The Mask of Fear

•November 13, 2010 • 5 Comments

Fear is the master deceiver. It guides us away from truth and towards a fabricated reality of our own creation. By obscuring our ability to perceive things accurately,  it presents us with a picture of the world that is pure fantasy. It also envelops our true nature with a veil and distorts the way we see ourselves.  Our inner resources of strength desert us because through fear they become inaccessible to us.

We may feel threatened by both real or imaginary beings—oftentimes ghosts from our past who haunt our reality with guilt, grief, regret, or a sense of loss. When Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood,” she seems to strike a chord with us. Yet, to put that belief into practice sometimes seems like an insurmountable task. How can we cease to fear in a world that is completely controlled by fear?

In a way, the narcissism that pervades our culture and society works to nourish our fear. When one becomes too self-absorbed, it is easy to begin to feel completely alienated from the rest of the world. And this alienation—this sense of no one understanding us—becomes a precursor to fear. Fear may begin as a spark, but it is rarely long before it bursts into flames. At the very least, it lurks beneath the surface of our lives like embers from a fire. Even when it is barely there, it affects what we say and do as well as the choices that we make.

Through fear, we enslave ourselves. Yes, we may perceive that it is someone else or the universe that has enslaved us. But this distorted perception is only a by-product of fear. There are even times when we fear our strength, possibly because what we call our weaknesses, insecurities, and/or vulnerabilities have become part of our identity. But a complete identity must be based on that which is real, or it is meaningless. And many of the things we think are weaknesses are only our fears, wearing masks.

It is not only narcissism that fuels fear. It is also conformity. We fear that which makes us different from others even though we want to be set apart. What we call “non-conformity” is oftentimes no more than a feeble attempt on our part to stand up for our convictions while still “fitting in”. Who we wish to “fit in” with may not always be clear to us. All we know is that feeling alienated and alone is painful. Why is it painful? Is it possible that we fear being alone with ourselves?

Maybe that is what is at the root of our fear–a fear of ourselves and who we really are. Perhaps, the other things and people we think we fear merely reflect the fear we have of looking inside ourselves and seeing who we really are. We want to be masters of ourselves. We want to be the force of action and change in our lives. Yet, we refuse to know ourselves.

In a way, this is the gravest type of ignorance—to not know who one is. And fear is also at the crux of ignorance. When we hurt another person and later say that we didn’t “know better”, we have fallen into the trap of mistaking fear for ignorance. If we knew ourselves better, we would see that we do not hurt others out of ignorance but out of fear.

Even if our hurting someone is a reaction to how they have behaved towards us, it still comes from a place of fear. We fear that if we do not repay the person who hurt us for what he did, he will not learn his “lesson”. So, fear has succeeded in playing into our pride. We may think that we are only angry. But because anger impairs our vision and prevents us from seeing things as they are, it also inhibits our ability to discern fear.  

Fear will never be permanently overcome for it is too much a part of the world we live in to disappear from our lives. But becoming aware of the fear when it is there will vastly diminish its power. Although defining something—providing it with a label—can take us further away from understanding it, when it comes to fear, we need to call it by its name.

In order to force something to cast off its disguise, we first need to know what it is. Once we identify fear, we must differentiate between what is real and what is a fiction evoked by fear. And in identifying it, we will be able to recognize it more clearly, no matter what mask it chooses to wear.

Peace, Love, and Joy,

Sascha

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights reserved.

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

I can be reached by e-mail at sascha.norris@yahoo.com

An Act of the Heart

•October 13, 2010 • 5 Comments

We say that love is an act. But because we do not understand the type of action love must be, we only think we love.  Love is not centered in the mind but in the heart. Yet, we say that we “think” we love someone, even though we will never come to love someone through thought. Our mind is what we “love” with when we are afraid to show love–when we withhold love or measure it out. And as long as our love is an act of the mind, it will be ruled by our ego. Rather than surrendering ourselves, pride will guide our actions, and beneath that pride will linger the fear of unreciprocated love.

The voice of pride tells us that the love we give should be in proportion to that which we receive. And fear reminds us of every heartache we have had to endure. Thus, between pride and fear, we remain trapped in a no man’s land of loneliness and sorrow.  How can we escape from a cage built from twisted illusions that are powerful enough to dictate all of our actions and decisions?

