Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Stormy Consciousness

I've been feeling stormy as of late. Of course, I am still fundamentally hopeful and appreciative of life. But I feel stormy. It didn't help that my sister N came by to grab dinner with me and discovered a pamphlet that had been left in my door...a pamphlet on "comfort for the depressed," courtesy of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Ugh. At first, I couldn't see any of these pamphlets on neighboring doors and I wondered if I had somehow been targeted! But alas, there were several to be spotted on nearby doors.

But this stormy feeling was furthered by dinner conversation. My sister N and I are quite open with each other and tonight she confessed to perceiving that I have been very weak these past couple of years. She said that throughout my 20s I always seemed resilient and when one thing didn't work out, I was on to the next with renewed optimism and a remarkable fortitude. The last two years however, she says that I have been far more emotional, weak, and introspective than she's ever been aware of. In no way do I take this negatively. I think there is much truth to that. In my 20s I was so outwardly resilient and although I believe myself to have always been introspective, I really pushed that awareness down for so long...deeper and deeper, until it overwhelmed me.

Yes, the past few years have consisted of serious self-reckoning and there is nothing particularly carefree and "fun" about that. But it has been necessary and it has brought about great things. My sister and I also talked about innate self and whether that should and/or even could be altered. We both acknowledged that we each have innate behaviors and that despite our efforts to alter those behaviors, we are who we are. It seems that my 20s were spent fighting who I really was, trying to be someone else, while slowly realizing that I wanted to be who I really am. So, I flipped. I have attempted to completely indulge who I am and deal with all the heavy lessons of those years of denying my true self. I went from one extreme to the next. But I am ready for a middle ground. Yes, I am who I am. But there is a sad resignation in just allowing myself to "be" without thinking about some improvement. Not changing myself but evolving myself.

The back of the Jehova's Witness pamphlet discusses "When No One will Be Depressed Again." The paragraph reads, "What a relief it will be for humankind to be freed of the burdens of the past and to awaken each day with crystal-clear minds, eager to tackle the day's activity! No longer will anyone be hampered by the cloud of depression." Hmph. I don't like this and I think this sort of thinking is what makes us feel so dejected as humans. I don't think that one day in this human life we wake up and just "get it." Even with tremendous enlightenment, conversion, or incredible self-awareness. Maybe in the beyond-life this might be true. But I think it is ridiculous to expect that this feeling of "depression" will suddenly be out of our lives forever. Sure, this quote is absolutely open to interpretation. But to me, it mentions nothing of the beauty of embracing sadness/depression. It seems too naive and really, undesirable.

No, I think that life is a beautiful struggle. Each day is a challenge and I prefer to look at it along the terms of Narcissus and Goldmund, which I finished reading this afternoon. (My review will come in the next post). But essentially, this tale reveals that the struggle itself is absolutely human and thus, perfect - all suffering contains happiness and vice versa. Each day requires a renewed strength. Sure, with age ideally comes wisdom. But even wisdom has its challenges and as humans, there will always be struggle because there is always beauty. Why should we expect to conquer life? Why should we expect all the beauty and none of the suffering? Just how much would we appreciate life? So no, I don't think that we are going to see a day in this human life in which we are no longer affected by sadness/depression anymore. Of course, some days will be all happiness and sunshine. Others will be dark and melancholy. And sometimes, for no clear reason.

In the same regard, why should we expect to conquer the "dark" side of our true selves? When my sister and I talked about that innate self, I couldn't help but feel that there is nothing particularly bad about that "dark" side, just as there is nothing bad/wrong with suffering. It is a counterbalance. I like the image that I've attached to this post. The storm cloud is imposing and dark, seemingly ferocious. But look at that brilliant sunlight and how majestic it makes that cloud. The two may initially seem at odds with each other but they really gain something tremendously awe inspiring together, don't they?

