I am currently engaged in putting together a book that I call So You Think Your Life Was Wasted. I have already written my part; the remainder — the bulk of the book — consists of conversations I had in the years 2006 and 2007 with various people contacted internally. I came this morning to this one, which I post for the sake of the encouragement it may offer you.
[Saturday, January 14, 2006]
7 a.m. Always, it seems, I wake up with a slight sense of depression. Can’t blame that on having to go to work! Can’t blame it on having to live with someone else that I’m out of harmony with! Probably could blame it on the usual apprehension that is the background to my life – but that doesn’t solve or even explain anything.
Yesterday, entering into the computer notes on health and healing, I came to that stretch where I recorded being sick. The only time I’ve ever done so here, probably. It does have a cumulative impact, just reading it! It makes me aware that I wake up today, for instance, not sick and not having been sick. And it puts light on my whole life.
Well, I’d like a companionable chat. Which of my friends shall I talk with today?
You call me Joseph. [The Egyptian.]
Joseph, I often awaken with a sense of depression. Why is that? I remember as a boy that every day was a new day. If a school day perhaps it wasn’t anything I was particularly looking forward to, but a day was a day, almost a new gift to be opened. Sometimes I have that attitude still, and sometimes I face each day with – well, not with dread, and not even with guilt at wasting the previous day (although that is closer to it, I guess) but – well, with some depression. It takes a slight effort to begin. What is that about, and, naturally, what do you suggest?
It would be easier for your people if people in general did not prettify and posture and pretend. As you were somewhat relieved to see that Thomas Merton’s life was hard, so others would be relieved to see the problems people have. Your morning depression is not unique to you! Any more than excessive sleeping or lack of enough sleep is unique to those who suffer them. Even what seem to be “individual” problems – there is that word again – common to a given thread or combination of threads. Thus, the more honest anyone is, the less isolated feel all those who come into contact with the expression of being.
You want to be a saint. Is not this ambition at the heart of the comparisons you draw? To put it more neutrally, you want to encourage certain developments and discourage others; you wish to “set your scale” entirely at virtue and nowhere concede to nature’s opposite which is not vice but lack of that virtue. (Side-trail: In short, lack of thrift needn’t be extravagance or even waste but perhaps mere carelessness. Thrift is a virtue; having your attention elsewhere is not necessarily a vice. A big subject, perhaps for some other time – unless you particularly want to follow this.)
If you let the sense of the unaccomplished weigh down your mornings, you poison your days and do no thing to make more likely a day of better achievement. This, regarding achievement in kind, in deed. It holds even for thought, in so far as thought is a creation rather than a free gift. And if you allow yourself to be crushed by the weight of your knowledge of your shortcomings in your own eyes, how does this encourage you to make greater efforts?
Judge not! Lest ye be judged. This applies not merely to judging others – though that is its initial application – but to judging oneself, for – as you say regarding others, and truly – “you never have the data.” You do not have that data regarding yourself any more than regarding others.
Startling idea? Well, consider. Others you judge from appearance plus your conjectures as to their motives, their inner being, their inner composition. Yourself you judge from your observation of your inner being, and conjecture as to effects and other appearance. You are not equipped to adequately judge your own being any better than you are to judge others – and you are not equipped to judge them, at all! Of course in practice a lot of rough estimating goes on, and needs to go on – but calculating forces and effects is not the same thing as weighing souls. No one is capable of doing that while operating blinded on your side of the veil.
Leave judgments to Anubis, or the recording angel, or St. Peter, or however you conceive the function. In actual fact you will find no harsher judges than each of you on yourself. And that judgment is totally misplaced. It is, shall we say, a misguided attempt to steer an airplane by approving or disapproving of its motion in any particular direction. It is not a matter of approving but of deciding and deciding and deciding. If you don’t like where you are going, move the stick! Don’t wail over your sins (we are not here implying that you do) and don’t despair that you are not better (and here we are not implying, but observing, that this you do).
Every new day is a gift. Yes, and every night. Do you think the gift was given by mistake to the wrong recipient? Do you think you are wasting something that another could make better use of? It isn’t a question of scarcity, nor of comparison. This is your day, for your use; the whole universe in effect is held in existence so that you may choose.
Since you cannot help but choose, even if only by default – why not choose gladly and thankfully? There is no one who is not an integral part of the scheme to things – and no one would could not be seen (with eyes sufficiently discerning) as specially blessed. The beggar in the street is blessed. The sick are blessed – how many times have you experienced the truth of this! The crippled, the dammed, the imprisoned – even those imprisoned in their own hells of hatred and rage and ferocious self-seeking – are blessed. Those who cannot understand this should not strain themselves attempting to do so. Those who already know it may shrug and agree. It is said for those to whom it will be a revolution, an new day.