We believe that we can use the mind, the intellect, as our means to escape. After all, life demands that we use logic and solid reasoning to solve our problems. Would not the same strategy work in the realm of love? If we think about love and analyze it carefully, won’t we understand it well enough to bring it into our lives?

It might seem that  knowledge of what love should be would draw us closer to love, but paradoxically it is just the opposite. For the more we think we “know” about love, the more our minds will be cluttered with mixed messages and conflicting views. So, ultimately, although we may have plenty of knowledge about love, we will still not be experiencing love in our lives. To understand love with the mind is akin to trying to listen to music with your eyes. If you were to watch a pianist play by watching him–but did not hear the music–what impact would it have upon you?

Everyone has become so obsessed with knowledge–with the accumulation of information–that most of us are further removed from love than at any time in history. In an age that is so technologically advanced, we barely have time to make sense of our thoughts, much less to listen to our hearts. If we remove thought from love, what is left?

How can we embrace the essence of something that only speaks to our heart? We want to dissect everything so that we can explain it to others. We seek solutions. But what we forget is that love is not a problem. We are fascinated by theories, but love is not a theory either.

In most ways, love is simple because it is the source from which all life springs forth. It beckons us to it without asking anything from us. But in our ignorance, we naively imagine that we must make great sacrifices or give in to rash demands. Yet, when we cease to attempt to love with our minds and realize that love is an act of the heart, the demands disappear, for love becomes the place in which we reside. Rather than something that exists in various strengths and on various levels, it becomes part of us.

As long as we perceive love as something that we need to outwit or conquer or avoid, we will be in perpetual conflict. For all of us need love in our lives, even if our minds convince us otherwise. This does not mean that we must be in a relationship or that we must be in love. It simply means that unless we remain open to love–unless we can freely give and receive love–we are in a state of oppression.

It is the world that beguiles us into believing that love is or should be a game. We are told that love and sex cannot be separated or that love and a relationship always come together. Because of all of the secondhand ideas that we allow our minds to absorb, we become confused. But confusion always comes from the mind, not from the heart. We are confused because we seek understanding instead of truth. And in our need to understand, we bypass truth if it seems to go against the thoughts we already hold within our mind.

It will never be possible for us to learn something that contradicts that which we already think we know. So, when we acquire more of that which we call knowledge without sifting through that which we already have accumulated, our mind at some point ceases to be able to discriminate between the true and the false. What happens then is a state of disorder that completely contradicts reason, even though we tell ourselves that we have been following reason by listening to our minds. But our minds cannot know reason when they are wrapped up in distorted perceptions of our experiences. If we remain attached to past experiences that have made us feel rejected by a lover or unworthy of being loved, our minds will assess those feelings as having a valid basis of truth, whether they do or not.

Similarly, our minds will attempt to persuade us that we need another person to make us feel complete, not realizing that in doing so the illusion that need is love will be created. Yet the heart never mistakes need for love. For this is false and the heart understands only truth. And like love itself, the heart is patient. Unlike the mind, it doesn’t frantically search for answers as to why love is eluding us or why it seems we are destined to be alone. It trusts in life and knows that a love worth having will not be found through scientific theories or strategies of seduction.

We may think that cupid looks with the mind and not the eyes, but until cupid looks past the mind and connects with the heart, love will remain only a word. Love is real when it becomes an act of the heart. Anything less is not love. For only when the heart acts are we able to transcend ourselves and our own pride, fears, and anxieties.

The conflict in love may seem to be about our relationship with someone else, but the conflict always begins within ourselves–with the battle between the heart and the mind. And until we become masters of our minds, we will continue to thwart love’s attempts to come  into our lives. The blind man who seeks treasure oftentimes comes up empty-handed. So it is with love.

If our search is guided strictly by our minds, we will seek it only for what it will provide us with. But true love does not respond to the greedy grasp of the man who hunts it out in order to eliminate his inner emptiness. True love responds only to that which is like itself. As Soren Kierkegaard said, like responds only to like. And in the words of Kierkegaard, “only he who abides in love can recognize love, and in the same way his love is known to him.”

