviours. Have I touched any nerves in the last few sections? What myths do you believe in?

Strange Behaviours to Notice

We are very close to talking about solutions - but first, I like to frame what doesn't work - it's the way my mind works, you see.

Here are several behaviours that many engage in and which lead precisely nowhere:

Blaming -

Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, differentiates between neurosis and psychosis this way: - neurotics blame themselves, and psychotics blame everyone else. He indicated, and I agree, that he'd rather work with a room full of neurotics than one psychotic. Why?

The neurotic is right. The stuff we have to deal with is our responsibility. We're not to blame. Until we know better. Then, I am not above asking how many times a person has to bash into the wall before noticing it's there.

Blaming others is a lynchpin in our society. If you still listen to the news, you will daily be bombarded with the "blame flavour" of the month. Used to be the Russians. Then Iran. Of course, all the jobs were going to immigrants. On and on. Grown up kids blame their parents for everything. "It's not my fault. I can't do anything about it" was the whine of the latter part of the 20th century and is carrying on into the 21st.

We hear it so much that it actually sinks in. When something goes wrong, rather than turning inside and wondering how we set life up to go the way it is going, we look around for someone to point a finger at. The problem with this, of course, is that it means that nothing will change. It won't change because the person doing the blaming is looking for a solution outside of him or herself.

Inertia -

Another behaviour that's common and useless. Inertia is simply staying stuck. It happens as we decide there is nothing we can do about our lives, our problems, and the world. It is a cousin to giving up (see below), but not quite so passive. Reminds me of a skit. Bunch of people are sleeping on the floor. There is a loud howling from off stage. The person farthest away nudges the person next to them, and says, "Zeke, see what that noise is. I'm too tired to move." Zeke turns to Kate and repeats the line. It moves across the whole group. Finally, the last guy gets nudged. He sees there's no one else to nudge, so he slowly gets up and walks over to the window. He looks out, walks back, lies down. Finally, he turns to the person who nudged him, and says, "It’s just Uncle Jed, sitting on a cactus plant, and he's too tired to move."

Cocooning is the modern equivalent of inertia. You build your home into a fortress designed to protect you from the outside world. You line it with comfortable things, and make your connections outside through media - the Net, computer e-mail, television. You surround yourself with sound - noise. You sit in the middle of it all and tell yourself you deserve it - you work so hard.

Boredom -

Another cousin. This is intellectual cocooning. Your brain shuts off. Life seems monotonous and dull. Which seems to be a good thing, as, again, the blame can be placed on the world not being stimulating enough. Or, we assume that the people around us are boring. A key expression is, "We just don't talk any more."

People are reduced to objects. People are judged on their ability to amuse us. People become disposable, as we look for a charge. Yet, at our depth, we know we'll not find it. Boredom excludes the possibility of change.

Giving Up -

This is the end of the trail, just short of clinical depression. At this point, it is assumed not only that nothing will change, but also that nothing can change. Society seems to be sliding down a slippery slope to oblivion. Causes that seemed important now seem to be irrelevant.

Relationships seem meaningless. Conversation is stilted, with no affect. There is no purpose.

Many leftover hippies hit this place as they turned 40. Life was supposed to get better - be more about love and compassion and communication. Many woke up and discovered that the world was incredibly impersonal. Or so it seemed.

The Way Out

Well, enough of the rant about what doesn't work. Let's begin our exploration of what does work. The key is a shift of focus - from living life as a helpless observer to living life on the cutting edge.

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