I have a good friend who’s going through a bad time. His downfall is that he believes more in the world’s cruelty more than its possibilities. He’s fascinating because he’s incredibly smart and motivated and full of ideas, yet essentially a pessimist. He believes that things are meant to be done the traditional way, and that they are meant to fail — love in particular — that life is a struggle and work is misery, even if it’s work you love. I like him, but I don’t buy his shtick. I’ve seen it before. Some people just are that way. And I do wish I could change their minds, but it doesn’t work. You have to enter their orbit to even talk to them on that level, have to adopt their vocabulary and in so doing even their worldview for a moment. These people are so convinced of the inescapability of their misery that they come across as disarmingly, startlingly, overpoweringly intelligent. They speak eloquently and with conviction of how they’ve been wronged and how they fucked up. As if reciting from the Bible, they trace the lineage of their suffering and point to their names at the end of this long list an say, “See? I was born for this.” And they’re wrong, but you can’t argue, so I guess that makes them right by some bushy logic.
What would I even say to convince my friend otherwise? If not the words of a friend, what experience could make him shake off that sense of misery’s unavoidability?
He would have to be tired of his misery. Tired of wallowing. But further, he would need to experience a deep sense of wrongness. Some animal inside him would need to screach loud enough to be heard by the guy in the next cubicle. He would have to wake up. He would have to feel fear — true fear — not just the anxiety of a little rejection but the full weight of reality — that you exist, that you are alive, that this is it. That this is your life for real now and if you’re waiting for the starter gun to go off, you’ve already conceded defeat.
And that’s a realization nobody can give. I sure as hell can’t, and believe me, I’ve tried. And I continue to try even though it’s no business of mine. Because they’re on their own path, to use a cliche. Because I can’t know where they’ve come from or where they’re headed. Because this moment is as much a step in their evolution and my evolution as the eons that lie behind us and ahead.
We’re getting into karma territory here, which gets tricky. Let me unravel for a second.
There is, within each of us, a wisdom that is sharper and brighter than the rest. We are each like planets with molten wisdom cores. Call it a divine spark or a shard of God if you like. Call it instinct if you must, but there is something in each of us that knows where we’re going and how to get there. Around that spark is constructed the temple of the heart. The spark can’t be diminished or destroyed. It’s always there, always shining, always sharp and ready. It can, however, be burried if we neglect the temple. We can forget it’s there and begin to see ourselves as just this pile of rubble. Sometimes we can be reminded by a friend or lover. We can remember when we let the world stir us with art or nature. Once we remember, all we have to do is call to it — silently, inwardly — and the ember begins to glow. Breath into it, and this little flame begins its work, burning up the debris of the years.