Who never gets discouraged? Helpful, in such times, to have friends…. But this entry is about a lot more than how to deal with discouragement!
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Speak, friends; I will listen.
Learn to manage your depression of spirit. Rather than being overmastered by it, channel it, use it, and all will go well. So you get to feeling grim. No big deal, as you say – just express it. Your pain is real and of long standing. So is that of innumerable others. You could help some who could come to the knowledge that a path exists, and could perhaps come to it only by your words.
I guess that what I know is walking the pathless path, the Path Without a Clue, so to speak.
You know more than that. You know a life of never fitting in, of being as outcast as Robinson Crusoe though in the midst of what they call civilization. You know a life lived in books as refuge. You know a little of the life of reporter, programmer, editor, even writer. You have been husband, father, lover – and always alone. You have had a warm tribal environment and a chilly world beyond. A rich imaginative life – in a re-creating way, rather than an imagining-from-scratch way. And you have become an initiate of sorts, into a secret society of sorts. You have broad reading and shallow learning. You even played politics. But notice that what is strongest in you, what always meets response, is connection to the inner world. Even in politics you couldn’t imagine people as fundamentally different, even while it was obvious that they were. Your life has been interior, not exterior, and you hardly realize that. people do live exterior lives. Literally, you can’t imagine it.
No, not really. I can’t. There is no handle for me to grasp it by.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006
I awoke late and tired and discouraged, fired up the new machine, and when I looked at email, the first in order of sending was from [my brother] Paul saying “Do you know how wonderful what you’re doing is?” And there were other cheering messages, from Rich [Spees] and from Ann Martin. It helps.
All right, friends.
You see that sending out the material was right. Right for you, right for unpredictably many who eventually read it. Internet = immortality, you know – old versions of your Gateway writing are still out there.
Is Paul entirely right, that discouragement is built of “falsely conceived expectations of ourselves”?
You heard it just then, you see: It isn’t like he is immune to discouragement. No one is, it is a human characteristic, and perhaps we shall say something about it.
Life, you know, is about getting back up again after you have fallen or been pushed (same thing, really, when you look at it clearly enough). Those who “succeed” are those who refuse to stay down. They get up one time more than that fall, someone said. (Do you know how much stuff like that you have crammed in here? We smile.)
But when you look at life in the way we have been encouraging you to do, what do you find? All choices are made, hence any choice is fine, in and of itself. You’re not going to ruin the world or even your complete life – a choice is merely a choice among versions of your life to stroll down. Sort of.
Outside of time and space, where we can see the pattern of the whole worm rather than only one transverse segment at a time – how should we be discouraged? In a way (only “in a way”) we can’t even take it or any mood very seriously. In another way, though, we take them as seriously as, but no more seriously than, any other part of your life.
Every present moment in your life is exaggerated.
Let’s say that again for emphasis. From a perspective (non-perspective? Four-D perspective?) outside time-space, you live every present moment as if it were your life rather than just one moment in your life. Necessarily, you exaggerate – or perhaps we could say it more neutrally – necessarily each moment comes to you in exaggerated size, importance, impact.
Nothing wrong with this, and we certainly are not saying “don’t live in the moment.” You should! You must! You do!
Recognize that any given moment is unlike all the rest of your life in that its immediacy is total, its intensity is therefore exaggerated (sometimes to the point of leaving you feeling trapped), and – all of these by definition – it is fleeting.
All your past, all your future – including the past when you began this sentence and the future when you end it, not very long, but both quite clearly not “now” (which just moved again) – every moment of your life but one share (seemingly) the characteristics of non-immediacy, non-intensity (we’ll talk about this; it is language getting in the way), and non-fleeting-ness.
When you can see it that way – the immediate fleeting moment that you spend your life riding like a surfer on a wave, and all other moments on the other hand – doesn’t that look a little different from the old “past present future” model?
So, as we say, your immediate moment always by definition is out of scale, because it seems to you to be realer than the rest of your life – and this, regardless whether you are living in daydreams of past or future, for you are always daydreaming, by definition, now!
Well, if you accept that the present moment always and necessarily appears different to you than any other moment of your life – and we cannot see that the point can be argued – then what of discouragement?
Do you know what discouragement is, really, in our perspective? It is a sort of failure of belief, almost a failure of nerve, certainly a failure of vision, usually caused by an interruption in the connection Upstairs, as you say.
This is not meant as a chastisement. Not for you, not for anyone who reads this. Chastisements ought to be reserved for those who willingly and consciously choose to do what they know they should not do. Therefore, this does not apply. Indeed – not to stray too far from the subject in hand, hopefully – chastisement is rarely effective, hence rarely warranted. It assumes more self-knowledge than usually exists, either in the chastisee or chastiser! Enough lest we side-track ourselves.
Failure of belief.
Failure of nerve, nearly.
Failure of vision.
Failure (interference, anyway) of connection.
What do we mean by this?
Failure of belief means, at other times you know or at least strongly believe that, as you used to say “they’re not going to lead me out into the wilderness and leave me there.” That implies a belief that your life can be trusted.
Failure of nerve means that you are taking counsel of your fears.
Failure of vision means you are wavering in your aims, fearing that they cannot be realized.
Failure of connection merely means you are accidentally or willfully “going it alone” without using the greater resources available to you.
None of these are moral failings, more like compass deviation.
And for those of us who are prone to discouragement?
Stop discouraging yourself. Really, just stop. That is, set into motion an automatic counter-force. When you find yourself getting discouraged (and you will, everyone does, it cannot well be avoided) have an automatic response, so that it comes into play without your having to make a particular effort to engage it – for when you are discouraged, almost any effort will seem greater than it is, certainly greater than it is worth.
So for instance, if you get discouraged you might have an image that you can recall. Not an exhortation, not self-chiding. An image. An attractive image, a symbol, representing something where your heart is. It could be the aerial photo of the Island of Iona, for you. It could be a mental picture of Henry Thoreau at Walden. It could be any image of those you love, best combined somehow with an image symbolizing your continuing aspirations. The purpose of the symbol, of the image, is to reconnect you emotionally – that is all you need or ever will need. It reconnects you.
If discouragement is a failure of nerve, vision, belief, connection – no logic, no thought, no will-power can correct this. But a heart-connected image can. Once the thread is back in your consciousness, then it is a decision for you – “will I choose to continue to be depressed, or will I get back on the invisible path I sleepwalk so well?” As a choice, this represents your freedom, you see, for you might and perhaps sometimes will choose to wallow in discouragement for a while – but you can if you wish emerge without doing so, merely because the image lets you reconnect without having to summon energies for a special effort.
A magical tool, if you will. And this (not to beat the subject to death) is another example of things the Christians knew that could profitably be more widely disseminated in your day among the unchurched.
Hmm. Were you drawing on Bertram’s life, then, in making that suggestion?
Not specifically Bertram. Anyone who led an aspiring life has had to face moments of discouragement, and of course similar tools and techniques evolve regardless of differences of times and cultures. For one thing, there is the connection with us. We are the spiders in the center of the web of days, so to speak!
How refreshing to see you finally use an unflattering analogy for yourselves instead of us!
Not a bad analogy, actually, except for the overtone of prey. But spiders are endlessly patient, waiting for something to hit the web; they are endlessly industrious (remember the story about Robert the Bruce), persevering forever; they are at the center of a web spun from themselves. And perhaps we don’t think of them as ugly or frightful.
Well, worms and spiders are not natural enemies, that’s good. Thanks for all this – not only for the sake of the material that I will put out on the web (if you’ll pardon the expression) but for what sounds to be a very useful tool. And – as always – for the connection itself, the breath of life to me.