You wake up and you don’t have a solid lock on any particular identity. Every time you try to land on a solid patch of ground, the ground moves. In spite of all this, you are convinced that there is a solid reality out there–that the world is not an illusion. None of your arguments for why this is would hold up if you were confronted by some mindfuck philosopher-wannabe type, but you have your set of things that you know, your things that you hang onto by faith alone, and all the other unexamined beliefs that you actually probably be convinced to let go.
You sit on a couch typing this with your young son. This alone is an area worthy of exploration. You can say things that every parent says about a child who is loved more than the child will ever know. Indeed, the parent himself had no idea how much he would love his son until his son came along. Then, there is the whole matter of being 41 with a 3 year old son. For sure, you live in a culture where parents are having kids at older ages, and your own father and grandfather did not produce their first biological male offspring until the respective ancestors were almost in their 40s.
Then, there is the old and lingering ache for your first nuclear family. Your older, adopted brothers abandoned you. Your little, biological brother, whom you spend ten years tormenting and ignoring in emulation of your older brothers, died in a car wreck at the age of 16. Your mom left the world at 61 after fighting cancer since her 40s. Your dad is more interested in hanging out with old ladies he meets online than talking to you or his grandson. Your surviving older brother is all but completely estranged from you and your father. When you see your little boy, you see the tiny start of a new, precious flame that requires constant monitoring so that it isn’t snuffed out.
You aren’t even sure what the flame consists of. You have this sense of there being something important about retaining your humanity and dignity as it is connected to the earth. How disconnected are you today? You abandoned the seminary to return to the world of the office, technology, and people who are happy to avoid nature as much as possible. But, the flame is more about something else than becoming a tree hugger or a luddite.
Is the flame about retaining and maintaining a belief in the Christian God, in spite of how little you are like a true disciple of Christ, and how little most Christians really are, either? Perhaps, but it’s not completely a religious thing.
Is the flame your very soul? Are you, at the end of the day, hoping to build up some good karma by raising a child as well as you can? Are you considered about the corporate world and the suburban life consuming you to the point where your entire identity is swallowed up in the same bullshit preoccupations of most everyone else your generation seems happy to obsess over?
Is the flame the dreams that your parents had for you, that you had for yourself, that you now must pass on with the desperate hope that your own son won’t much up his adolescence and early adulthood the way that you did? But then–what are these dreams? A better life? Becoming famous, rich, etc.? Those are shallow dreams to have, and you know that this isn’t quite it, either.
Whatever the case may be, the fight every single day is against becoming so lacking in any hope that your professional life will get any better, will amount to anything more than just being a random office schlub of no account–one that nobody ever sees as being worthy of anything other than taking orders and carrying out their orders. Surely, there is still the grand possibility of waking up one morning and realizing that you are part of something much grander than an average career.
What are we talking about? Can we get more specific than: you’ll know it when you see it? Are all these human attempts at fame and fortune nothing but striving to keep a flame alive, as misguided as most of them appear to be?
The flame is the burning quest to know the Truth, and to know it with all bullshit pretension removed. You know in your heart of hearts that there is some type of objective reality that is more than what is out there or in here, but you aren’t sure of what it is. You know that most people give up, cash out, and gladly accept flame substitutes for the rest of their lives. Maybe the reason the movie the Secret has its appeal is that you know there must be a Secret of some kind, though you are yet left with skepticism that some kind of Law of Attraction is the ultimate Truth of what the Universe has to offer. After all, what if everyone woke up and started living according to the principles of the Law of Attraction? Would the Universe melt away into nothing at all? Would we all get to be billionaires? Or, would we all be billionaires, except, people like Gates and Buffet get to be worth a hundred billion times more than us, just like they are today?
The problem starts with expecting Truth to align with your own expectations of who you are. Truth is Truth, no matter what. How, who or what you identify with is part of a process you have started, and may or may not have much to do with who you ultimately are. To negate yourself, and say, “I’m enlightened because there really is no ego after all,” is merely another choice you have made to identify yourself with non-identity.
First, you have to clear any and all pieces of yourself which were made throughout this life in an effort to discover and/or form your true identity. You can’t declare, “I’m going to stop trying to force myself to be this or that, and just be,” only to find yourself just being someone or something you had previously tried to force yourself to be.
To declare “I am really and truly a woman” because there are so many culturally-defined stereotypes of who or what a man should be is to simply declare that you favor experience a series of culturally-defined stereotypes of who and what a woman should be. The same mistake is made with any other binary sort of approach to identity, where you declare that the only ways of being are this vs. that and you must be that since you don’t fit in with this. But, there may be binary realities or archetypes around the feminine and masculine, the materialistic and the spiritual, the lover of good vs. the lover of evil–however, when you try to impose poorly-formed culturally identities on top of these binary archetypes, you are simply shoehorning something that can never perfectly fit, and you end up never perfectly happy.
Of course, you could simply declare that you believe reality to be simply whatever you make of it…or, if it is actually more, then let reality show its True Self, and if it won’t, then why bother pursuing it? Why not simply declare who or what you shall be the rest of your life, and force yourself to be that individual no matter what? After all, what feels right may again be simply an older, learned pattern of behavior and no more “you” than some new “you” that you could strive to be.
We all know that you have attempted these things. You have tried to force yourself into a hippie-liberal box and a manly man box and an uber geek box. We know how far this has gotten you. You wake up one morning realizing that if you were going to live in one of these boxes, you should have started your box life a long time ago.