Peace, Love, and Joy

Sascha

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

Join My Odyssey newsletter by clicking at the link below. If you do not have a Yahoo account, send a blank e-mail to myodyssey-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

You can reach me personally by e-mail at sascha.norris@yahoo.com

This essay and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights are reserved.

Intolerance

•September 17, 2010 • 4 Comments

Intolerance comes in many forms and saturates our lives with a variety of hues. It is manifested by each of us no matter how open-minded we consider ourselves to be. For when we speak of being open-minded, most of us mean that we are open to those who share our views and beliefs. We speak of freedom for all, but we chain this freedom to a foundation of prerequisites and conditions. We don’t want justice or equality unless we have some say in how these concepts are defined. Now that we live in a godless society, we want to immortalize ourselves as gods. We want to measure out the privileges and opportunities that others are rewarded with. And even though we hear the opinions of those who oppose us, we don’t stop to listen.

We preach justice and peace for everyone while simultaneously speaking words of hate, contempt, and bitterness. Is it any wonder that we have such difficulty facing ourselves in the mirror? Perhaps it’s convenient not to believe in what we call “absolute truth” for then we won’t have to face the truth about ourselves.

If we can convince ourselves that there is no objective reality, then we won’t have to hold ourselves accountable for reprehensible behavor. And we can assure ourselves that those who say we have been unjust or cruel are only seeing things through the window of their own subjective perceptions. They are merely unable to grasp the truth as we see it, either because they are too stupid or too ignorant or both.

When we are judged for the intolerance we show toward others, we reverse things so that it appears that we have been the victim. Nothing is easier than noticing that which confirms what we believe and discarding anything that forces us to question ourselves. Instead of going out to fight for the causes we say we believe in, we prefer to heap scorn on political figures and groups who don’t subscribe to our beliefs.

It is always easier to mock than it is to create change. Mockery requires nothing from us. Even a fool can mock adeptly, though let us not forget that it is often wise men whom the fool mocks. A fool’s vision is myopic. He cannot see past his own opinion, since in his world that is all that exists. For a fool, there is no absolute truth but his own.

But we seekers of truth claim that we want wisdom! We are not content to wear the dunce’s cap. We want our thoughts and beliefs to be challenged. Or do we? Isn’t it more likely that we want to debate our thoughts and beliefs with others so that we can show them why we are right and they are wrong? If we could persuade them into seeing things the way we do, we would no longer have to be intolerant of them. Rather, we could create a state of harmony and unity where we were all brothers and sisters, linked together for a common cause–our cause.

Yet if we must impose our beliefs on others in order to get them to support us, is their support of any true value? Gandhi once said, “Intolerance betrays lack of faith in one’s cause.” Is it possible that intolerance could also betray lack of faith in oneself? If we felt completely secure in ourselves and our own beliefs, why would it matter whether anyone else shared them?

We may imagine that those who oppose us are infringing on our freedom. But if we cease to allow pride to deceive us, we will understand that each person has just as much right to his opinion as we do. So, even though it would be convenient if everyone agreed with us, what we would create if we were able to bring this about would be no different than the dictatorships we have condemned.

Intolerance will never be obliterated; for the level of humility and courage it requires to allow everyone the freedom to be themselves is more than many of us possess. We all seek power over someone or something, whether we choose to acquire this power through persuasion or force. The key is to turn this desire towards ourselves– to seek to master ourselves. We may claim that we want to learn and gain knowledge. Yet, when we focus on how the rest of the world can change instead of  on how we can change, our efforts will be directed towards that which we have no true power over.

To want to conquer that which cannot be  triumphed over is senseless, and this is the main aim of intolerance. As much as it stems from fear and doubt, it is also rooted in a compulsion for power. Intolerance believes itself to be a force of change. In its mind, it is the instigator of worldwide transformation. Yet, in spite of its vitriolic passion, intolerance remains as powerless as it is bitter. For genuine power is never to be found outside the structure of freedom. And the man who is intolerant, by trying to deprive others of their freedom, enslaves himself.