With that, I'll leave you with a quote from probably my favorite television character ever, Chris Stevens (played by John Corbett...yes, the John Corbett who played Aidan on Sex & The City) from Northern Exposure (what a great show...I need those DVDs!):

"There's a dark side to each and every human soul. We wish we were Obi-Wan Kenobi, and for the most part we are, but there's a little Darth Vader in all of us. Thing is, this ain't no either-or proposition. We're talking about dialectics, the good and the bad merging into us. You can run but you can't hide. My experience? Face the darkness. Stare it down. Own it. As brother Nietzsche said, being human is a complicated gig. So give that ol' dark night of the soul a hug. Howl the eternal yes!"

*Image nabbed from here.


Richard said...

I don't think we can change the innate self. I think we need to work with it and not struggle against it.

Richard said...

Love the cloud.

b said...

richard...absolutely. and i don't seek to change my innate self but as you say, work with it and evolve with it. i don't think that because this innate self is fundamental however, that it necessarily must be static. everything evolves and i don't see evolving as being entirely synonymous with changing. does that make sense?

and yes...don't you love the cloud? it is extraordinary! i want to look at my innate self as just that...and howl the eternal yes! :)

carra said...

Struggle is an eternal part of life and we have to accept it. Depression is normal, and visits all of us from time to time. Pain is beautiful and without it we would not know what pleasure is, and sadness is just a natural reaction to certain things. You have changed and that's normal, maybe you have really become wiser, knowing that the world (your world) begins in your mind, where you are.

Richard said...

I think that the older we get, the more we become like ourselves.

I certainly remember in Grade 1 that I collected hockey cards because everyone else did, but I quickly outgrew it.

My thoughts and ideas become more evolve as I age, but they haven't really changed. There are some cases where I have changed my mind (or seemingly so), but it is more a question of replacing a preformed idea with one that is consistant with who I am and what I believe.

Manifesting Jack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Manifesting Jack said...

the dark side = edge = purpose = power = impact

further and lengthy ramblings on this subject to be found at MJ x

Manifesting Jack said...

Darkness within darkness. The gateway to all understanding.

Lao Tzu

b said...

carra...absolutely. i don't know that i really see what has been going on as change, however. but more of a self-reckoning. i am struggling to minimize those oppressive and unnecessary expectations and just be myself. this is no easy or carefree task, as i mentioned. but i refuse to slip into resignation. as a result, i have become far more responsive in my emotions. when i feel weak or fearful, i allow myself to be aware of those feelings and then deal with them. the old me would push them down and pretend nothing was wrong. it's time to face the dark side and not in a combative way but in a compassionate way.

richard...i too believe that we can become more like ourselves as we age. for me, awareness and education have freed me from those limitations i grew up with...expectations of how we should be in this world. importantly, i think that as we become more like ourselves, we should be more accepting and embrace who we are and that the dark side (including expectations of the world) is always going to be there. the key is to make peace with it.

mj...i like looking at it that way. that perspective gives the dark side potential. rather than just accepting it and struggling with it, why not harness it? that, and the lao tzu quote have now been added to my inspirational quotes. i need to remind myself daily of these things. thanks for the inspiration and encouragement!

La Belette Rouge said...

I *love* this post. It is, however, too big for me to respond to in this forum. Will respond in long email ;-)

Random side note: For some reason the John Corbett drove me coo-coo-crazy on Northern Exposure. I did not enjoy. The only other performance that I enjoyed less was Ethan Hawke in the Before/Sunrise/Sunset. I think I must have something in common with these characters and I fear that some of my shadow is like these men and that drive me bonkers. Ugh, I hate that.:-) With consciousness comes responsibility. Sometimes unconsciousness seems like a great option. Well, not really ;-)

b said...

LBR... I linked this post on my retro meme after recent conversations we've had about self/character/struggle.

You know, when Northern Exposure was on TV I was in high school and didn't watch it much at all then. But in the past year, I've caught reruns and I absolutely love John Corbett's character (Chris Stevens) in the show. I love how he quotes Campbell, Nietzsche, Witman and others. I love his philosophical side notes and just his overall demeanor.

But I am totally with you on Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise/Sunset. He irritates me in that role!

Yes, we'll stick with consciousness... despite all the frustrations it brings! ;-)