Discovery

It’s amazing how people compromise,
Not just about what to eat or what to watch or what to do,
But about themselves.

They do what other people want them to do,
What other people think they should do,
What other people manipulate them to do,
Worried about what other people will think,
Whether that be
Assholes
Advertisers
Authorities or
Acquaintances.

Learning your authentic self
Seems like it should be some easy thing.

But it’s not.
When you do find your authentic self,
You’ll notice that it speaks
Continuously,
Quietly.
Some religions call this a still, small voice.
Some the Holy Spirit.
Some a conscience.
Some a chi.
Whatever it is, when you listen to it,
It frees you.
It is the ultimate truth that will set you free
From the walls of your own prison
Made for you by you.
It frees you from attachments that never should have been made.
It frees you to love, genuinely and unconditionally, for the first time.

I used to think that love was the great healer.
That if only other people would love me unconditionally
I would be healed.
Some people do love me unconditionally
In their own ways.
And as it turns out,
It’s not enough.
It’s never enough.
I thought it their duty to love,
To accept,
To embrace.
And I came to expect it,
To need it,
To demand it.
But it wasn’t enough.
It just made me greedier for it.
More, always more,
And better, do it better.
My own version of a needy, greedy childish asshole.

I thought it would fill the hole left by my mother
Who loved me unconditionally, surely,
But whose love wasn’t enough to save me from my father.
He wasn’t terrible
But, oh, he was damaging.
Like an ignorant giant fool
Stumbling and stomping his way through a village
Crushing tiny souls and tiny dreams.
How those dreams oozed
And squished,
Splattered into oblivion.
“What? That bothers you? Don’t be such a pussy.”

But you can only chase love for so long
Before you begin to realize that it retreats
From your relentless advance.
It is a thing to be given and not taken after all.
Continuing to chase becomes
Tiring
Disheartening
Desperate
Irrational
Smothering.
I become my own ignorant bumbling fool
Crushing the souls of those
Pouring themselves into the black hole of my soul –
The taskmaster overseeing a Sisyphean demand.

Even catching unconditional love won’t heal you.
Won’t revive those broken souls and those broken dreams.
Even though it is a mother’s duty to unconditionally love her son
It is not sufficient
For happiness
For healing
For being whole.

That comes from within.
From a laughing joyous acceptance of yourself
Even when you want to hide from yourself with shame by
Eating too much
Drinking too much
Drugging too much
Working too much
Fucking too much
Gaming too much
Watching too much
Escaping too much.
Shunning the escape
Abandoning the chase
Permits those scary moments
When you meet your authentic self,
When you chat about
What it is that you really want and need
And the responsibility for your happiness
Shifts from all those others
To you.
To a very lonely, fearful you.
Embracing your authentic self
Frees you from others’ demands
And frees you from being demanding of others.
It brings you peace and love
Internally, where it is needed most
And permits you to radiate peace and love.

Your authentic self is beautiful
And worthy.
You don’t need another’s validation of these facts
By their love and acceptance of you.
It wouldn’t be enough.
It’s never enough.
Until the love and acceptance comes from you.

I am not a Good Person

I recently read this piece on The New York Review of Books website about poet W.H. Auden. I’ve never read any of Auden’s work, nor had I even heard of him prior to reading this piece, upon which I came in quite a roundabout fashion.

Although the entire piece is recommended, I wanted to focus on one passage that highlights some of Auden’s thoughts on the nature of evil.

By refusing to claim moral or personal authority, Auden placed himself firmly on one side of an argument that pervades the modern intellectual climate but is seldom explicitly stated, an argument about the nature of evil and those who commit it.

On one side are those who, like Auden, sense the furies hidden in themselves, evils they hope never to unleash, but which, they sometimes perceive, add force to their ordinary angers and resentments, especially those angers they prefer to think are righteous. On the other side are those who can say of themselves without irony, “I am a good person,” who perceive great evils only in other, evil people whose motives and actions are entirely different from their own. This view has dangerous consequences when a party or nation, having assured itself of its inherent goodness, assumes its actions are therefore justified, even when, in the eyes of everyone else, they seem murderous and oppressive.

My wife often says to me, “you’re a good person,” or “you’re a good father.” My response is usually troubling for her: “No. I’m okay, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a good person.” I don’t know that I’ve ever really been able to clearly articulate to her why I feel the way that I do – why I feel that I am probably okay, but that I would hesitate to pat myself on the back and think of myself as “good”.

But this piece and this passage excellently express why I feel the way that I do. I’m not a “good person” who can divide the world into good people and bad people. I’m just a person who generally makes good decisions, but I can have (and have had) terrible thoughts and emotions and urges, and I occasionally make bad, or even hurtful, decisions. Labeling me as “good” implies that I have achieved a certain status via my past actions or decisions and that, once in that box, I have “made it.” I have arrived.  I.  AM.  GOOD.  [echoing].

That’s just not the case. And it’s not the case with others, either. If you ever watch a movie, particularly children’s movies, you may be struck that the “bad guy” always announces himself as such, or it is somehow otherwise easy to spot the villain. This is not how it is in real life, and it is surprising to me to see adults, particularly the talking heads on TV and in positions of power, assume the same simplistic view of good and evil.

Real evil, if there is such a thing, doesn’t announce it itself. It is something of which we are all very capable. It is probably something that we would attempt to justify or clothe in gentler robes. The reason real evil becomes hard to spot or that it can be justified is because there are truly very few things, if any, that are “pure evil.” Even taking a human life, typically the most taboo or “evil” action that a person can take, can be labeled either good or evil depending on the identities of the victim and the perpetrator, the context and even the audience.