Lessons from a Discussion Group
(Information for this essay comes from the following sources: the website “Brainyquote.com”; the books “The Road Less Traveled” by Dr. M. Scott Peck; “Love” and “Personhood by Dr. Leo F. Buscaglia; “When All You Ever Wanted Wasn’t Enough by Rabbi Harold Kushner; “The Gift of Giving” by Michael Lynberg)
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Their lives were empty.
I was involved, awhile back, in a discussion group where everyone was searching for meaning in their lives. They had gone to yoga, all sorts of meditation classes. They tried everything under the sun.
They were looking of peace, a sense of purpose. And they were not finding it.
I think these feelings are rampant. Everyone has them, at one time or another. We cannot get it together. Peace of mind and happiness are elusive creatures like butterflies that won’t be caught.
But if we are to have a happy life, we need to adopt a new belief system, a new sense of values.
Difficult to accept but, eventually, rewarding.
LIFE IS DIFFICULT
There are things we need to learn about this thing called life itself.
No matter what stage we are in life, life is difficult. With its uphill challenges, struggles. Strange as it may sound but we become complacent, even bored if life were not difficult.
The road of life is always under construction, Always changing. What we are today, we are not tomorrow.
And there is no peace in becoming.
We think if we just get “there” – a better job, a better relationship, etc., all our problems will be resolved. But this is an illusion.
We might get “there”, making our lives better. But this is only temporary. Changes bring new challenges, new obstacles. When we solve one problem, new problems develop.
Striving for the perfect life is a myth. It can never be found. Life is in the journey.
Nobody gets out of life scar free. Few lives are to be admired. Few really have it together. And nobody ever gets all he wants. If he did, he sold his soul getting it. We all have our crosses to bear.
And we can not remain stagnant. We are either progressing, making something out of our lives or regressing, slowly dying away.
Oscar Wilde quote sums it up nicely: “There are only 2 tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants and the other is getting it.”
WE CAN NOT LOVE UNTIL WE ACCEPT OURSELVES
We have to learn to accept ourselves. We must be comfortable in our own skins. Most of us are not.
We must realize that most people do not have it together. Canadian religion author Tom Harpur claims that we are all weak and the fact by being human we are all vulnerable. And he suggests that the way in which we conquer our weaknesses is to confront them directly. This is the first step in spiritual and moral growth.
We sometimes feel that we don’t measure up to God’s standards. But religion should liberate us. It’s man’s distortion of faith that has hurt us.
In Judaism, a person is created in the image of God. Therefore, man is not sinful in nature but good. And religion does not demand of us to be perfect. It allows us to be human. In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 7:15 – 17, we read that we should be neither too good nor wicked.
And according to the Talmud, a book of wisdom which is part of the Jewish faith states: “At Judgment Day, every man will have to give account for everything which he might have enjoyed and did not.” The problem arises when these good things are taken to extreme, becoming addictive. But that is our fault, not God’s.
Even in the Christian faith, we are accepted. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8: 38 – 39)
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF UNHAPPINESS
The pursuit of happiness is a myth. It is also the reason why there is so much unhappiness. To find happiness, we must find a noble cause, a purpose, alleviate someone else’s suffering. Something beyond oneself. Happiness is the by product.
We will not be happy, never be satisfied unless we step out of our “comfort zone”, pursue our calling, our life’s mission, utilize our talents and not follow the crowd.
“Seek Ye the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” states the Bible. (Matt 6:33)
And the parable of the talents is those who use their talents, more will be given; those that don’t use them will be deprived of them of what he has. (Matt 25: 14 – 30)
And according to an article written in the Toronto Star by religion writer Tom Harpur, there is said to be a `Lost Saying` of Jesus that occurs in the Gospel of Thomas found with other Gnostic writings in December 1945: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. “
True happiness, according to Helen Keller “is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
We must be a non conformist in a conformist world. Standing up and taking the initiative. Wrote Shakespeare:“ This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as night the day. Thou canst not be false to any man.“
And hiding our talents or not using them is a sin against God/nature. We wouldn’t walk away from someone who is hurting. We do the same when we don’t exercise our talents. They are meant to help humanity.
But what if we cannot find our purpose, our mission?
Mother Theresa asked her confessor how she would know that she was on the right path for her vocation. He said that “she would know by her happiness. If you are happy with the idea that God calls you to serve Him and your neighbour, this will be proof of your vocation. One has to follow it, even though one enters into a way full of difficulties.”
Often finding our path is by trial and error. “How can we learn to know ourselves” asked Goethe. “Never by reflection but by action.”
Other religions advocate to follow your heart.
I have learned years ago that no matter what path one follows, it will be a struggle. Therefore, it is important we go where our heart is at.
Yes, one could face opposition or ridicule. But I have to believe people who confront us are more threatened because, at least, we are trying and may succeed. And we face opposition and ridicule no matter what path we follow.
Seneca wrote “à happy life is one which is in accordance with its own nature. “ And Erich Fromm said “there is no meaning to life except the meaning that man gives his life by unfolding of his powers. “
There is something in us that demands we be unique, demands that we imprint our own style, our gifts and talents and that we try to reach our natural calling.
As Maslow wrote: `if a person ignores his higher needs, then he will never be fulfilled or at peace with himself. If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be unhappy for the rest of your life.“
Though there are no guarantees to success.
By following the crowd, we loose our identity. Our uniqueness. That “something” that makes us special. In the words of Mencius: “to act without clear understanding, to form habits without investigation, to follow a path all one’s life without knowing where it really leads, such is the behaviour of the multitude.”
WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LOVE
We have a duty to love.
We can bare grudges. Hold onto hostilities. Seek vengeance. And we may be doing more physical harm to ourselves than to those that have hurt us.
And at a time like this, we should ask ourselves what harm have we done to others. Silence and apathy are great weapons.
Dr. Leo Buscaglia writes: “man has no choice but to love. For when he does not, he finds his alternatives lie in loneliness, destruction and despair.”