2013

21 August 2013: Only you can change your life

Only you can change your life

The sixth and final piece in this series:

Over the years, I have taken to task those who hold capitalism to be the most liberating of economic systems.  In theory it might be, but in practice it depends heavily upon worker ants and bees dutifully fulfilling assigned roles to keep the engine of commerce humming smoothly.

It’s a hierarchal system: Not everyone can be an entrepreneur or billionaire, just as everyone could not have been a lord, duke, or king.  The feudal construction depended upon the serf playing his/her role.  In that regard, little has changed in a 1,000 years.

The greatest dark mark on the American soul is our history of slavery, relegating human beings to less-than-human status in order to preserve a culture, a way of life for those who considered themselves superior.  The 13th Amendment effectively killed slavery as an institution, but there remains more covert, subtle ways to enslave others.

Debt enslaves the individual.  Immediately one thinks of debt in context of finance, and we get that; but debt can be personal or spiritual as well.

How often have we heard or even uttered, “I am in debt to you”?

Whether one is controlled by another, his/her blind acceptance of that which binds him/her, or his/her addictions, he/she is a slave; and when one comes to understand his/her inferior status, resentment sets in, a “blame others” mindset for his/her plight.  That’s the time the notion of victimization takes hold.

In her work, Caroline Myss suggests that each of us has unwittingly fallen prey to that thinking and as a result has both prostituted and sabotaged him/herself: prostituting by selling or compromising personal principles in order to achieve a modicum of comfort with one’s plight and sabotaging by undercutting one’s self-interest consciously and unconsciously.

Dependency and fear imbued from birth result in submitting to outside authority.  On the one hand, societal organization depends upon a hierarchy of sorts—it’s important we obey the fire marshal’s order to evacuate our home that is in the path of an oncoming raging inferno—but it can have devastating results for both the individual and the society as a whole.

By continual complying as a modus operandi, the individual renders him/herself powerless in crucial areas of life, primarily not thinking for him/herself, not making his/her own decisions when it comes to ethics and morality.

On the larger societal scale, such excessive thinking causes one to feed into and connect with other like-minded individuals, resulting in fascism, fanaticism and fundamentalism.

Instead of “right” or ethical thinking, one thinks righteously.

Instead of looking at and treating others with compassion, one judges them according a prescribed strict code ostensibly handed down from God or Allah.

Instead of being judicious in speech, one condemns, denigrates.

Instead of pursuing a career pathway in a field that provides fulfillment, one tries to fill his/her life with material pursuits and objects, buying into, both literally and symbolically, the belief that the size of one’s portfolio is the measure of success and happiness.

In so following that left-hand path, one becomes a prostitute and saboteur of him/herself.

The good news is that no one can be enslaved without his/her compliance.  There is a simple word that can negate that: “No.”  Life is all about making choices, from the way one dresses and finds entertainment to how one worships or doesn’t.

Recently I enjoyed a conversation with a community leader who had just described his love for construction and how he finds fulfillment when he has a hammer and saw in hand.   When the conversation turned back to his present position, he bemoaned it saying, “That’s all I know how to do.”

“Really?” I asked.  “I thought you just told me you are really good at building stuff out of wood.”

A smile came across his face when he realized that the only reason he believes he is only good at doing one thing—the job he’s in and hates—is that he has convinced himself of that and, further, that to break away from his current life path is highly risky.

Perhaps, but then staying in an area or practice that will eventually lead to death, physically due to the stress and strain or spiritually and psychologically, incurs the greatest risk.

An excellent question each of us can ask ourselves and those who share their thoughts about the frustrating and unfulfilling course of their lives: So, what are you going to do about that?

 

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