The Mirror of Truth

•July 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

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It is only when we shatter all mirrors that represent a false image of us that we will see ourselves in the mirror of truth. The person we perceive ourselves to be is not glimpsed through a glass darkly but through the looking glass of our own twisted perceptions. Must we break ourselves apart in order to see every part of ourselves, or is it enough to merely break the mirrors of our perceptions?

A man whose spirit has been broken, should he manage to transcend this, will oftentimes be more likely to see himself as he is than the man who has never suffered. For through anguish, we gain clarity. We may wish to imagine that clarity is something that comes from reading, learning, and studying. But in reality, these things must be backed up by experiences that have enhanced our insight in order for us to benefit. To gaze in wonderment at the beauty and mystery of the universe or to reach a state of genuine humility may be things that can only be strived for until we, in addition to our mirrors, have been shattered.

Many of us live our lives with the philosophy that the more we can circumvent the consequences of our ignoble actions,  the more clever we have been. When we wish to find an excuse to justify our reprehensible behavior, we attempt to convince others that we could not control ourselves. We imply that we are “unbalanced” in order to be absolved of our transgressions and indiscretions. Yet make no mistake—we are the driving force within ourselves. Though we are quick to attribute our objectionable conduct to other people and outside circumstances, we are eager to take full credit when we behave in an exemplary manner.

We claim to live within the age of reason. But we let our self-deception hurl us into an attitude of hypocrisy and self-importance that completely obscures our rationality. We mouth the words of Kant’s famous saying, “Live your life as if your every act were to become a universal law.” Yet we live like hedonists.

We complain that we feel alienated from humanity when we have brought this alienation about through our own behavior. How? By thinking only of what living in our own shoes is like, while giving little or no thought to what walking in someone else’s shoes might entail.

Although we say we want love, friendship, affection, and camaraderie, we oftentimes envy those who possess that which we don’t. We are anxious to make a grand show of our support for those who are more fortunate than us. Yet deep within, we experience a feeling of resentment. How dare others have succeeded where we have failed we lament ! 

Then we are baffled by the fact we are unhappy. Are we not only ignorant but foolish as well? Whenever we are false to ourselves, saying we want one thing while secretly working for something else, we will never experience  happiness.  We say we want to be a “good” person. But  most of us merely want  the benefits that good behavior would bring us. Some of us yearn for sainthood, though it is a sainthood bereft of good works.

Yes, of course, we want love. But if we had our way, it would be a love that required only a small amount of effort on our part. And there is always the fear, lurking deep within us, that the love we give to someone else might not be reciprocated adequatedly. With this excuse, we are easily freed from loving anyone at all.

As for friends, we want only those who tell us what we want to hear and who are no more successful or fulfilled than we are. We are both vain and hypocritical. But we abhor those who see these qualities in us because it is more important to us what others think of us than it is what kind of person we truly are. .

What does it require for us to rip off the blindfold of self-deception and gaze into the looking-glass at our true selves? Do we find the solution in philosophy . . . in religion . . . in the theories of Freud or Jung? Or is it possible that Cioran was right when he wrote these words: “Deliverance, if we insist upon it, must proceed from ourselves: no use seeking it elsewhere, in a ready-made system or in some Oriental doctrine.”

The problem lies within our belief that we secretly possess all the answers already. Our pride has convinced us that we can dispense with all morality and virtue and live by our own set of rules. We see ourselves as the spider who awaits the prey and attribute all sorts of powers of bewitchment and entrapment to ourselves.

Yet the irony of this is that we are actually our own prey. We prey upon our souls for we go against that which nature intends for us to be. We look upon virtue with scorn because vice is more enticing. Why is that? Because it provides us with the liberty we need to live as we like. But like vanity, vice also obscures our vision for it removes our capacity to control our passions.

Nietzsche, with his usual hubris, once declared, “What does not destroy me makes me stronger.” What Nietzsche did not take into consideration is that we are often intent on destroying ourselves. And how can the man who continues to destroy himself be made stronger?

Strength is to be gained in overcoming destruction—not in continuing the process of it.  Yet, we spend so much time focusing on the ways in which life has been unfair to us that we rarely understand how much of our pain has been caused by our attempts to destroy ourselves. Vanity convinces us that we cannot have been the instigator of our own torment. And vice beguiles us into believing that, even if we have, we could not help it. Then pride, which in a state of passion will always overcome our reason, tells us that no matter what we did, we were right.