Peace, Love, and Joy,

Sascha

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

To subscribe to My Odyssey Newsletter, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/myodyssey If you do not have a Yahoo account, you can subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to myodyssey-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

Solitude

•September 11, 2010 • 7 Comments

When we think of solitude, all too often we see it as a difficulty to overcome. In our efforts to transcend what is an inevitable aspect of life, we may transform solitude into a state of  loneliness and need. However, solitude, when embraced, can provide us with a sense of wholeness as deep and as rich as any companionship we might imagine. Yet, when we refuse solitude, we are suddenly lonely. For through resisting what is natural, we bring about a state that is unnatural. Loneliness always exists in a framework of neediness, and, as long as we believe that we are lacking, our need will be real.

In solitude, the need to fill the emptiness in ourselves does not exist. We have made a choice to be alone, but we are not lonely. Whereas those who are lonely feel the need for completion, solitude is a state in which we are already complete. By nature, man is accustomed to self-sustenance. It is society that manipulates us into imagining that we cannot be alone and be content. We are told that we must be social creatures—that we must have daily plans and activities where we are around other people. And although it is important to interact with others, unless we know how to interact with ourselves all of our other interactions will be unproductive.

We cannot understand others unless we first understand ourselves. But how can we understand a person with whom we spend little or no time? Is it any wonder that what we call our beliefs and opinions are actually recycled data? How can we have any original thoughts of our own when the clamor of the world is drowning out our voice? Oftentimes, we truly think that we agree with the ideas that we borrow from those around us because we haven’t taken any time to sort through our own thoughts. In our desire for certainty and instantaneous knowledge, we bypass the avenue that will afford us with the most insight and understanding–ourselves.

Anne Sexton once said, “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” What she neglected to mention is that, if one does not listen in an atmosphere of solitude, one may mistake the voice of someone else’s soul for one’s own. But in order to achieve solitude, one has to be willing to risk losing the favor of others. The world will always have distractions, novelties, and activities to lure us away from our solitude. Thus, we may be forced to choose between popularity and self-examination. And if we wish to become a copy of everyone else instead of ourselves, we will choose popularity. For nothing affords us with a better opportunity to become a conformist than never taking time to be alone.

In solitude, we are able to recognize our gifts and capabilities for we are not comparing ourselves with those whom we perceive to be more talented or capable than we are. The soul strengthens itself in solitude, and, when the danger of loneliness looms before it, it does not fall under its spell. It recognizes that loneliness is yet another distraction that will obscure its vision. We think of loneliness as being empty, but actually it contains fullness of its own. This is why as long as it has invaded our lives, we will have no room for that which will truly make us whole. 

We will be both incapable of enjoying the merits of solitude and unable to build relationships of meaning and value. In a place of need, which is where loneliness resides, the ability to comprehend what one wants or desires does not exist. When we are lonely, we deceive ourselves because we are desperate to find some means of removing our loneliness. We want a savior to add substance to our lives. We want someone else to give us a reason to hope, to not give up. What we do not realize is that until we find hope and a sense of purpose in our solitude, we will never cease to be lonely.

Eugene O’Neill once said that man fears loneliness because he fears life. We fear that which we do not understand. To no longer be afraid of life we must understand it, and this is why solitude must cease to be looked upon as something to avoid. Solitude is necessary for us to live fully. It is far less important rather that we read that which others have written than it is that we take the time to be alone with our own thoughts and ideas. We cannot relentlessly absorb knowledge and information without processing it and sorting through it.

We must give ourselves the chance to form new thoughts and to figure out what we want from life, instead of being so busy in the hassle of existence that we let those around us dictate our beliefs and choices for us. Otherwise, even though we possess our freedom, we will remain prisoners of ourselves and our own need to escape from who we really are within. In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, “The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude,  great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one–this one must be able to attain.”

Peace, Love, and Joy.

Sascha

Sign up for my newsletter by visiting this link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/myodyssey

To sign up without a Yahoo account, send a blank e-mail to myodyssey-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

Envy

•September 1, 2010 • 2 Comments

Envy is secretly cherished in our bosoms though most of us would vehemently deny that we ever envied anyone. Within, we have convinced ourselves that envy is what drives us forward . . . what propels us to achieve . . . what makes us want to show the world all that we can be. But what is envy really? Marcus Aurelius suggests, “Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself, what is its nature?”

Thus, what is envy’s nature? Or can is be defined? Perhaps, it is merely a cousin of jealousy, the so-called “green-eyed monster”. And how many of us are lying when we say we aren’t “the jealous type”?

