An undesirable confession
(or lack of conformity)
There are no guidelines. Understand this sentence, remember it daily – it is essential to the journey of life. There have never been any guidelines. If ever a semblance of direction has been portrayed by some ideology or religion, it is only an attempt at a guideline. It is not certain, not even provable. Every faith in a transcendental code by which we can live our lives is today being un-made, perhaps only because it was originally man-made. We are lost, forsaken in the remote chaos of a lonely planet, with no guiding hand that would lead us to any certainty – to any firm truth.
I set these words forth not in the spirit to challenge those that are able to find comfort in this oppressive world; on the contrary, I report only the widespread experience of constriction and confusion that is rooted in the mind of 21st century Homo sapiens. I am wholly willing to commit to the idea and passion of a benevolent god or cosmic purpose, something which will deliver the long-sought peace that most of us have been searching for. Yet, the more intense the search, the horizon of faith turns darker and frailer. How can I believe in something I don’t feel? – this is the question that exiles us into metaphysical orphanage. No matter how fervently we search for that ultimate reality, the journey is always daunting, constantly haunted by self-doubt, fear and irrational panic of that impenetrable unknown which is the substratum of our everyday lives. So the desire of guidance, the search for something greater than one’s self, is suspended and there remains only a perception of enclosure – a trap in which we all belong.
So, once the awareness of the impossibility of escape is made clear, should we assume our defeat? Should we not analyze the environment of our perplexity and express the conditions of our despair?
What exactly is our trap, what constrains us to impotence? I am only one more man lost in the maze, able only to postulate wild theories of decay. But here are my thoughts:
Insecurity shapes our early life. We depend extensively on the care of our parents until we become sufficiently independent to take care of ourselves. From the very start we look for something beyond ourselves to help us deal with our hostile environment and to give us the comfort of control; control over the unpredictability of the world. By the time we reach the age of reason we are accustomed to depend on other sources, whether it’s our parents, god or social institutions. Naturally these fall short from achieving this and we return to our capsule of solitude. Even the most passionate advocates of religion shudder in fear – didn’t Jesus himself before his death utter words of irrevocable loneliness? (My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?)
Now, what I’m about to expose may seem far-fetched, perhaps there are a few arguments I have skipped to reach the end. The emptiness felt from this lost of trust in the original sources of comfort (parents, religion, social/political establishments) needs to be fulfilled. That’s when a new monument is erected; an indestructible idol substitutes our previous dependence and consolidates itself as the last resort. What is this new idol?
Very simply: a rôle. We fashion a rôle for our lives, an identity of what we should be that is safely kept within and no longer outside. A phantom so powerful it literally controls the direction of our lives. But how did we substitute external comfort for internal obligation? Weren’t we already terrified of our loneliness that we begged for a new sense of communal belonging? We coil within ourselves because we feel disappointed about the outside world, finding it untrustworthy. We need to believe in something and the only thing that came to fill this part was our artificial identity. We created a set of standards, goals and principles by which we guide our lives, something that could not be shaken up very easily and could stand the erosion of change.
Our subconscious harbors this identity which is so elusive we suddenly lose track of its agenda – our original choices are forgotten but they mark the remaining course of our lives. We become slaves to our rôle which was initially fashioned to give us comfort but now only oppresses us with the urgency of its fulfillment. It is a double-bind, we are trapped by our desire to feel valuable, significant or united to something greater than us but we have not found this in our modern lives. We then submit shamelessly to the commands of a career which mortifies us with achieving more and more; exhausted by the end of the night our lives feel empty, confused, lost in innumerable desires.
This sense of urgency comes about from the competition we experience every day. Competition for a better role, a more reputable identity. Deep down we are all celebrities to our own egos and because of this we yearn to become as celebrities to others. Frankly, however, we wish others to see us as we want to be, but not as we truly are. We compete blindly with each other to create the “better” person, whatever this is. There are no universal standards by which we can judge who is a better person, it is relative to the values of each human being.
This competitiveness is best seen in large cities. Cities are breeders of competition, urging its inhabitants to outrun each other. The conveniences that a city provides to its dwellers are irrelevant compared to the pressures and hostilities it creates. A decisive change of perspective is urgently needed: that of de-urbanization. How long can human beings last in a state of high tension, when large concentrations of men and women fight daily, physically and psychologically, to be on top? The greatest concern is, do they even know why they are bustling about?
What if this is true? We regard ourselves too highly during the day but then return unsatisfied to bed; panicky with the feeling that we have no control and even our goals in life are to be doubted. The idol of the ego must inevitably fall too, leaving us naked in despair, gagging with the question: who am I?