But what does the mirror of truth reveal to us? Do we dare to unmask ourselves in order to find out?

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 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

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Remembrance of Things Past

•July 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Although the concept of living in the present and letting go of the past sounds wise, stepping back from what appears to be practical and shifting our focus to what is probable puts things in a slightly different light. Oftentimes, what sounds like “sound” advice is merely wishful thinking. And in order to buy into ideas that seem as if they would bring positive change into our lives, we must repress our critical thinking faculties or, at least, cover them with a veil of naiveté.

Perhaps, the greater wisdom is to be found in not ignoring our memories, but rather in allowing them to transform our present and our future. Just because we look away from something does not mean it ceases to exist. One cannot escape the warmth of the sun merely by refusing to turn one’s face towards it.

Yet, our world is proficient at persuading us that appearances count for more than reality. Thus, we might imagine we can get through life skimming the surface of the water rather than exploring the depths. This is why the idea of living solely in the present is so appealing. But even though it may seem to free us from our past, it also prevents us from understanding our reasons for making the choices that have led us to the point we are at in our lives now.

How can self-knowledge be possible if we cast aside everything about our lives that existed outside the present moment? The past is linked to the present as irrevocably as the future is linked to both the past and the present. And the experiences of the past, though they now only exist in our memory, are threads in the tapestry of our lives. If we were to remove these threads, we would destroy the tapestry.

Thus, to push all of our memories into the deep recesses of our minds is akin to covering parts of a painting with a piece of cloth. Our fears of reliving the past may persuade us to believe that repressing these memories is the safest option. But in doing so, we sacrifice our freedom. For as long as we experience fear of any kind, we cannot be free.

Even if our memories have been altered by our perception, they still remain part of our truth. They are part of us and our individuality. And they are also one of the few things that is strictly ours.

We may not be able to change the past as we can change our thoughts. But through understanding what our memories signify and what shape they have taken, they can have  a pivotal impact on our future. In a way, memories are like footprints in the snow. As fresh snow falls over the footprints, they alter their form until at last they become invisible to the naked eye. Yet, it does not change the fact that the footprints were once there. 

Nietzsche once said, “Man . . . cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past; however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.”  If this is so, perhaps the problem lies in running. That which we run from can enslave us whereas that which we accept and overcome liberates us. How can we learn to forget that which is part of our own unique history?

Our lives are like a book that we are writing. At the time of our death, we will not have the opportunity to abridge or condense any of the text.  As soon as it passes, the past is buried. Yet because of its effect on all that happens after it, its burial is never permanent. Our past may have disintegrated into ashes, but those ashes can catch flame at any moment. This is why it is far better to seek to understand it than to pretend it never happened.

The things we pull away from oftentimes have a way of strengthening their hold on us when we resist them. The paradoxical element in this is that most things are never as threatening as we imagine them to be. In the words of Marie Curie, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” 

Although from a distance our past may evoke apprehension, when we get close to it we see how powerless it is. It is merely a hollow remembrance of life. All that it can give us are clues to our hidden fears, doubts, and disappointments.

It can enable us to create change in the present and the future. But this change comes about through us—not through our past. Socrates called Memory the “mother of all Muses.” Yet, you have no memories once you forget the past. For that which exists now and shall exist in the future cannot be recollected until it, too, becomes part of the past.

Love, Peace, and Joy

Sascha

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

The Power of Perception

•July 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Although reality exists as something separate from ourselves, it is only on rare occasions that we catch glimpses of it. This is not because our thoughts create our reality. For actually, this is only part of the truth. It is our perceptions that give birth to our reality.

To create or receive a thought that is not filtered through the lens of our perception is impossible. For all that we see, hear, read, and think is processed by our perception before we ever become conscious of it. Thus, rather than changing our thoughts, we must begin by altering our perception.

The choices we make may ultimately control the pattern of our lives. But it is our perceptions that create the thoughts that lead to the choices. Everything in life has an organic cause. If we wish to understand the process of a tree’s growth, we must look at the roots instead of the branches or the leaves. 

Each of us is like a tree. And unless we focus on the root, we will never be able to measure or comprehend our growth. The health of the fruit that comes forth from a tree  is alway dependent on the root, which, in turn, is dependent upon the soil. This is why it is crucial to furnish ourselves with the environment that we need to grow as we are meant to. You cannot become a tall, strong, tree if you are planted in soil that does not promote your health and well-being.

