Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Abandoning the Shackles of Hope

I started off this month talking about satori and hoping that I might be able to gain some sense of it in spite of a rather important element of my life being in crisis. It is the same desire that I have had since this whole career crisis of mine began back in March and I hate to admit that I haven’t had much progress during that time.
However, I was speaking to a friend of mine last night about this whole thing and I explained how cynical, disillusioned and jaded I have become with my entire career path since all this hit the fan. I stated my hypothesis that this change of perspective has turned me into an incurable pessimist.
My friend, who is one of the smartest people I know and who despite what I can only assume is a very stressful job and a busy schedule and all of the same everyday headaches and crises and other crap that I and everyone else on the planet endures, is a die hard optimist. No matter what may be going on in his life he is still one of the most legitimately happy people I know. He explained that this is because he is one of the few people in the world who gets genuinely excited about solving problems. You can see how this would be valuable: the more messed up things are the more opportunities to problem solve.
He said that he did not believe I was a pessimist. He said that my disillusionment seemed to be based on reality and that my perspective, therefore, was not pessimistic but rather realistic. I asked him how I can be that jaded and cynical and disillusioned if I’m a realist. And he said the obvious answer: because things really are that bad. That the hard truth of the matter is that, in a nutshell, life’s a bitch and then you die.
I always used to consider myself someone who, because of their steadfast belief in the possibility of a life slightly less ordinary, could see things differently and approach the world and all of the problems in it from a different point of view. That I could operate both in my personal life and in my professional life without getting bogged down by how difficult things are. That I could enjoy life because I allowed myself to act like a kid, see things outside the box, and live in enough of my own world that I wouldn’t get bogged down by the problems of the real one.
I have come to the conclusion that I was not. I was, I now realize, naive and sentimental in a way that prevented me from acknowledging the hard truths. And when forced to acknowledge them I did not accept them and move on (as evidenced by my handling of this year’s events)- I just got depressed.
And when faced with this conclusion- that life actually is that crappy and that all of these beliefs I held were inaccurate- my first inclination is to get depressed. Woe is me, jobs suck, people are cruel and I’m going to have to fight tooth and nail to survive in this shit hole, blah, blah, blah.
But I have an idea- an inchoate little fantasy- that perhaps, with another change of perspective, I could accept this hard reality without getting depressed. That I could look at the world and at my life with the clear understanding of how much of it will be challenging and of how little will come to me because it’s the right thing (morally, ethically, karma-wise, whatnot) and enjoy it anyway. That I could accept- truly accept without becoming depressed or feeling sorry for myself- how many things really are just that bad and still enjoy the little bit left over that I can control and enjoy.
I haven’t fleshed this idea out yet. I don’t quite know how to execute it. But if this many people- my friend whom I’ve mentioned here, my writing Yoda, my dear friends whom I’m eagerly anticipating Thanksgiving with- can go through so much crap and see things as dire as they really are without being depressed about it then why the hell can’t I?
My answer? Because, I think, up to this point I haven’t really tried. I never allowed myself to admit that things really were that unfair. I kept holding out hope. And I’m starting to think that that wasn’t the way to go about it. I’m starting to think that perhaps letting go of hope might be the best course of action.
Because to truly understand all the evils of the world, and to accept how little of life is anything we would choose for ourselves but have to endure anyway and STILL be happy? Well, that’s a heck of a lot better than hoping for things to stop being the way they are.
I’ve always been a fan of Charles Dickens. Specifically, of Great Expectations. Even more specifically of the character Wemmick. Wemmick was a man who absolutely refused to discuss any detail of his private life at work and who just as steadfastly refused to discuss or even acknowledge any element of work in his private life. He separated things so strictly that he was almost two different people. I’ve always thought that he might be on to something, but the full weight of his efforts are only starting to illuminate themselves in my mind.
Although I do not want to become a split personality, I would like to invoke a bit of Wemmick in my life. I would like to be able to be cutthroat and unmoving in work and endure all the horror it throws my way but still be silly, happy, child-like and excited in my personal life. Not that I’m wishing to have a shitty job. I would still very much like, and am still actively pursuing, a better job. But I would like to-even if I have a shitty job- have a good life. So that's what I plan to do.


  1. Ah, Grasshopper...

    A life without HOPE is pretty boring. It's the stuff that Christmas Morning is made out of (as in 'I hope we get to spend time at Grandma's Today!'

    Pessimist = Everything must be crap
    Realist = Most People don't realize they have a choice
    Optimist = I CHOOSE not to let the crap bother me

    The Power to Choose rests with each individual. When you let Other's Choose for you, instant crap... =]

  2. A pessimist or cynic is not a realist. There is a stark difference between seeing the world as evil and recognizing the evils of the world. The world has bad things in it, but it is not bad: it's a world. It's got a lot of good. Rainbows and chocolate and thousands of geniuses donating their time to cure cancer and food drives and comedies and hugs from best friends and the Northern Lights and true love and so-on. "We all die." Yeah, and we all live. If death is the end of life, and death is bad, then life's got to be good. You don't get it both ways. "Life sucks and then you die" is a joke, and I shake my head at those who try to pass it off as a serious statement. Life is good and death is bad, or life is bad and death is good, or life is life and death is death and both have got their appeals and problems.


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