Things are the way they are because of two things: The Pain! Oh, the Pain! And the Terror! Oh, the Terror! The Pain of the Terror! The Terror of the Pain! That's it. Disappear our pain and our terror, and life worldwide transforms instantly. What is the nature of your pain? What is the nature of your terror? Don't take one more breath until you know. Your life is as it is because of your pain and your terror. The same is true for all of us around the circle, throughout the world. I'm going to shift the subject on you, but not really. My sister Susan is killing herself. She has been killing herself for over two years now. We could call it "mental illness," and and we would be right about that, but. "Mental illness" is just a catch-all phrase for "too much pain, too much terror." Susan is brilliant on some levels, PhD in history, fluent, at one time, in French, lived in Paris for a while, but with no capacity for compromise or good-natured "give-and-take-ness." Her social intelligence, in terms of knowing and doing what the situation called for in the flow of life as it was being lived, was not there, and she could flash into anger and sarcasm the way Clark Kent could become Superman, over what anyone else would call "no apparent reason." She used alcohol and pot as a buffer against the pain/terror of more than she was equipped to deal with, and it added up over time. She drifted into social (psychotic) withdrawal, disorientation, not eating, and was "saved" by a heart attack and hospitalization, which resulted in early retirement and residency in an assisted living facility, which slowly disintegrated into her refusing to eat or take her meds, which led back to hospitalization where she is now, refusing to eat or take her meds, leading to a nursing home with hospice and palliative care. Because she is not equipped to deal with her life on her life's terms. The Pain! The Terror! Is too much! And, of course, we all do it to ourselves. We all are "mentally ill" to the extent that we allow the Pain, the Terror, to make our choices for us, and force us in to the life we are living, because it is easier that way, and we are getting along there as best we can. Be aware of your Pain and your Terror, and stand up to them as best you can. Live to see if the Pain is actually as unbearable as you are afraid it is. To see if you have any real reason to be afraid of what you fear. We owe it to ourselves to find out.
We are a compromise worked out over the course of our life between our original nature and the nature of the time and place-- the conditions/context/circumstances-- of our living. We would be different with different parents and a different point of origin, and throw in a different century for our birth date, and we would be even more different. Who would Micheal Jordan, or Steph Curry, or LeBron James have been if they had been born before basketball? It is our place to be conscious of the compromise we are making, and make it thoughtfully, responsibly--responsible to our original nature and to the place and time of our living. Balance and harmony, Kid. Balance and harmony. We cannot neglect ourselves (our inner nature) or the terms and conditions of our life in the world. And we bear consciously the pain of that dichotomy. This is our cross, and I believe it to be the cross Jesus was talking about when he said, "If you are coming with me, you have to bear your own cross every day." The cross is the conflict between who we are and who "the world," "our life," requires us to be. Jesus could not deny himself in order to meet the demands of life in his world, and he paid the price of his own integrity. We all do, or pay the price of not paying the price. And the more conscious we are of that divide, the better able we are to "walk on water" (As Jesus did in getting by with what he got by with, for as long as he could), and maybe make it to retirement, or not. Living knowingly gives us a better chance of being savvy, and knowing where to draw the line, or deliberately cross it, than living without a clue would offer. "Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run..." Be savvy. Mind how you go.
The times, they sweep down upon us, with their clashing rocks and crashing waves, threatening to wreck our world and carry us away. Then's the time for courage and resolve, foresight and faith in our own ability to tread the water and find a way to the way that is even there, as it is everywhere, waiting for eyes that see and noble hearts ready for an adventure like this. Comes to mind the words of the blind poet Homer, who put them in the mouth of Ulysses, having him say, "I will stay with it and endure through suffering hardship, and once the heaving sea has shaken my raft to pieces, then I will swim!" That's the spirit, I say, and what's keeping that from being us in times such as these?