But until you perceive yourself as you are, separate from what others have told you about yourself, the soil you choose will not necessarily be what is best for you. The environment we find ourselves in is usually a reflection of who we think we are. Similarly, the people who are in our lives oftentimes reflect how we feel about ourselves.

It is not a coincidence that those who are happy and self-assured are surrounded by those who support them. Like does attract like. However, it is not because like seeks itself out. Rather, it is because that which is like something else recognizes itself and is drawn to it. In many ways, to continue to seek and to struggle is a way to fight against life. Seeking may lead to finding. But oftentimes that which we find is not what was truly sought by us.

There is an inherent tendency in human nature that causes us to find what we are looking for whether it is there or not. And when one embarks on a quest with a sense of unhealthy, frantic desperation, we may well grasp at anything that vaguely resembles that which we are searching for. We can easily convince ourselves that what we have found is what we sought, since, through our perceptions, we can create any reality that we want. This is why it is possible for some people to ignore the things that are blatantly obvious to those around them.

Perception is the most powerful tool that we have. And with it, we can make of ourselves a hero or a victim, a saint or a sinner, an individual or a conformist. In the words of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Perception is . .  . the fundamental basis which cannot be ignored.”

Our ideas may be what changes the world. But it is through our perceptions that we change ourselves. For as long as the ideas we create are filtered through faulty perceptions, we will be unable to ascertain what changes are needed. And until we master the art of discriminating between false and true perceptions, the validity of that which we perceive will be a matter of guesswork.

Much of the time, our perceptions are accurate. But because we listen to what others tell us, our original perception mutates and transforms itself into something entirely different. So, we may find ourselves carrying through with actions and making choices that we feel a tremendous amount of conflict about.

We may even experience the sensation that we are being guided to act in a way contrary to ourselves. This is because deep within us, no matter what our perceptions tell us, there is an abiding sense of who we are that nothing and no one can completely take away from us. And when we reach the point where we understand the power that perceptions have over us, we will also find the capacity to control them rather than letting them control us.

In a broad sense, perception is to thought what intuition is to intellect. It can either support our thoughts by steering them in the right direction, or it can warp them with flawed logic and twisted reasoning. If our perceptions remain rooted in past experiences, then we perceive the present as merely an extension of what has gone before.

Thus, no matter what really occurs, we will only see the same pattern repeating itself. For without altering our perception, our reality will never change. In a way, our perceptions determine whether we experience freedom or not. For if we allow them to, our perceptions can build a crystal cage around us. They can trap us in a land of make-believe where there are rules that exist only in our minds and limitations that are the product of pure fancy.

Conversely, our perceptions can open up a vista of wondrous possibilities that can inspire us to strive towards accomplishments that others tell us are unrealistic. If in the words of Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” we could say that perception is more important than thought. For without perception, thought is passive rather than active. It can only break through the windows of its own existence when it is shaped, for good or ill, by our perceptions.

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

~Patterns~

•July 10, 2010 • 5 Comments

When our lives begin to fall into a certain pattern, what we sometimes are completely unaware of is that it is life that is responding to us in a certain way. In even the most fundamental laws of nature, there is the law of cause and effect. And when we look at the effect while paying little or no heed to the cause, we will be faced with challenges that oftentimes seem overwhelming.

There is much debate over whether chaos or order lays at the roots of life. As Santayana points out in Life in Reason, while the naturalists are determined that chaos is at the beginning of things, the dialecticians insist that order is instead. In actuality, there is no right or wrong answer for the issue is irrelevant in this point in time

What is important is to keep in mind that some order is needed in our lives. Thus, we are able to lend some structure and purpose to our existence. This does not mean that we cannot live freely and spontaneously.

In many ways, order is actually the product of chaos. It is simply chaos that has been structured in a way that is creative and effective. Although chaos and order seem as if they are polar opposites, they are two sides of the same coin. And when you get to the point in time where you can bring order from chaos and, at the same time, lend spontaneity to structure, you will see your life transform in a multitude of ways.

The effect of an abundance of inner chaos will usually manifest itself as frustration, tension, and fear. Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” But the stars that chaos gives birth to often burn so brightly that they are consumed by their own fire.