How much easier it is to turn our eyes away from the parts of ourselves we would rather not possess than it is to not only acknowledge them but also actually examine them! Why must be so honest with ourselves? The only way to be at peace with who we are is by seeing ourselves as better, nicer, kinder people than we truly know ourselves to be. Otherwise, we would surely feel like miserable wretches! Is it not so?

Yes, Socrates said that envy was “the ulcer of the soul.” But are our souls not already ulcerated by the countless tragedies that have made up our lives? Have we not been mistreated by others—or, at the least, been the innocent victim of harsh circumstances? It would seem that for all that most of us have endured, a little envy would be practically justified. When those around us have been fortunate enough to enjoy privileges that we have only been able to dream about, it is only human for us to wish that we could have those same privileges for ourselves.

We quote Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle not because we think that their words of virtue and wisdom should be taken literally. Rather, we want to remind ourselves of all that we could be if we were closer to gods than mortals. Of course, even the gods were envious of each other. That being said, Socrates was undoubtedly preaching that which he failed to practice in his own life. Although people say that envy comes from a sense of false pride, you and I know that if we felt completely secure in ourselves, we would have no need of envying anyone else.

It is because we do doubt ourselves so much and have so little faith in our own abilities and capacities that we envy others. Without knowing what the person we envy has experienced in his life, it isn’t difficult to imagine ourselves swapping places with him. When he seems to have so many things that we have always wanted and yet don’t possess or haven’t been able to achieve, how can we prevent ourselves from envying him? If we had been given the same chances in life he had, think of how much we would have achieved! 

“Envying another man’s happiness is madness,” Andre Gide said. “You wouldn’t know what to do with it if you had it.” Well, that’s easy for Gide to say! But I’m sure none of us can say that we wouldn’t know how to make use of someone else’s bliss.  What we may forget is that in order to enjoy the bliss, we would have to exchange everything else with the other man as well. Ah, that’s the part we don’t want to think about! For once we accept that there is never happiness without grief, he whom we envy is transformed in our eyes. If we can focus strictly on the outer appearance of his life, we can feed our envy with food that will nourish it.

Yet, if we get close enough to the man that we see both his joys and his sorrows,  his setbacks and his achievements, the poisonous flowers of envy begin to die on the vine.  We cannot envy that which we see clearly, for envy, being the product of self-deception, prevents us from being capable of genuine discernment. Although we tell ourselves that we are deceived by others, is it impossible for someone else to deceive us without our first or at least simultaneously deceiving ourselves.

Envy is the fruit of deceit, and that is why it is such a normal feeling to experience. If we stopped deceiving ourselves, our level of clarity would be too intense for us to envy anyone. For we would see that each person’s journey contains struggles all its own. And once this knowledge became part of our reality, we would have to let go of all sorts of things that we are living with now—greed, resentment, bitterness, pride, vanity, anger, hate, and fear.

We might even be inclined to feel a connection to our fellow-men—a connection formed of love and compassion. It is a revolutionary concept, for we nurture our demons as we would carefully chosen pets. Letting go of them is much more difficult than it sounds.  And we have to learn to prefer emptiness over the false sense of wholeness that the demons gave us.

Yet, might it not be that letting go of envy and its fellow demons is what is meant by the concept of mastering oneself? Perhaps, even Nietzsche had this in mind when he spoke of nothing being too high a price to pay for owning oneself.  The alienation and loneliness he spoke of will always be felt by those who decide to listen to the still, small voice within themselves as opposed to the clamour of the masses. And those who choose love instead of hate and goodwill instead of envy may never be part of the in-crowd.

Love, Peace, and Joy,

Sascha

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris
Sign up for my newsletter: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/myodyssey If you do not have a Yahoo account, send a blank e-mail to myodyssey-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

Distortions

•August 14, 2010 • 2 Comments

We may manage to convince ourselves that we create distortions unintentionally. Yet it is because we wish to escape reality that we distort it. When we lament over our inability to understand life, it is not life we are trying to understand but rather our distorted version of life. And to understand a distortion is not possible. For, unlike truth, which does not alter, a distortion can shift its shape. Truth is like a clear blue sea. But distortion is an ocean—vast, murky, impenetrable.

