Thursday, March 23, 2006

You Can't Cheat the Dark Gods

UPI column.

I will be gone this weekend (leave tomorrow for Baton Rouge) to see a gaggle of online girlfriends for our annual get together. Unfortunately, that means no blogs from me until I get back next Monday.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. [bg]

Hugs to all!
Julie

4 comments:

Dave said...

Dang, Julie. This is a very good, insightful, incisive column. I think it speaks powerfully to where a lot of us (your on-line friends and regular readers) are at, in one way or another, whatever the particular issue, secret or struggle may be.

I have a hunch that you may get more private emails than comments on this one because the more meaningful and honest response it elicits is not necessarily one that most people would want to put on a public webspace! ;o)

Bilbo said...

Hi Julie,

I think you are onto a number of important things with your comments in this column. For example,you wrote: "When you can't see the future as clearly as you see the regrets of the past, it's pretty tough to stick to the old rules that left you emotionally bankrupt."...

Bill: I would use the term emotional numbness to describe the emotional bankruptcy you mention here and I suspect alot of folks in their forties are often unable to feel very joyful or happy much of the time.That's just my own antidotal observations based in part on my own experiences. Lately I have spent alot of time exploring this condition on a personal level and have tentatively concluded that it seems to be, in large part, the by product of living in an ever increasing complex society which emphasizes an "out of whack" competitive work ethic in an effort to compete with the Global Village. Throw in an increasing unpopular war, the potential threat of the terroism, a nine trillion and growing debt,massive educational reforms,a crazy housing market, and creeping inflation and no wonder so many folks are stressed out and on edge. Numbness is bound to set in.

You wrote:
Happiness, personal fulfillment, self-actualization — these buzz words get a bum rap around religious types. We're taught that joy isn't the same as happiness (so that when we feel miserable, we can call "staying the course" joy and trick ourselves out of our misery).

Bill: Again I think you are onto something. The Capitalistic power brokers and religious establishment often imply that we should just suck it up and stay the course for the good of society but it seems to me that a growing number of folks are just unable to live up to the "expectations" of what it means to live the "good life" in the early stages of 21st century America where multi-tasking at least 12 hours a day has become "the" way of life for alot of folks.

Julie:
But no one takes into account how exhausted you'll be in your forties. The tricks stop working and all you want is a nap.

Bill: No one except the naricisstic power brokers who offer "temporary" repreive from our anxiety, stress, and emotional numbness. Gambling, sex, illegal and legal drugs, shopping, and entertainment choices galore that probably even impresses our maker who apparently created the world from scratch. The problem is,too much of a good thing often leads to a bad thing.

Julie:
Happiness is the most powerful (and underrated) force in the universe. It trumps love, peace, war, hate, fear, commitment, religion, truth, good sense and tight budgets. To be happy, truly happy... is what everyone wants and no one admits to wanting, for fear it can't be had...

Bill: Do believe it can be had but it seems to me it most often occurs when we least expect it and than we always screw things up by thinking we can reproduce a particular happy experience by simply by repeating the experience or circumstances that brought about the joy. But life doesn't appear to work that way and when we go to the well too often the well eventially becomes poisoned.

Julie:
In the last several years, I've gained enormous respect for the power of personal experience. It determines everything: the theology you accept or reject, the story you tell others about who you are, and the secrets you keep about who you shouldn't be.

Bill: Experience gets a bad rap. Our religious and secular leaders often teach us indirectly or directly to be suspicious of our experiences and our feelings in particular. We can't rely on em and they may lead us down the dark path if we are not careful but I have learned that while experience "alone" should not trump everything else our experience can be a critically important guide that should be seen and recieved as a gift of our creator.

Julie:
If you live according to the playbook and ignore, regulate, lock up, shame or repress that deeper experience of self (which if realized might lead to happiness), you can bet a detour waits for you around the corner, no matter how much you want to "do the right thing."

Bill: And emphasizing always "doing the right thing" is overated in my book. It's overated because so much of life can't be reduced to doing the right thing. It's not that right and wrong don't exist but so much of life is either shrouded in mist, at times, or it has nothing to do with the will of God/gods. We are not pawns on a chess board waiting to be moved by the likes of Zeus or any other god for that matter. We are more like wild animals who have been released in a vast wilderness of time and space who have a myriad of choices set before us. We can choose to eat each other or we can learn to live together and enjoy the beauty of the wilderness set before us.

Juile:
As my husband says, "You can't cheat the dark gods."

Bill: Odyessus learned the hard way that not only can you not cheat the dark gods but they demand our respect as well...Quick final comment. My earlier comments may have implied a fatalistic solution to the challenges we all face but this was not my intention. We are not doomed to the abyss of unhappiness but do believe we will need to stand against many of the power brokers of our day and make difficult personal choices and rethink many of our priorties, especially regarding how we spend our time if we are going to have any hope of experiencing the kind of happiness I think we all want and deserve. Sorry I went on so long on this comment but I have been quiet for the past couple of weeks and let's just say I am not the type to hold things in for long periods of time.....

julieunplugged said...

Phew. Finally a few minutes to reply to these thoughtful comments.

Dave, I think you're right about the nature of this topic. I hadn't really thought about how it might dredge up murky stuff in my readers.

Bill, your comments are eloquent! Emotional numbness is a great wayt o describe what many feel in their forites. The spark, the drive, the energy to create subside and maintaining the status quo sets in. Stress does render us numb and I like how you introduced circumstances beyond our control to the picture. I am such a "personal" kind of gal, I noticed that I forgot how those outside forces can add to the growing sense of disconnect and loss of purpose/meaning just as powerfully as a dead marriage.

You said: "[happiness] most often occurs when we least expect it and than we always screw things up by thinking we can reproduce a particular happy experience by simply by repeating the experience or circumstances that brought about the joy. But life doesn't appear to work that way and when we go to the well too often the well eventially becomes poisoned."

you know, I think this is true - that happiness isn't a thing to be conjured. It's a serendipitous state that is awakened. Perhaps, though, that is what makes it dangerous - we find ourselves "suddenly" happy... and then if the source of the happiness is from outside our commitments, our values or truths - the choice is nearly impossible for most mortals to make.

I like how in the past you have emphasized (on lists where we both share) the need to stay attentive to who we are and what we are going through so. To be tuned in. This is the only way to balance happiness with commitment, imho.

You say it better here:"We can't rely on em and they may lead us down the dark path if we are not careful but I have learned that while experience "alone" should not trump everything else our experience can be a critically important guide that should be seen and recieved as a gift of our creator."

I loved your analogy about wild animals versus chess pieces. Wow.

You wrote such a beautiful post here. Thanks for honoring me with it! Made me happy. :D

Bilbo said...

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry to hear about your hubby's job. Hope something opens up for him soon....