The candle that burns at both ends brings little benefit to those who are dependent on its light. Likewise, the life that is ruled by chaos will lack the endurance that brings to it a true and lasting purpose. Although the only things that we have complete control over in our lives are our thoughts, they also end up creating the circumstances in our lives. This is because our thoughts control our actions.

We are not at the mercy of Fate or unseen forces. Rather we are the designers of our lives. And the patterns that emerge are embroidered first by our thoughts, then by our actions.

When a pattern that emerges does not match up with our desires, rather than focusing on that pattern, we need to look at which thoughts and actions created that pattern. For patterns will never be broken or created by looking at the pattern itself. The pattern is only the effect of a cause that resides within ourselves.

Thus, we must change our thoughts first. And we must also be willing to let go of the idea that we understand ourselves and our reasons for making the choices we make. For whenever we imagine that we possess more knowledge of anything than we do, we will begin to respond to life from a place of ignorance and pride.

It is always better to underestimate one’s knowledge, even at the risk of seeming ignorant, than it is to go through life needing to be ‘right’ and to have all the answers. The true solutions to life will never reach those who believe they have already discovered them. This does not mean that ignorance is bliss. Rather, it is an opportunity for self-growth. So many of us look towards life as a series of challenges. But if we were more willing to challenge ourselves, the challenges that life presents us with would seem less like hurdles to overcome and more like experiences to learn from.

Often, the reason that we find life so difficult is not because it is but because we are resisting our ability to move with it. We may know that the only way to adapt to life is by embracing change. Yet as long as we believe that we can escape change, we will have no incentive to break out of our current pattern.

Patterns seem to assure us that we are safe—that the harshness of the world will not affect us. For, as long as we adhere to rituals and continue engaging in specific habits, we will convince ourselves that everything is in order, even if we are experiencing inner chaos. The world has tried to teach us that pushing forward and carrying on with life is the best way to live.

It encourages us to repress our true thoughts and feelings and to think and act in a certain way. When life does not bring us the happiness we feel we deserve, we are told that we cannot expect anything more than what we have. And as long as we listen to the untruths we are told by society and by others, life will bring to us exactly what we expect.

For the patterns that we see are merely a response to the choices we have made.  Our lives are merely the canvas. We are the ones who choose the paints, the brushes, and the style in which we paint.

When we adopt this perspective towards life, the future has no power to instill fear in us. We do not have to continue to live with anxiety over what tomorrow will bring. Rather, we are able to live each day with the consciousness that whatever circumstances come into our lives, we will not merely survive them. We will transcend them.

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 2010 by Sascha Norris. All Rights Reserved

Who Looks Within, Awakens

•July 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Many things in life are merely possibilities. But the fact that there will always be changes in our lives, whether we want them to be or not, is a certainty. Sometimes, we become so immersed in our interior worlds that we neglect to remember that, unless we create change in our lives, the changes that occur will be at the mercy of chance. It is not merely our minds that determine the choices we make. It is also the day-to-day actions that we take.

It is not that we necessarily want to complain about the circumstances we find ourselves in. Yet it can be easier to complain than to take definitive steps to alter our circumstances. When we let other people make decisions on our behalf, how often do we stop to ask ourselves, “How will this choice affect the rest of my life?”

While it is true that we oftentimes manage our lives at certain times better than we do at other times, the only way we can take complete responsibility for our lives is by making sure that we are the ones making all of our choices. For ultimately, we are the architects of our destiny. And when we use a blueprint that someone else has created, are not our lives then someone else’s rather than our own?

It has been said that life is a race that we must run. But might it not be better to look upon it as a palace or cathedral we must build? If we imagine that we are creating a masterpiece, will we not be more careful of the choices we make?

Life oftentimes does respond to us at the level of our expectations. And when we expect little of ourselves, this may well be reflected in the results we get from both our words and our deeds. It is better to aim high than low. For as Michelangelo once said, “The greater danger for  most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

How much easier it can seem to be a passive bystander, observing life while events take place that affect us but which we have not actively brought about! When we assume this role, we are able to blame our unhappiness and dissatisfaction on the actions of others rather than on ourselves. Yet, in not accepting full responsibility for what happens to us, we must also accept that we are powerless to change our circumstances. Thus, in absolving ourselves of the obligation to change our own lives, we become no more effective at controlling our fate than a ship tossed about on the ocean waves. And this sense of helplessness will inevitably cause us to resent those who do take an active role in creating lives of significance.

