Our investments in the various areas of our lives can underpin our whole sense of being; define who we suppose ourselves to be.
Investment in the Status Quo
As a member of a social collective, your perspective on the world around you has been strongly influenced by your wholesale acceptance of a prescribed set of social values.
These values stand between you and realization of your true self. Though adopted from the wider social collective, they’ve become your own by default. Major – I mean major chunks of your life are defined according to someone else's ideas about life.
Although some cultures have been more active in the recognition of individuality, there remains an assumption that every single human being is inherently a product of his or her culture, and therefore religion, language, heritage, caste, class and so on.
I assert most emphatically that this is not the case. We each of us have the ability to choose how we relate to the values we grew up with, but often we don’t recognize this fact, let alone actually make the choices.
Before we go on, let's get one thing clear: I'm not for a moment suggesting that all of these choices are going to be easy to make. It takes courage to make decisions based on your own independent assessments.
Take a look at yourself and reflect a moment on whether you believe yourself to be a courageous person. However you respond, I'm fairly sure that you're more courageous than you suppose. In fact, the less courageous you consider yourself to be, the more likely it is that you have guts to spare.
A person who's experienced a lot of fear in their lives is usually the sort of person who regularly puts themselves into situations that require courage (though they might not be aware they’re doing this), and has coped one way or another, no matter how they judge their ability to handle those situations. Memories of their fear will often seem to be evidence of a lack of courage because of the overriding, lasting emotional impressions.
Investment in Relationships
We often define ourselves through our relationships with family and friends. The expectation of consistency with regard to who you are, in relation to them, is a major factor that keeps you in a holding pattern.
Investment in Career
From toddlerhood through schooling through professional life, your achievements can seem to define who you are. This is an illusion. You are not what you've done. Whether other people define you in these terms or not is immaterial.
Investment in Goals
Central to the idealized philosophy of the goal, is the concept of result. We’re encouraged to have an inflexible idea of what our goals are, from which any deviation is defined as ‘giving up’, or ‘accepting less’. The problem here is, that intermeshed with the individual’s goal, are the values of the social collective. The motivations for achieving the goal are often based on external values, such as the social ideals of approval, status, success. For the person who’s made a conscious decision to be their natural self, preserving and realizing such an externally-defined goal is not possible. Neither is it desirable.
The sense of lack owing to suppression of the self is behind the need to ‘make something of yourself’; to ‘leave your mark’. I’m not suggesting the desire to do these things should likewise be suppressed. I do, however, suggest that passions, dreams, hopes are better pursued whole-heartedly; all the stops pulled out.
When you engage fully in being the best you that you can imagine, you start in earnest on your journey to selfhood. The shape and quality of the goals will inevitably change as you gradually drop the need to achieve in social terms, and focus on the purely individual, genuinely nourishing aspect.
Investment in Property
The things you’ve worked for, built perhaps with your own hands, are nice to have if they’re not standing in the way of your being yourself. The attainment and maintenance of property can bring pressure into your life if the financial wherewithal comes at a cost elsewhere, or if any other required input depletes you.
Investment in Religion
Your sense of the spiritual in your life might have a strong foundation in an organized religion. If so, this is somebody else's idea of spirituality, graciously mapped out in great detail with the best of intentions, but nonetheless a second-hand, ready-made structure of convenience.
You can take snippets of truth from anywhere and form your own sense of spirituality; there's no need to take on someone else's ideas wholesale, whether they’re purported to come directly from 'God' or not - for you must find your own idea of God. Parts of the Bible, the Talmud, the Quran, writings of an eastern mystic, something you read in someone's blog on the internet… Any and all might make wonderful sense to you. Great! You don't need an established order to give legitimacy to your own honest sense of the spiritual.
Investment in Victimhood
When we bear a grievance, and place blame for it elsewhere, we’re defining ourselves as victims. Within the logic of a social collective, we’re all victims. Victims of power-hungry politicians; victims of rising unemployment, house and food prices; victims of unsustainable practices that damage the environment.
Now we have a very important choice to make, that deeply affects our ability to think for ourselves: We can choose to passionately maintain victimhood, or we can take a sideways step, and remove ourselves from the equation. Only you can decide whether it’s relevant for you to maintain your relationship to those aspects of society that cause you difficulties. If you feel passionately about the issues, and have a deep urge to act in relation to them, then this is the path you must take for the time being.
But if relating to these same issues leaves you feeling encumbered and weary, it’s time to drop your investment in the victimhood. In any case, it’s unlikely you’ll be much help to anyone - including yourself - in your weary state. Untethered, you can still be aware of the problems in society, have compassion for the suffering they cause, and still remain interested; able to act if that seems appropriate - but to do so from your own integrity.
Foolish sayings like ‘you’re either part of the problem, or part of the solution’ are symptomatic of a crude social expectation that we must take sides. If you are not passionately motivated to act one way or another, you owe it to yourself to stand back and look at the whole picture.