Life has a way of beating you down while lifting you up. It’s often a morbid combination of how we perceive the value we wish to add to the lives of others, versus how they perceive that value themselves. As much as we may strive to separate the two, it is impossible to do so. There is nothing that we do that is not influenced by how we want to fit into the world around us, even if just our perception of it.
I’ve been told that my writing has lost its authenticity over the years because the brutal honesty of expression that once defined my thoughts that bled into my posts has been replaced by a subdued diplomacy that makes it more tolerable for others. Without realising it, that appears to have shaped my interactions in recent years as well. Being more tolerable. I’m often reminded of Plato’s words when he said, “No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth.”
Truth is most often defined by how we view the world before it is defined by how the world views us. Whether the sky is black or blue is not a matter of truth. That’s simply a matter of fact relative to a construct of reality that is shared by all of us. How we experience that blue or black sky is what defines our truth compared to the truth of another. If I avoid the cold isolation of darkness and only come out during the day, the blue sky will always be welcoming and comforting to me. But if I loathe the light and prefer the shroud of darkness that hides the brutal nature of man, the blue sky will taunt me while the black sky will provide a place of repose. In both instances, my truth is defined by what I need from the world, and not by what the world needs from me.
What is needed from me is a guessing game that has lasted my entire life without any sign of abatement anytime soon. At times I have chosen to actively contribute towards the lives of others, while at other times I’ve withdrawn from the fatigue of not having my contribution appreciated. At such times I despise our innate nature that demands significance so that we don’t feel inconsequential to those around us. To be consequential, or to make a difference determines the difference between a good night’s rest and insomnia. When we believe our contribution is appreciated we sleep like babies. Let our contribution be ridiculed or dismissed as futile, and sleep escapes us in favour of late night contemplations of how we arrived at such an unappreciated point in our lives.
Karl Marx got it right when he said that last words are for fools that haven’t said enough. Foolishness sets in when we persist in trying to convince others of our truth when they’ve convinced themselves that we do not have something of value to offer them. Foolishness also sets in when we convince ourselves that our truth is relevant when we give others credit for a level of competence, gratitude, or integrity that they don’t have. That’s when we find ourselves passionately trying to convince others of the merits of our perspectives when they’ve already decided that we’re fools to begin with.
Perhaps authenticity is lost when I project my experiences of the world as being a collective experience of humanity. The assumption that I am like others is often made to avoid the arrogance of assuming that I am different. Being different is only pleasant if that difference is celebrated by others. The moment it is celebrated by others, it implies that they aspire to the same levels of definition in their contribution to this world, which means that I’m not different to begin with. I’m just more successful at achieving that which others strive to achieve themselves. More importantly, my symptom of being the same is more reflective of my need for inclusion than it is of my need to recognise any uniqueness of offering.
Last words are only needed when we’re not willing to let go of the perception that others may have of us. For this reason, the one that withdraws from a debate first is more likely to have recognised the limitations of their skills of persuasion or the limitations of their counterpart’s ability to grasp the point that is being made. Either way, it’s an acceptance of what is, rather than a persistent desire of what should be. When we stubbornly believe in achieving value that we know will benefit others, in spite of them not being willing recipients of that value, we define the basis for our struggle in life long before those around us reject our efforts to influence the quality of their lives.
Reaching breaking point is a combination of investing more in the alleviation of the burdens of others, than what you invested in providing for your own needs first. Living selflessly dictates that you should strive to alleviate the burdens of others before you strive to acquire comforts for yourself. Walking that thin line reminds me of moments from my childhood when I walked on the railings surrounding the park outside our school, balancing precariously as I wobbled from side to side while trying not to fall off, until losing my foothold unexpectedly and landing with my legs apart and my jewels firmly smashed onto the railing itself. For all its glory and trinkets, life is pretty much as simple as walking on that railing. The thrill of striding confidently without slip entices us to keep getting back on the railing after it smashed our jewels for the umpteenth time. Until eventually, the memory of the pain of having smashed jewels between my legs replaces any desire to experience the glory of stepping on the rail to begin with.
The edge of being broken is finding yourself in a space where you do not wish to participate in the morbidity of human engagement any longer, but are compelled by that same nature to trudge along the unwilling path because not doing so will result in the same demise that engagement threatens to offer. The edge of being broken is defined by being an unwilling participant of a system that defines your quality of life with or without your active participation in such a system. Respite is offered in the form of acceptance of your limitation to influence that system, while subduing your desire to prevail over it.
What we define as our quality of life is often defined by the level of luxury that we’ve grown accustomed to in life. When we embrace the responsibility of providing the same level of comfort to those around us as our fulfilment of their rights over us, we find the edge of being broken in the realisation that the sacrifices that we may eventually be willing to make for our own levels of comfort will result in an imposition of hardship or discomfort on the same group that we are committed to serve. Their perception of our truth will rarely be aligned with ours, and so the strain of the system bears down when we aim to recalibrate our contribution towards the system while feeling compelled to maintain a level of contribution that appears to be unsustainable.
We define the system by subscribing to the perspectives that we have of it. We hold on to those perspectives because they also define how we wish to be perceived by others. Ultimately we break ourselves, but in our broken state, we retract from the system that we established and choose to blame it for our demise, when in fact our demise was caused by our unwillingness to let go of the perspectives that chained us. Conviction is the bitch that nips at our heals when we’re trying to walk away from a life that appears to be serving others more than it appears to be serving us.
[This thought process made a lot more sense in my head. Probably just another fatality of my contaminated perspectives.]