An Anti-self-help Self-help Series ~ Recognizing The Reality Of The Circumstance Of Your Life
I fear my point here will be no help, instruction, or encouragement to anyone - it seems like the kind of thing you either simply 'get' or you just don't . . . I'm not at all sure someone can be persuaded to grasp and use the sense of this argument. Also, it's nothing at all new, we're all very familiar with the premise - however, I do think it sensible and useful, so I share it here.
If it's not been told to us directly by our parents when we were young, we've just about all come across this at some point; "Eat your vegetables - you know, there are children starving in China who would love to have those vegetables to eat". I don't imagine that argument worked on many children. As a child you don't really own a realistic sense of poor foreign children being so hungry they would actually like to eat spinach - our inner voice tells us "I don't care how hungry I was, I still would never want to eat vegetables". This argument might not persuade children to eat something they find repulsive, but it should persuade us, as adults, to own a balanced apprehension of the circumstance of our lives.
Some people suffer from a chemical imbalance or psychological disorder, some have come through such horrific experiences in their life (severe deprivation, personal assault, physical injury, war, etc) that they need trained professional assistance to gain a well-balanced view and control in their life. But many feel no direction or purpose, many hurt because they feel no control over their life, many feel life is too hard to find any joy, many are simply unhappy. But you notice that all these conditions share a common feature - they all pertain to how we 'feel' about our life . . . not how are life actually is, but how we feel about it.
Often the problem is not that we really can't own a direction or purpose, the problem is not that we really don't control our life, the problem is not that our life really is too hard, etc - the problem is that we 'feel' all these miserable perceptions. For many people the trouble they are burdened with is not the actual circumstance of their life, it's their own emotional contrivances, it's their own invented outlook of life that provides them hurt rather than joy. Now, the solution to this dilemma, it seems to me, is to introduce a realistic sense of the true circumstance of their life, to have them deliberately consider what their life is compared to what it could be and compared to how they feel about it.
Of course the first difficulty is, not everyone is governed by reason, not everyone is inclined to analyze things, not everyone easily applies logic to ideas, etc. This is not at all to suggest that those who are more emotionally-based than reason-based, or more spontaneous than analytical, or more intuitive than logical, etc, are less smart than others - intelligence is a whole other matter, any individual of either of these types of people can be more or less intelligent than the other, this is not a matter of being smart enough, it's about bringing reality and our perception of reality into accord.
For me, owning a realistic view of what my life could have been, what other's lives have been, makes it easy for me to appreciate my life and find joy daily in the real circumstance of my life. Look at the photo to the right . . . that is me in relatively good health, surrounded by an incredible library I've built over the years, and fiddling with a beautiful resonator guitar one of my sons got for me last Christmas - I have every reason to be a happy man, and I am.
But, look close at my arm, look at the numerous reddish scars that dot my forearm . . . it wasn't that long ago that, rather than sitting comfortably in my home enjoying my books and guitar, that I was sitting in bars playing this little game; two boneheads place their forearms on the bar tight against each other and then a lit cigarette is dropped in the crease between them - whoever pulls away first loses. I would win dope money from Hell's Angels doing this. I am not living as I used to live and that is something to, daily, be thankful for . . . and living a life you are thankful for, and knowing it, and remembering it, provides joy rather than hurt.
I am a happy man, yet, the actual circumstances of my life, my story so to speak, could easily be read as a pretty miserable tale; my father abandoned us when I was just a few weeks old, we moved all the time when I was growing up so I was always the 'new kid' in school, we had very little and occasionally we would be without electricity, I virtually dropped out of school by the 7th grade and stopped going altogether by the 10th grade, I spent several years doing little else but LSD & cocaine, a motorcycle accident disabled me from doing the only kind of work I could really get paid for (construction), and at nearly 60 years old we still rent and live paycheck to paycheck. But, as I said, I am a happy man - partly because I own a realistic perception of what my life is and what it could be instead.
You undoubtedly have real and serious problems, relationships can certainly cause pain, things are very likely not just as you would prefer them to be - but, compared to what? You are an individual soul living-out your life on this planet - just by virtue of being a soul who exists in 21st century N.America you are living a life in the top .0001 percent of ease and safety and pleasantness of any souls who have ever lived! There have been countless people who have been born into slavery, hard labor and death in their teens was their whole life experience, they never had the luxury to dream of goals and directions for their life . . . there was no sense of disappointment or unhappiness, only survival until death.
If you would not want to trade places (and believe me, you wouldn't) with an Assyrian in the 5th century BC, a French peasant in the 16th century, an African in the 1800s, a Jew in Nazi Germany, etc, etc, then how can that not prompt you to be thankful for the life you do have . . ? . . and thankfulness produces joy. Look at the first photo, my dog Leonard - what does that picture have to do with anything? In that photo I see a big screen TV, an acoustic and an electric guitar, a computer, and the best dog ever - there's a lot I would change in my life if I could wave a magic wand, but c'mon, how can I dare be unhappy?
And that's part of what keeps me balanced and contented and happy - it seems to me unreasonable, unseemly, downright ugly for me to be anything but happy . . . I have a mechanism in my kitchen that I can go to, turn a knob, and water pours right out of a pipe. And if I want hot water, all I have to do is turn the knob the other way and, I'm not kidding, hot water just pours out! That is a remarkable thing - but, only if you recognize the blessing of having such a thing, only if you realize that you are one of a very, very minute number of souls on this planet who have ever had such a thing to enjoy. Nearly every time I go to my freezer and get ice for a cool drink I marvel that I, among all the souls who have lived, have such thing - ice, instantly, whenever I want it!
We all have real and miserable things we have to deal with . . . that dog in the photo died some time ago but I still 'feel' him sitting beside me, my wife's father died last year, I had a little sister who died when I was 5, my son and his wife and one of my daughters were in a car accident just last night, we've got no money at all for Christmas this year, etc, etc - but I still don't want to be building pyramids until I die at 18 . . . so, how can I stand among a multitude of souls and grieve over my circumstances? Too often it's not our factual circumstances that cause us hurt, it's how we perceive our circumstances, it's how we 'feel' about our life not our actual life that hinders joy.
An Anti-self-help Self-help Series ~
- Regular, Normal Christianity
I believe many folks are turned off, not by authentic Christianity, but by the too often ugly, discordant, and silly religion some have concocted and falsely labeled "Christianity"
- The Christian & Private Study - A 'How To' Guide
You don't have to be a scholar to study Scripture effectively and you don't have to be intimidated because of unfamiliar terms and references - there are essential things you can know and aids to use that will make your own private study fruitful.
1. "The Seasons"
2. "Why Do We Write?"
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