How love turns to dependence

book

I’ve been reading the non-fictional works of Steven Pressfield. He writes about Resistance (no typo there. He takes Resistance seriously) preventing you from pulling the trigger on creative endeavors, be it writing, starting a business, or implementing a major self-improvement in your life. In one part, he writes about how we may rely on icons to help us instead of helping ourselves. That’s when I realized something embarrassing:

I’d turned him into the icon that he warned about.

As my thoughts frequently turned to the resistance he’d written about and overcome, I realized I was avoiding the resistance I needed to face myself. I wanted to revisit his encouragement, instead of doing the work. The most ironic thing is, he’s the best guide of all, because he has no system of rules, just one simple direction: Stop distracting yourself and do the work.

If your guide starts presenting rules, he ceases to become your guide. Rules are for those who can’t control themselves, or their power, and they encourage that mentality. A guide who gives rules starts becoming less of a guide, and more of a dictator. I found myself picking up Pressfield’s book like a religious doctrine. I felt good after reading it, sure, but then I realized that his writings had become a crutch. And it became addictive, and restrictive.

The same applies to your friends or partners if they want you to be a certain way and follow some definition of what they want. And the same applies to our political leaders who want to help us, but sometimes pass some laws that restrict us.

These groups should empower us, not take power from us. And it’s easy for us to give our accountability away. To a friend, lover, priest, guru, or lawmaker.

Pressfield’s works are empowering, but I made them my source of power instead of claiming the power he was showing was already in me.

The good feelings I would get when picking up his book and reading a bit, became just that. Good feelings and little else. It’s nice to feel good. But if you want to produce something, feelings don’t do much. Producing something… something good, and beautiful and from you… that requires practice. Showing up everyday and doing the work.

And far from being a selfish act, this internal source of power is more selfless, because it doesn’t require you to take power from others. It gives you the capacity to generate this power at will. When you can do that, you can share it without fear, because you will have it always. And then the world stops becoming a series of partners or jobs or cars or clothes to give you validation. You stop collecting stuff in a world of scarcity where you need to guard those partners or worry about that job. Instead, the world becomes abundant, and at that moment, you not only make yourself happy, but you will unconsciously spread that happiness to everyone you meet.

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I was confirmed at Catholic mass



I attended a Catholic mass last Tuesday and heard the Bishop of Columbus speak. He said something that has changed my view of religion in a deep and meaningful way. In fact, after he confirmed the class of young people, he confirmed my formula to power.

In conclusion to his talk, the bishop said that unless you know, love, and serve God, you cannot be happy. I found it important that he concluded by mentioning the key to personal happiness.

So God brings us happiness…but how?

I thought about this and realized that God has absolute power. We do wrong and he tells us to accept him as having this power and he will take away that sin. Fault is our feeling from doing wrong. If God takes away that fault, we can be happy and that’s the only way we can be happy.

So why are people, both Christians and others, still unhappy?

Christianity is misused. Some followers rely on others for their connection to God. Their minister, their priest, other authority figures. But Chrisitianity tells us we need a personal relationship with God.

There is another misuse: We help others before we help ourselves. We feel good about ourselves through these actions, but Christianity tells us that the crux of finding happiness isn’t through our actions, it’s through recognizing we make mistakes and are imperfect. And this knowledge, not action, is where we must start:

We must accept ourselves

Religion fails -rather, WE fail- when we jump ahead of this state of mind: We fail as Christians when we think going to a church and giving to others will make us happy. We cannot be happy unless we know ourselves. Knowing God and knowing ourselves is the same thing. The saying God is love makes sense: When we know God, we love ourselves despite being imperfect.

But God cannot accept our guilt, only we can. The Bishop did not say God knows us. He said WE must know God. That’s why when we’re unhappy, it’s not God’s fault. It’s our fault. And once we accept this fault, we accept responsibility for ourselves. We lose that ego, we lose that worry. We become free and empowered.

Once we’re free from worry, we immediately become connected to others, because we see that everyone else is imperfect, too, and we’re not separate from them. And we see that when we don’t help them, it’s like not helping ourselves.

Freedom and connection are the consequences of accepting our imperfection. And freedom is happiness.

The Bishop was correct that we cannot be happy without knowing, loving and serving this idea: Accept your imperfections.

I thank the Bishop for confirming this in me.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.

TED Talk Tuesday: Atheism 2.0



Alain de Botton says religion is a system that works. It knows human nature. So let’s not throw away the template just because the content is questionable. He wants us to use the religious method.

Religion treats us like children. And it is well to. We need to be life-long learners, but we cannot wait on chance occurrences to teach us the important stuff. Botton describes the value of the religious system of education, from the sermons to repeated practice, which the secular world has left to the individual.

Even our higher institutions expect the newly minted adult walking onto their campuses to know what it’s all about. After graduation, the corporation is ready to provide us the structure for our lives, and the branding and clarity.

“…except they’re right down at the bottom of the pyramid of needs. They’re selling us shoes and cars. Whereas the people who are selling us the higher stuff — the therapists, the poets — are on their own and they have no power, they have no might.”

Life is about growth and discovery, and we need to get into our groups and start communicating our ideas in a more organized way. The secular world has fled so far from religion, it’s forgotten that we need to congregate. We need sermons. We need to communicate ideas.

“My concluding point is that you may not agree with religion, but at the end of the day, religions are so subtle, so complicated, so intelligent in many ways that they’re not fit to be abandoned to the religious alone. They’re for all of us.”

Tell it, brother!
Amen.