In order to distort, we must warp our perspective. That is the first key to seeing things not as they are but as we choose for them to be. Our distortions do not necessarily conform to our desires for we invent distortions to make ourselves miserable, even when we wish to be happy.

We fashion distortions that bring us hatred instead of the love we yearn for. We destroy friendships because of our need to distort that which is pure and turn it into something corrupt. We pervert love into lust so that we eventually begin  to treat other human beings as no more than objects to gratify our desires. 

 Through distortions, truth cannot be glimpsed. Rather, our lives become a capsule of kinetic chaos in which illusions are our guiding principle. In The Perfect Crime, Jean Baudrillard wrote, “There is no room for both the world and its double.” Similarly, there is not room for truth and distorted reality.

Yet, distortions serve a purpose, whether we consciously admit it or not.  Distortions can be our way of torturing ourselves for both real and  imagined mistakes. They can become our way of creating a subjective reality that hurls us into a state of despair that part of us believes we deserve.

Distortions can also exculpate us from responsibility for the poor choices we make or the lack of contentment within ourselves. If we can blame the world, politics, the economy, religion, and other people for the state of our lives, it transfers the weight of guilt from our shoulders. And how much easier it is to complain about what has been done to us than to accept the blame for that which we have done to ourselves!

When we distort truth, everyone becomes part of a dreamworld of our own making. Although genuine despair can be a process of the soul cleaning itself, the despair that we experience because of our distortions becomes ineffective. For even our suffering will not make saints of us if it exists only in our minds. We cannot pose as false martyrs and condemn the world for failing to weep when we crucify ourselves. Our pain must be real to others besides us if we want to receive compassion from mankind.

Yet, distortions will coerce us into imagining that what we feel is perceived by others and that those who do not understand our suffering are insensitive and cruel. Nietzsche said that all things are subject to interpretation. Indeed, distortions are capable of various interpretations.

We can distort the same object, the same person, the same experience in a number of ways, thus constantly interpreting it differently. And these distortions, though they may frighten us, can also create a false allure that is both convenient and comforting. But they remain irrelevant for they exist outside of reality and are therefore separate from truth.

David Bohm once said that when the urge to distort was obliterated, we would experience a “revolution in culture”. Instead as the world becomes increasingly more inclined to discourage us from thinking for ourselves, distortions are becoming the means by which people inflict their views on others. For as we distort truth and shape it to suit our purposes, we are able to persuade others to believe as we do.

Because distortions are removed so far from reality, it is sometimes difficult to remember that which has been distorted. The grotesque, for example, is usually a distortion of something that is pure and beautiful. At the same time the absurd remains comical, whether distorted or not.

There are as many ways of distorting as there are of things which one can distort. Yet whether we are aware of it or not, most of us do distort something. Moreover, in only focusing on the ways in which distortions inhibit our lives, we never manage to obliterate them for, in our obsession with resolving them, we overlook their allure. Even that which is ugly can camouflage itself with a veneer of beauty, drawing us to it as if by a magical spell. It is the same with distortions.

The instinct to distort—the desire to disfigure—must be examined before we will cease to distort. For until we examine the reasons for distorting we have  no way of satisfying our craving to distort. There are no revelations from the outside that will provide us with clues. Rather, we must awaken within and view our lives as we would a slide show of someone else’s life. Whether we distort consciously or not, we do so for a specific purpose, even if we are incapable of defining it. The psychological constructs we create around the concept of distortion only pull us further away from understanding it.

We must have the courage to look at something from all sides without allowing judgments to cloud our reasoning. It is when we begin restricting our thoughts and narrowing our vision that we blind ourselves to what is real. And to be blind to reality is also to be blind to an understanding of ourselves. Whether we choose to use them to our advantage or not, distortions provide us with an important clue for understanding ourselves. For they show us not only our fears but also our desires.

Sascha

Follow me at Twitter: http://www/twitter.com/saschanorris

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

Nothingness: An Investigation

•July 30, 2010 • 2 Comments

What is nothingness? It is that which compels us to try to give our lives some purpose, some meaning. It is the emptiness that seems to have no end and no beginning. It is the bleakness of  a night bereft of moon and stars. It is the void. And we seek to fill it before we begin to understand, thereby choosing that which will never obliterate it in our haste.