An architect who begins planning to build a cathedral knows that leaving the intricacies of his task in the hands of others will have a direct bearing on the final result. But because we treat our lives so much more carelessly than an artist treats his work, we give others permission to pull us this way and that. As a result, we are often steered in a direction that is completely opposite to that in which we wish to go.

It seems that many of us fear change to such an extent that we would rather evade the reality of change by letting others make choices for us than have to cope with the consequences of the changes that are brought about by ourselves. Of what benefit is life though if we are merely putty in the hands of chance?  Would an architect accept responsibility for work he didn’t do? And if he wouldn’t, why do we accept responsibility for a life we haven’t lived?

Perhaps, life never seems as if it is long enough—just as it seems there are not enough hours in each day to accomplish what we want to achieve. But until we make the most of what we have, why do we imagine we will be given more? When we squander time on that which is not important or squander our kindness and affection upon those who do not appreciate it, is it any wonder that we feel empty and discontented?

In order to build a cathedral from our life, we must use discernment. We must be able to discriminate between the relevant and the irrelevant. And we must learn and remember that, until we look within ourselves, all the answers we get from the outside world will be of no benefit to us.

In the words of Carl Jung, “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks within, awakens.” Dreams can inspire us. But as long  as we merely dream, we will be left with a series of unfulfilled wishes. On the other hand, if we awaken and take action, we give ourselves all that we need to bring our dreams into reality.

For not only do we see ourselves as we are. We also see the rest of the world as it is. Our perspective is no longer clouded by our needs and desires which alter everything about how we perceive the world. Rather, we are given the opportunity to step outside the constraints our own egos put upon us and expand our vision to include that which transcends us. And once we transcend ourselves, we have awakened.

In an awakened state, change becomes something to embrace rather than to run from. It loses its ability to evoke fear and can be seen as an opportunity for self-discovery. Rather than that which intercepts or thwarts the building of our lives, it opens up windows of wondrous possibilities.

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.

Shall We Love?

•June 24, 2010 • 2 Comments

In some ways, the more we try to understand love the further away from experiencing it we may be. Similarly, the more loving we perceive ourselves to be, the less love we might be demonstrating to those around us. It is pride, not merely self-deception, that shields the eyes from truth, and it is false modesty that assures us of our virtue. Yet, false modesty is even worse than pride for at least pride is genuine whereas that which is false is never true.

Is it necessary to attribute goodness to ourselves that we do not actually possess in order to continue living? Or do we make a habit of doing so out of a frantic effort to love ourselves? If so, the result is that we love only a “false”‘ self and not the truth of who we are. And without loving our true selves, any love we give to someone else lacks the essence that gives love its transformative  power.

When we are born, none of us knows what love is or what it is supposed to be. Our concept of love is shaped, formed, and molded by the words others speak and the deeds they perform in the name of love. But that which is done in the name of love does not define love any more than a rose is defined by its name. The flower exists separately from the word we label it with, and love exists separately from the words and actions done in its name. The Bible speaks of knowing a tree by its fruits. And Soren Kierkegaard uses this scriptural concept in Works of Love to set forth the idea that love is known by its fruits.

Kierkegaard writes, “By its fruits one recognizes the tree. ‘Are grapes gathered from thorns and figs from thistles?’ (Matthew 7: 16) If you expect to gather them there, you will not only pick in vain but the thorns will show you that you pick in vain. For every tree is recognized by its fruits.”  What Kierkegaard says makes sense whether one shares his spiritual views or not.

Yet,  does one not wonder about the fruit that appears to be different from what it really is?  What of the rotten fruit that appears to be delicious and nourishing? If we taste of that fruit and give of that fruit to others, knowing it to be bad even though it appears good, have we then shown love? Kierkegaard believes that it is the spirit in which the fruit is given, and therefore the spirit in which a word is spoken or a deed is done, that determines whether it is the result of love or not.

Perhaps, to many people, the concept of acting and speaking from a place of love sounds as if it is beyond human capabilities. After all, Kierkegaard was not only a Christian but also a philosopher. To look at things from his perspective may sound good. But is it realistic? I will not venture to give a definitive answer to that question.

However, I do think it rather depends on how willing one is to make the effort to love in such a way. If a person is self-serving, then such a love as Kierkegaard speaks of would hold little appeal for him. But, if he at some point discovers that his self-serving actions are not bringing him that satisfaction he hoped for, then he may take the time to try to understand the concept of unconditional love.

