We Are So Much More Than We Think
The best expressions of the human spirit are a remarkable sight. We are often in awe of what one person can do when they set their minds to it. Such people encourage and inspire us to be more than we have been and to step beyond the walls and limitations that may have restricted us in the past. This is especially true when their acts are selfless, when they come with a personal price or they make a noticeable, even significant difference in the world. We view them as different, as remarkable and even super-human. The fact is they are all and none of these things. They are merely people, just like you and I. What sets them apart is their willingness, even eagerness to express their selves without waiting for the approval or support of others.
We wonder what is different about them, what allows or enables them to step beyond what we imagine to be the normal boundaries of human activities. Words such as courageous and passionate come to mind, as do thoughts that they are gifted, skilled or simply different from the majority of people in some unknown or even unfathomable way. I would suggest that the truth is more of the former and less of the latter. Our typical response is to applaud them, to want to show our appreciation for what they have done or are doing, to hoist them on a pedestal so that we can admire their accomplishments and mumble under our breath how we wish we were like them.
The truth is we are like them or at the very least, we can be. We separate ourselves from them and their accomplishments by seeing their actions as extraordinary. The separation is mainly between what we feel we are capable of and what we actually are capable of doing. In many cases the only difference is they have chosen to act rather than react. They have chosen to do something and not wait for others to lead the way or to act first!
We have allowed ourselves to become complacent, we have allowed the creature comforts that we have developed over the last few centuries to pacify our truly indomitable spirit. I believe we have not yet come to terms with the fact that life today is drastically different than it has been for the millennia that have preceded it. We have been blinded by the wonders of our modern world and, as a whole, have not had the time to adjust to it yet.
I spoke to this in the essay “Our Modern Times”. We have been lulled into a false sense of security through our creature comforts. By focusing on things, we have allowed ourselves to base our beliefs of self on what we have, what others think of us and the illusions of self. This view of the world is also as dualistic as notions about self, in that we have two aspects, our personality and our “true selves”. So what gets in our way? What prevents or restricts us from being like those we admire?
There is no simple answer to this question, for there are many reasons one can point to, perhaps as many reasons as there are people on this planet. In general the answer is that we do, but this is not an answer that helps us understand how we do this. If we dig a little deeper we find that one of main reasons is that by focusing on the external and what others are doing and we essentially diminish ourselves by elevating them relative to ourselves. It is one thing to admire and respect them for their accomplishments and quite another to put them on a pedestal. We are so very much more than anything we can create, anything we can manifest no matter how grandiose it may be, that it is like comparing the grains of sand on a beach to the beach itself.
The systems we have developed have not aided us and not necessarily because the intent was flawed. This applies to all systems whether they are social, economic or political. We have education systems that churn out new graduates every year with the focus on gaining employment, designed our social systems to minimize disruptions under the guise of creating an environment that it is good for us as a whole and we have handed over authority to politicians who do not act in our collective best interest. A major contributing factor to messes we see in our systems is our own complacency.
Many would say that so long as people have food on the table, a roof over their heads and can buy the things that we want all is good. We have allowed ourselves to focus on things we have come to believe we need to survive. Yet, survival, in terms of staying alive, is no longer the yoke around our necks that it has been for our entire history. The result is we have surrendered ourselves to others to the point where we no longer can direct our systems. Instead, we have allowed our creation to direct us.
Sure, some of us rail against the system. We protest the choices and subsequent actions of the various levels of government, yet we do little to change it. We hope that the next group that is in charge will do things differently or we allow ourselves to believe that what we have is the best that we can expect and simply focus on what we feel we need to survive in our modern world. We want change yet the paradox is that nothing will change unless we change. The systems I mentioned are what we have collectively manifested, hence if we want to manifest change we must be that change. We cannot wait for others to change hoping that if enough do things will improve. We must be that change ourselves.
There has always been a separation between those who lead or rule and the public, some of it for purely practical reasons. A great many see this as the natural order of things, that there are those that lead and those that follow. This is an illusion for what we actually do is surrender ourselves to some “higher” authority for the sake of making our own lives easier. Also, many feel they cannot make a difference or that no matter what they do nothing will change it. However; the real separation is not between our leaders and us, it is between us and ourselves.
If we have been paying attention, we should have observed that the limitations we perceive are perceptions and not the reality. This should be obvious when a group of young children can raise millions of dollars to help the disadvantaged, when one person can risk their own lives to aid another or when one can rise above their apparent limitations to do something we find extraordinary. Our capabilities are essentially boundless yet we have limited them to such a point that we feel such “greatness” is something that others attain and not us.
How do you and I find within us the capacity to do as those we admire or hoist on pedestals? We start by recognizing and admitting that, as individuals, we have not done so. We cannot change what we will not acknowledge. As for the reasons why we have done this? Well, they are as varied as there are people on the planet. All of them find their source in how our rational minds have developed over the course of our lifetime. I have spoken many times about the programming of our rational mind. Guiding this programming are results that makes us feel better about us, not what is in our best interests. To change what we have now acknowledged can be a slow process, though it does not have to be.