Though we may imagine it to be capable of being defined, it is too nebulous, for it is neither a state or a condition. It is an illusion. Yet, it exists as a reality in our own minds.

We give it both mundane and novel names such as “boredom,” “inertia,” “ennui,” apathy,” and “dissatisfaction.” These names represent a feeble attempt on our part to describe that which is more like a slumber of the soul than anything else. It flourishes in those of us who go through life without noticing the wonder and beauty of the world. It makes its home in the heart of the man who has closed himself off to experiencing anything that will affect him deeply. It is existence, without life.

Where men err is in believing that a life spent primarily fulfilling their needs and desires will subtract from or obliterate the nothingness. They imagine that focusing all on the gratification of the self with bring them the happiness that they think will fill the void. But that which is done strictly for ourselves cannot bring us lasting satisfaction.

Whether we realize it or not, we all want something more. We want to feel that we are significant—not for what we do but for who we are. The allure of recognition draws us into its net.

Yet sadly, since most of us have  little idea of what we want to be recognized for, the wish remains as vague as a forgotten dream. We are able to seek attention and admiration, but we have no idea why these things mean so  much to us. And in not finding the “why” behind our desires, we remain unable to attain them.

Nothingness, if we identify it for what it is, can teach us something. It can serve to motivate us towards change. But as long as we ignore it or try to cover it up with that which will not remove it, it will only draw us deeper and deeper into its vortex.

After awhile, we may actually begin to identify ourselves with the nothingness. The void may become a “comfortable” place for us to reside. It does not require us to examine ourselves too closely for it obscures our vision not through distracting us but by emptying us.

Through an empty vessel, nothing is perceived. And when nothingness takes over us, we become empty vessels. The contents of our lives lose all meaning. That which was real appears false and that which is false appears real. For much as it is without form or structure, nothingness has a power all its own. It is like a fog that hypnotizes our souls.

Our only escape lies in removing all false names that we identify the nothingness with. We must strip it of its identity, lay it bare so that it will be seen for not all that it is, but rather all that it is not. Just as our fears are more often products of our fanciful imaginations than anything centered in reality, so nothingness gains its power only through how we perceive it.

Giving something a name always adds to its significance. But that which has no name remains in the shadows and oftentimes disappears. Nothingness is anonymous. Unlike envy, bitterness, and malice, it is not a cancer of the soul. It is only an obstacle if we choose to make it one.

When we hide behind masks or play a part, the nothingness expands. Since it is only pretending to be real, it can only be strengthened by that which is false. So, as long as we choose not look inside ourselves and peer into our hearts and souls, all pathways out of the nothingness will come to a dead-end.

The primacy of the will as conceived by Arthur Schopenhauer is not enough to pull us out of the nothingness. Our will can do many things, but it only has power over our minds. If in our hearts we cannot convince ourselves that our life has a clear purpose and direction, our will cannot persuade us.

We have to believe with both our hearts and our minds that we exist for something other than our own self-fulfillment. Otherwise, the nothingness will keep drawing us back to us. Jean-Paul Sartre said in his chef de oeuvre, Being and Nothingness, “Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being, like a worm.”

If this were so, then no matter how many times we extricate ourselves from the nothingness, it will always be capable of entrapping us yet again. In a way, nothingness prevents us from feeling the weight and reality of our own existence. And in not feeling our own existence, we are able to maintain the illusion that others do not really exist either. Indifference to mankind is not difficult when existence itself feels meaningless. Are we to give others more significance than we attach to ourselves?

Perhaps, this nothingness is what provoked Erich Fromm’s famous words about love  being the “only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Is it possible that Fromm is right? Could the force of love be enough to conquer nothingness?

If love gives a sense of definition to our existence, maybe it could. For once something is defined, it gains meaning. Through love, existence may actually be transformed back into life. But the love has to be genuine or it exists only as part of the nothingness because all that is false is nothingness. And as long as there is nothingness, reality is only an illusion. And any love that is formed will remain merely yet another illusion.

We must differentiate between the real and the false. That is the key to breaking free from nothingness. Love is powerful enough to free us, but only if it is genuine. For only genuine love will replace nothingness with the reality nothingness has attempted to rob us of.

Peace, Love, and Joy,

Sascha

Follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.