The main challenge that we encounter when we try to change our views of a concept such as love is that we, prideful creatures that we are, would rather persist in error than to acknowledge that the ideas we have been subscribing to could be wrong. If, for example, a man or woman sees love as a feeling that passes over time, the very idea of love that could last a lifetime may merely provide him or her with something to scoff at. 

For those who take love and make a mockery of it by doubting in its truth will desecrate even the most sacred of experiences. What is usually not remembered is that not believing in something in no way takes away from its existence— if, in fact, it exists. Rather, it merely prevents the person who refuses to believe in it from experiencing whatever it is—whether it be love, happiness, or something else–in his or her life.

After all, if we cease to believe in the sun, do we really imagine that it will fail to come up in the morning? And if we cease to think that we are mortal, are we then miraculously granted immortality? You and I both know that the answer to both questions is no.

That which is real is not the least bit dependent upon us for its existence. Thus, once we establish that not believing in love only brings about self-deprivation, we are once again turned back to the concept of self-love. If we love ourselves, why would we deprive ourselves of love? Is it not more logical to assume that in depriving ourselves of love by not believing in it, we are showing how little we love ourselves?

Of course, much debate exists, particularly in the context of religion, about whether or not self-love is something to strive for.  This is because self-love is oftentimes confused with narcissism or egoism. It is wrongly assumed by many that in loving ourselves, we are being egotistical. But if we cannot give an emotion to someone else that we do not first possess within us, how is that possible? We must love ourselves first and foremost before we love anyone else. And at the moment we truly love ourselves, we will then understand our connection with everyone else for we will see that they are part of us and like us.

As for egoism and narcissism, it is actually not self-love but pride that is at their root. And since pride and love are not compatible, where pride is love does not live. For love in its true form must have humility at its core. The reason for this is that only by humbling ourselves are we able to love and accept ourselves and therefore other people in spite of both our flaws and theirs.

Of course, humility is not something that you can actively seek. So, no matter how much you may wish to awaken tomorrow feeling humble, that is not how humility becomes part of who we are. It is actually only through remembering all of our shortcomings and weaknesses that we attain a genuine sense of humility just as the easiest way to love others is to see them as being part of oneself.

But what of romantic love—the love shared between two lovers? It was surely this love that Boethius was speaking of when he said, “Who would give a law to lovers? Love is unto itself a higher law.” Yes, that is the love that Boethius was speaking of. But I do not think that he was right.

I think that there is a law that should be given to all lovers. And this law is that they shall love. What does this mean? Well, it is a concept that presents love not as merely being rooted in one’s feelings or emotions but rather as being a product of one’s will.

As Kierkegaard says, this simple phrase, “thy shall love”, is not poetic or romantic. It will not make lovers swoon with midsummer madness. Yet, the simple truth behind it is this: love that is not a decision is not a genuine commitment, and love that is not a genuine commitment is capable of alteration.

Thus, the “law unto lovers” may be looked upon as the command to love each other. For without this, the love that holds two people together is no more stable than a house built upon sand. And such a house, having no solid foundation, might easily crumble into nothingness the first time it encounters a fierce and ruthless storm.

It must be understood that the command is one that we give ourselves. We make a decision through the force of our will to love. In this form, love ceases to be dependent on feelings or emotions. Rather, it remains steadfast for the vacillations of sentiment are not a portion of it.

But does this mean that if love becomes that which we will as opposed to that which we feel that it will lose its spontaneity? Well, it will lose the type of spontaneity that we may associate with romantic feelings that are present one moment and gone the next. However, the spontaneity that is part of the many ways that love is given and received will never be lost.

For like life, love is a stream, ever flowing outward and inward in its true, eternal form. It’s never passive but always a moving, acting force.

Love, Peace, & Joy

Sascha

It would make me very happy if you would follow me at Twitter: http://twitter.com/saschanorris

Also, you may reach me by e-mail at: sascha.norris@yahoo.com

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

To Find Ourselves: Is It Possible?

•June 19, 2010 • 2 Comments

Life presents to us the choice to live one of two ways—either in a way that is true to ourselves or in a way that compromises who we are. I have found that no matter how close I come to seeing the truth of me, there will always be someone there to attribute motives to me that I do not have or characteristics to me that I do not possess. And I am not alone. In this world we live in, it is so easy to become convinced that the lies others tell us about us are true that, in time, we can no longer find the person who we are.

