Know-Thy-Self. Seems that enlightenment is defined by a person’s ability to simplify their sense of self and meditate upon it. Or that pop culture offers quizzes, personality tests, astrology, self-diagnosis to then self-help. All has contributed to a reinforced obsession with the self – a hunk of marble for us to chisel and polish. Our inner narrative supports this template “I am lazy. I am productive. I am clinical. I am a dreamer. I am anxious. I am relaxed.” Asking us to ignore the context that creates these absolutisms.
I used to love riding my bike. I had a custom handlebar and zoomed all over the city. But for the last fifteen years I have hardly ever gone biking. And I developed some theories – “My sense of fear finally kicked in.” “I couldn’t show up sweaty to my job.” All resting on myself and somehow leaving out the circumstances that should get the largest piece of the blame pie. Allergies. I am allergic to so much I joke that nature is trying to kill me. I know people with even more severe allergies and the limitations those impose on their lives. Allergies are also why I can’t just go outside and enjoy the beautiful day. They are a reason I don’t go on long hikes and absolutely the only reason I don’t lay in the grass to daydream. And yet those get translated as actual traits such as I am not an outdoors person, I am lazy, I like to isolate.
We all have our own versions of this dynamic, in which we forget the larger forces that also chisel and chop at our piece of marble. It is hard and scary to face the overpowering forces that we cannot control. So instead we direct the laser inward to decipher what parts of ourselves we can categorize and then perhaps alter. That sense of responsibility can easily lead to a sense of failing because we ought to have the power to make better decisions and to transform ourselves. This is not to make an excuse to justify stagnation, but I do advocate for a thorough inventory first of what larger laws of physics may be at play.