THE DELUSION OF THE ENLIGHTENED LIFE
Life’s a journey along a series of uncharted paths where only one thing is certain: death is the unavoidable destination. There are few certainties. Etch that in stone.
This terrorizes our species of bald apes. With a sense of consciousness and its attached ego still stuck in its wailing infant stage, we cling to various mythologies conveniently placing us at the Center of the Universe™ and providing the comforting illusion that we’re cheating death. All we have to do: behave, believe, and deliver Mammon Tribute to the pulpit or kill an infidel! My concern is no longer escapist religion. Some people need it. I understand that and some days even empathize!
(But, honestly: “if something’s too good to be true…”)
That being said, the sad effect of embracing the Universal Sky Daddy Delusion is it often prevents the faithful from properly valuing our most precious commodity: life. And, embracing their journey for what it is.
In my view, this holds true for “spiritualists” chasing the Illusion of Enlightenment. I’ve long held the belief that they’re lost in precisely the same delusion for precisely the same disguised reasons: cheating death and contriving a sense of plasticized significance in a confusing world and an unimaginably vast universe. They’ve taken the same anxiety-ridden ideas as standard religion, twisted the names, tweaked the scripture, and donned different hats.
Karma=Heavenly Reward without that pesky need to die!
These folks are just as trapped by their egos despite the anti-ego doctrine. Many arrogantly present themselves as the “evolution” of the species and/or on their way to achieving their own personal “enlightened” divinity! Gee! What’s egocentric about that?
**CONFESSIONAL TANGENT** Lest you think I’m throwing rocks from across the road, I was part of this cult not so long ago and have been exposed to these egotists wearing the Ego Fighter costumes countless times. Trust me. Or…have some “faith”, fuckers.
We’re each born in unique places with varying assortments of assets and deficiencies. Then we’re dropped naked at the trailhead and immediately begin The Death March. Regardless of our starting point or the provided tools and baggage, after a few years how enthusiastically we embrace our personal paths is completely up to us.
In the beginning, choosing the trail is typically an act of following. To be fair, they’re usually picked mindfully (or unconsciously inseminated via The Ministry of Standards & Practices) but based on the unavoidable fact that we’re young and stupid. Worn pikes are safe pikes; young sheep know where the wolves lurk on the established trail and this is enough for many. Their chosen quest to the grave is predictable and mundane. There’s nothing wrong with that if it works for them. The Hendrix lyric goes both ways: They’re the ones who have to die when its time for them die. So let ‘em live their lives the way they want to. Quite honestly, I’m unconcerned with these folks so long as they stay in their lane. To them, I’m speaking Klingon, anyhow. More on that shortly.
For the rest of us, rarely do the initial paths prove to be singular, smooth, well-marked lifelong thoroughfares. Life happens. People change. We (hopefully!) grow much wiser and more introspective. Jefferson’s coat isn’t only a political metaphor. To expect the existential overcoat you wore at 18 to fit at 40 is silly. Unless you’re committed to executing the robotic and sterile “life plan”, you may find yourself questioning the path you’re wandering.
Then suddenly the soul demands extended reflection and it’s at this uncomfortable point where I’ve met countless people. In fact, I think a significant number of my rides have come because these people encountered me while simultaneously and subconsciously seeking something.
Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority are overburdened by the “stuff” (career, mortgage, debt, etc.) that they’ve been mistaking for “life”. Without an incredible amount of terrifying sacrifice, they simply are unable to take whatever path they may choose. Or, they’ve had children and their lives are (rightfully) no longer their own. A few others still are so paralyzed by either an addiction to comfort or the “what if” fear of bold change that they’d rather be miserable wallowing on the hollow-yet-familiar path while looking for any reassurance that they’re the “wise” ones. More choice words for a choice few of these folks in a bit as well!
An exclusive select few remain. You know who you are. You are “my” people. For you, courageous improvisation is required and likely will be again in the future. You can choose another established trail or blaze your own. And you’ll most likely be trembling in fear when you do. Words and their meanings matter. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. That’s hubris. Courage is the ability to act despite fear. You’ll need it. Don’t waste time thinking one day you won’t be scared. Eventually you’ll have to be the kid standing at the side of the pool who eventually musters the fortitude to just jump. There’s no other way to learn how to swim. That’s the pain of departure and there’s no avoiding it. Even if you choose not to jump, you still have made a choice. Inevitably the passage of time further illuminates the dragon and it gets more difficult. In other words, just jump, son. Time is merciless and scoffs at your anxiety.
Travel is a funny thing and sometimes I lose sight of the forest thru the self-absorbed trees. I had a quiet reminder come along in the form of a kid named Jordan in October at, of all places, a Greyhound terminal. Our conversation further cemented the notion that it’s important to let others know the path (or water to continue the metaphor) isn’t as dangerous and deadly as it appears from the outside. And also to leave notes along the way for others who have chosen a similar path. Sort of like, “Todd was here. This is what I’ve found to this point. Hope it helps.” In Jordan’s case: Don’t try to figure it all out. You’ll learn it all along the way and realize your dragons of fear are mostly squawking crows. I certainly could have used that being driven home 12-years ago! It may have spared me the final foray into radio!
More fundamentally, in my “branding” misadventures of the last few years, I’ve often overlooked something else I think is incredibly important.
In 2004, as I sat in Florida with a seed of an idea about a backpack and eliminating the unnecessary (a primitive version of “Signal to Noise”), I found The Friar’s old blog documenting his cross-country walk. He’d unwittingly set up a beacon marking his trailhead. His blog (before there were actually blogs) illuminated his path enough to show that it was possible. That I wasn’t crazy to explore the idea despite the gulf of uncertainty surrounding it.
Fast forwarding to 2017 once again, after re-reading my Plato and Joseph Campbell I remembered that he who’s seen the Upper World has an obligation to return to share what he’s found beyond little notes dropped along the path. Therefore I still sense a responsibility to pay The Friar’s favor forward and set up a humble beacon even if only for “my” people.
But nothing’s ever simple in The Matrix Age, is it?