To transcend ourselves is, in a way, finding the capacity to transcend all that we have experienced in the past in order to bring all of us into this moment in time. For, if we have suffered too much to bear the memory of this suffering while continuing to have faith in ourselves and in the world around us, what choice do we have other than closing the book on every day preceding this one? This does not mean that we must only exist in the present. Part of us can still have existed in the days, weeks, months and years that have gone before. Yet, in order to give birth to new parts of ourselves that are only now able to come into existence, we must be willing to abandon something. What better to discard than the parts of us that are attached to so much pain and anguish that allowing them to remain part of our conscious selves only leaves us in a vortex of torment?
For us to believe that at some point we will say, “Yes, this is definitely me. I have, at long last, found myself” may seem ideal. But to expect this to occur would indicate a level of naiveté that would prevent us from being able to accept the harsh reality of daily living. Is it not the hardest task of all to “know” ourselves? And could this be why this quest appears to be so alluring? What is a journey of self-discovery? Do we ever discover us or just parts of us? Is there any real “whole” that represents our “true” selves or just fragments that may or may not make up a complete person?
When we speak of the characters in certain works of fiction as being “one-dimensional”, do we ever stop to think that perhaps in being one-dimensional these heroes and heroines are closer to being human than the figures of multifarious dimensions? Perhaps, one reason that so many people are lacking in complexity is because they refuse to allow themselves the freedom to experience the beauty of rebirth. They hold on to the aspects of themselves that are already dead, thereby leaving no room for new aspects to be born. If the trees did not shed their leaves each fall, how would they bear new leaves in the springtime? The shedding of the old is the only thing that gives room for the new . . . just as until one season passes we cannot experience another season.
Thomas Merton, whose profound thoughts appeal not merely to those with religious faith but to anyone whose heart and mind yearn for truth and wisdom, once said, “In order to become myself I must cease to be what I always thought I wanted to be, and in order to find myself I must go out of myself, and in order to live, I have to die.”
There is a tendency within us to shun away from the idea of any sort of death, even if the death is what will give way to another birth. We fear change, not realizing that only through change will anything be different than it is right now. And only in ceasing to defy change will we be capable of accepting every experience that comes into our life, whether good or bad. What does man profit from fearing anything save fear itself? While we must live with a certain amount of caution, to ensure that we protect ourselves from harm and danger, what does fear do other than impede our ability to cope with that which threatens our well-being?
When we fear change, we trap ourselves in a prison of our own making, for transitions are an organic part of life. In the words of George Santayana, “transition is unintelligible, and yet it is the deepest characteristic of existence.” There are those who sit on the sidelines of life, allowing themselves to be swept up by the currents, as passively as leaves on a stream. They imagine that if they resist change strongly enough or ignore it persistently enough, they will be impervious to it.
But, life does not wait upon those who fear the future or step aside whenever a challenge or difficulty arises. Rather, it expects us to change ourselves to meet the unexpected. That is why allowing ourselves to let the past stay where it is becomes a basic part of living purposefully.
When I speak of transcending the past, it is as much our past selves that we must transcend as it is the actual past. It is those parts of ourselves that weigh us down with petty worries and self-destructive tendencies—those aspects of our personality that hamper us in our desire to accomplish our goals and to steer our lives in the direction that is best for us.
We oftentimes mistakenly think that life has played a trick on us when everything seems to be going awry. Yet, what is the truth? Have we, perhaps, played a trick on ourselves by getting trapped in a pattern of self-deception? Is it possible that we have become a pawn in our own chess game rather than master of the game itself?
Sometimes, when life is not going in the way we would like it to, the answer is much more simple than we would imagine. Rather than the solution being in other people or circumstances, it is usually within ourselves and stems directly from our failure to discriminate, prioritize, and develop a level of self-awareness that will enable us to engage with life and find meaning in the world around us. Thus, it may be that genuine transcendence can only begin when we are honest enough with ourselves to cast off every veil that has been obscuring the truth. But the question remains, how many of us are willing to do that?
With peace, beauty, and joy,
This page and all written material at My Odyssey is written by Sascha Norris. (C) Copyright 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved