April 14, 2010 § 2 Comments
There are so many fields of endeavour in the world we live in today in which we can take part.
Most of us have a clear path in this society: find a career, calling or vocation that we’re passionate about and strive to be as successful as possible in that chosen field. Usually the most obvious material reward for this success is money but there are other benefits: public recognition/adoration/adulation (also known as fame) and a sense of being ‘established’ in our community with all the perks that come with that level of status. Beyond all that of course is being able to do a job we enjoy at a high level with other dynamic, vibrant people which brings
its own satisfaction.
So we strive. We seek to excel, to impress others, to have them offer us positions of power in our careers where we can make choices and in effect do whatever we like- work with our favourite people, have prominent positions on ‘important’ projects that excite us and so on.
All of these things are, of course, pleasurable to us. Who doesn’t want to be universally recognised as being eminent in their field? Who doesn’t want to have so much money that they never have to be burdened by financial concerns and instead can see the world and live in great comfort and luxury? Who doesn’t want to be involved in the most vital, exciting affairs of the day in their chosen careers?
This daily striving, dreaming, thinking and taking action is a positive force. Human beings, like any other organism, have an inbuilt purpose. We may have moved away from strictly primal drives and reasons for being but make no mistake, those very drives are at the heart of why we go out into the world to stake our claim and in the absence of those goals, many of us would feel purposeless and sink into morosity. These activities give our lives meaning.
And isn’t that the issue at the heart of all of our searching and movement? To find meaning?
I have had a busy week in my own career life. I have spent a full week offering my work to others, seeking to be taken on board their projects. During that very busy week, I was on a high. My work was of good quality and well received. I found myself walking out of meetings grateful for the time I had put in and with a huge sense of satisfaction and fulfillment arising from the fact that I had been true to myself, put the time in and managed to contribute something worthy to the discussion.
However, as soon as the work was done, that joy began to be eroded in the absence of any response. The people that had viewed my work had taken another direction. They had not called to congratulate me, to affirm me, to offer me a position and as the time passed my eyes continued to stare even harder down that long railroad track, peering for a train to emerge in the distance, on its way to take me to golden fields.
It didn’t work. That niggling feeling of despair and meaninglessness grew. I began to wonder why I didn’t feel good anymore and why I wasn’t working. All I wanted to do was stare at the television.
How had I gone from being so creative, proactive, positive and driven to such a state of inertness? This wasn’t an issue of not getting the job. It was beyond that.
Yesterday I said enough. It was time to first examine the problem and then change my perspective and behaviour in order to rediscover the spirit I had felt in the previous week.
The answer I found was not new. It is the same truth I have never been able to dodge, as much as my ego has tried.
All of the things I mentioned at the beginning of this post today are indeed wonderful. Accomplishment and achievement in our world is important, because we live in that world with others and expansion is necessary and part of what does give our life meaning.
But deeper than that is the daily practice of our lives that reinvigorates the spirit. That does not have to be a massive, monastic undertaking. It simply means that we have things in our own lives, independent of the forces of the outside world, that we return to which give us meaning. It is tending our garden, whatever that garden may be: our relationships with our family and friends; a meditative practice, either mental or physical; creative acts that satisfy us in quiet ways, such as taking care of our home or maybe personal creative projects which may end up bringing us broader outside success but are not reliant on others’ involvement in order to exist and to grow. These projects, of which we are the creator, are the very things we to which we can return our attention and concentration when we sense that we are falling into the cycle of ‘waiting’.
Ultimately, we discover that all the commercial success and recognition we could ever have will never replace the meaning of a daily devotion to something that has meaning to us, regardless of how others may perceive us. The paradox is, of course, that when we have fully connected to our own sense of spirit and meaning in our lives on a daily basis, the very success we so desperately seek does arrive; the form of that success, however, is unknowable in a given moment. We just have to trust that its shape and quality is absolutely appropriate for us at that point of our journey.
Back to the drawing board. Pass me the crayons. Who doesn’t like drawing?