In order to cease deceiving ourselves, though, we must first find ourselves. Yet, that appears to be the most difficult task of all. In a world where everything has a hidden meaning, a double meaning, or a false meaning, how can we separate the genuine from the false? 

There may come a point in time when we discover that those whom we entrusted with our deepest and most sacred confidences were not worthy of even our most irrelevant secret. We may also be tempted to build up a wall around ourselves created out of a desire to protect ourselves from being hurt. But if the wall is built from bricks of cynicism, bitterness, doubt, and/or fear, we have formed a prison for ourselves.

When we read books by philosophers and thinkers of the past, what is it that we are searching for? Is it merely knowledge? Could it not also be that we seek a key by which to unlock the mystery of our own existence?

Is it not possible that, whether we acknowledge it or not, we want something more than that which life appears to offer us on the surface? Surely, we think, there must be some reason we are here aside from our day-to-day struggles that seem to have neither a point nor an end. But we fear voicing our dissatisfaction too strongly lest we find no way to assuage it. Thus we go on, pretending to be satisfied with so much less than what we know we yearn for. Ah, if only we could liberate ourselves from fear and replace that fear with faith. What then would we not be capable of?

Alfred North Whitehead once said, “It is impossible to be more than absolutely fearless.” How right he was. Yet how rare it is to be fearless. Fear, for many of us, provides us with a cushion, with a sense of security—with something that we can use to excuse ourselves from displaying the courage that we admire in others.

Why is it that we admire in others that which we possess yet persist in not making use of? The barriers we resurrect in order to gaze outward instead of inward serve to undermine our own productive efforts in a way that only time will make real for us. Consequently, we will get to the end of our lives and wonder why we failed to see how the words we chose not to say and the actions we chose not to take would have an irremediable impact on our fate. The inevitability of this occurring is such that it would require of each of us a depth of bravery that few of us are capable of in order to have things turn out any differently.

Do any of us wonder why C. S. Lewis had this to say about courage? “Courage is not one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” Perhaps, we should all resign ourselves to leading lives of no real meaning or purpose. For if every virtue requires courage of us, yet we are lacking courage, of what service are beautiful dreams to any of us?

Of course, we can deny the veracity of Lewis’s words. After all, he was but a man like any other man. Taking what he says as absolute truth might be overestimating the level of his wisdom. I am sure that many of us can look around and find people who appear to be living perfectly “acceptable” lives. And yet these people do not seem to possess a tremendous amount of courage.

Perhaps, what is not clear to us, when we judge the life of someone as being successful or productive, is what their lives might have been like if they had possessed more courage. We look only from the outside as mere spectators. And we make our observations and our judgments based upon what we feel the person or persons might have wanted from their lives.

But how presumptuous of us to imagine we could possibly guess! Unless we are omnipotent, how can we ascertain how many of a person’s dreams or goals that person has had to abandon? Can we even begin to surmise what challenges they have had to face or what challenges they chose not to face?

I need look no further than Abraham Joshua Heschel’s description of the world of appearances to comprehend how little any of us know of anything.  “The world of things we perceive,” he writes, “is but a veil. Its flutter is music, its ornament science, but what it conceals is inscrutable. Its silence remains unbroken,; no words can carry it away.”

Heschel understands well the limits to perception. He recognizes how easy it is to think we know when we can only guess. And also he understands the nature of man deeply enough to realize that our pride prevents us from admitting the scope of our ignorance. However, it is through our ignorance that more pain and suffering is brought about than through any other means. It is our very blindness of all that does not directly concern us that causes us to tear others down through our words, thoughts, and judgments.

But what we do not see is that this same blindness rooted in pride, narcissism, and vanity is what obscures our own vision. We imagine ourselves to be prophets able to see the inner nature of other people in a way that others don’t. But as long as we imagine that we have these superior abilities, we will be trapped in our own illusions. In order to see the truth about ourselves, we have to let go of our need to make assumptions about those around us.

To find ourselves means letting go of our need to dissect, analyze, or figure out anyone else. It means letting go of our pride, of our desire to demonstrate more knowledge than we possess, of our need to have all the answers or even just a few of them. Finding ourselves requires more than courage—it also requires humility, for only through humbling ourselves will we see ourselves as we really are rather than as we wish to be.

And only through humility will we cease to imagine that we are able to tell others truths about themselves that it is for them to discover.

Blessings,

Sascha

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