The next step is to learn about ourselves so we may understand why, for example, we may feel so jaded that we do not try; however, there is no need to wait. We can kick start the process by finding passion and joy in our lives right now through doing things that bring out these qualities in us. It matters not whether it is playing tiddlywinks as best as we possibly can, getting our lawns to be green and lush or in choosing to help others when the opportunity arises or by some other means. This is because the passion and the act while joined are separate. Passion needs only a channel for expression, the channel itself is not as relevant as you might believe. If you can stoke your passion and get it started, you have taken a positive step. The next step is to keep it going.
As I was writing this piece, I found myself hearing a song by a band called The Who. I thought it odd that it would occur to me, as it did not seem related to this week’s piece. Rather than dismiss it I paused for a second and considered why it popped up unexpectedly. I went to YouTube to find a version I remembered seeing on the television and when I put it on I found my energy level going up. I listened to the music and the lyrics and a smile broke out on my face, for I realized that it spoke to one of the biggest challenges we face and one I mentioned earlier in this essay. That being, we have become separate from ourselves. We keep on doing things because we have become accustomed to doing them; we stay focused on the external and all too rarely look within. The bottom line, for a great many, is we do not know who we are.
Lyrical excerpt from The Who song titled “Who Are You”
I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said "You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away"
I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin' punches around
And preachin' from my chair
Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I took the tube back out of town
Back to the Rollin' Pin
I felt a little like a dying clown
With a streak of Rin Tin Tin
I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day
Eleven hours in the Tin Pan
God, there's got to be another way
Who are you?
Even if we live many lives, we only have this one life to be who we are right now. We can choose to go with the flow we have been going with all our life or we can choose another path. What we choose is, as I mentioned, far less important than simply choosing to act rather than continue to react to life and its circumstances. We all fall into this trap if not regularly then certainly from time to time. When we allow it to continue it becomes a pattern or a cycle to which we bind ourselves. We can find the chains that bind us to our routines by examining our thoughts and feelings as well as the experiences we have.
One of the wonderful things about our modern times, with the internet, is that the wisdom that was once hidden and generally only accessible to those who followed a particular school of thought, is no longer hidden, and if it is then it is hidden in plain sight. The Masters of past oversaw silos of knowledge. They believed that there was a prescription for growing, with each having their own prescription pad. Each had some form of tests of worth where advancement hinged upon the requirement of proof that one adhered to some pre-determined or “transmitted” set of principles and thoughts. Yet, it has been stated repeatedly, even by such as Jesus, that path is to “know thyself”. There is no requirement to meet some external standard established by others. The power is within each of us to obtain.
The Cosmos works a certain way and so long as we are acting in cooperation with it we need not concern ourselves with what others tell us is the right way. That is not to say we should ignore the teachings, for that would be foolish. What it means is that we ought not to let what others think is right become barriers, boundaries or walls to us. Each of us has all the power we need to be all we would like and to become like those we observe and admire from afar like a painting on a wall.
A number of years ago I read, in a magazine, that the three keys to happiness are joy, graciousness and curiosity. I think they are keys to far more than happiness. Do take a few moments to consider them. Nowhere in this list are words that imply waiting for others, going by what others think or focusing on the things we need. These three simple words are sufficient to convey the message that our happiness is ours to “control” and that it is not dependent on others giving us permission or some abstract set of rules that govern what is “good” for us.
I have watched people complain, at times I have done so myself, yet complaining has little value except to give us a way to vent our personal frustrations. I am a pacificist, so I am not going to bear arms against anyone, I am not going to take someone else down to build myself up. For me the only avenues are to express my opinions and thoughts in how I carry myself, to let the powers that be know how I feel through peaceful protest and while I do this, work to try to change myself thereby changing how I react to what I perceive in the world around me. It is not the path of waiting for others to tell me what is okay to say or do.
This whole notion has been something I have thought about deeply for many years. Back in the early 80’s when I was just starting to really get a handle on my own issues, when I struggled to find my own voice amid the cacaphony of others voices I wrote this lyric:
Just One of the Dancers
The taste of the dream can be strong
But it's still not real living
Let it cloud up the mind - you lose
To a world most unforgiving
Yet you can't wait on your hopes
It doesn't give the dream a chance
Lend hands to those eyes - or vision
It will pass like a glance
You have to go for it
When you hear the call
Don't let it go unanswered
`cause if you don't write the play
You're just one of the dancers
You're just one of the dancers
Take the image that's in your head
And lead it to the reigns
Sometimes you have to take a chance
Or nothing will ever change
Don't be just another silhouette
Another shadow upon the wall
Too afraid to move - to take that step
Too scared in case you fall
This life is meant for living
Not for giving up to age
I only know one way to win
And that's break free of the cage
There is little more that I can say, but there is a question I can ask. I ask it not so that you give me an answer, I am external to you and my opinion should not matter. I ask it so that you may consider it on your own terms and in doing so, you may find some answers for yourself. The question I ask is, if you have not figured it out already:
Who are you?
© 2011 Allan Beveridge