Image from Megapixl.com
A lot of internet authors out there have this tendency to end up sounding more instructional than inspiring. They can tell you the best ways to go about living your best life, but do they really light the fire under your butt to go and do it?
Sometimes, sure. It depends on what you're trying to be inspired to do, I suppose.
When I’m looking for inspiration, it’s normally an inspiration to write. And when I need the inspiration to write, I read authors that know how to twist and tangle language into pretzel knots and surprise my critical sensibilities. I don’t need to read something that looks like it was handed down from the corporate office.
Where’s your spunk?
If you’re going to continually push your skills, you’re going to come across moments when decisions must be made about whether you stay the path and get everything perfect once again, or you dislocate your shoulder reaching for that extra bit of spice. It may hurt for a bit, but that discomfort will heal and you will be ever the more experienced — and zesty — for it.
I’d like to see more nuance in people, I think we all would. In themselves as well as in their work. What about your writing that would make it stand out in lineup? If there isn’t a clear way for someone else to impersonate you, to act in just such a way that other people would know who they are imitating, how are you anything other than an unsculpted lump of clay? Your words become as empty as the blank page on which they were written. Your personality fizzles into the air and turns you forever invisible.
Isn’t that the fear we avoid? Being unseen? Unacknowledged and forgotten? To fade into the static of time? How else can we better confront this fear than to take what we know about the world, about our art, about ourselves, and amplify our individual contributions to it all? To defy other’s expectations as well as our own.
Especially our own.
I’d like to take this moment to acknowledge a drunk man I met a bar last night who seemed determined to convince me that I need to “own my authority”.
He had somehow gotten the impression after only just introducing ourselves that I needed to “recognize how far I had come in my life” and that I “wasn’t fully owning the authority I have,” whatever kind that happened to be. I don’t know what kind of spirits possessed the man that night, ingestible as well as other-worldly, but his words may have been the exact thing for which I had been silently crying out.
His first-impression assessment of me felt dead-on and resonated with me deeply. Whether he thought he knew what he was talking about or not, and regardless of how I felt about the guy personally, I chose to take it to heart. It was something I needed to hear and who better to tell me than a drunk and clearly closeted gay man on his 20th wedding anniversary? Well, I guess if I was accurate in my assessment of this man’s hidden orientation, then maybe it’s not the most sound advice in the world to take seriously the words of a man who can’t even be honest with himself about who he is. That’s if I was right, of course. Although I totally think I nailed it with that one. I have witnesses.
Either way, even if this man was hiding behind his own face, it doesn’t take away from the statements made about the authority I wasn’t owning.
Obviously he hadn’t meant ‘authority’ in a practical and external way, like the kind of authority given to you by the state or your employer or position at work, but I can only assume that he meant authority over my own life; the inner authority about how I choose to conduct myself and use the power given to me by myself in making decisions about my life.
It’s an enlightening idea when you start to realize that no one has the ability to change your life into anything other than what it currently is but you.
People may affect your life in different ways and throw obstacles at you, sometimes even accidentally, but even in those moments when it seems like fate has it out for you and keeps grinding you down, it doesn’t take away from your one true authority, the power to choose how we react to the changing world around us, as unforgiving and cruel as it can sometimes be.
We all tend to have this habit of thinking in such a way that it seems like there are two voices in our heads at all times. One telling us what we want to do, and the other telling us what we need to do. Our Id versus our Superego. Primal versus divine.
A lot of times I imagine by own inner controls being manned in the same way that Pixar’s movie, Inside Out, presented. My outer life experience projected on a big screen while the little manifestations of emotions sit behind a control board and have to operate my life in a way that keeps me alive and happy. Or, at least try to.
The difference for my own interpretation of it is that it doesn’t feel like a myriad of different colored emotion-characters each controlling a specific emotion, it feels like there are only two.
You can call them what you want, Good and Bad, Light and Dark, Fear and Love, etc. Their names don’t matter. What does is that we are able to recognize from which one each action we take derives from.
I tend to imagine that, as opposed to Pixar’s Emotions, each with their own controls, there is one set of controls in our mind, and there are two modes of being each fighting for them. This fight is ongoing, and it can sometimes seem like we’re at merely at the mercy of whoever wins the fight for the Captain’s chair.
Our first problem is that we all want to relate to the “good” character inside us. We think that is “us”, it’s who “we” are. Our eternal struggle is of warding off the “bad” version who is always lingering around the corner trying to yell and scratch and distract us letting the light be at the controls.
I’d say it’s true to an extent. If we take all of the parts about ourselves we don’t like, as well as the temptations and criticisms of the outside world, and throw them all into one pile, and let that pile coagulate and become anthropomorphized into a little evil being, then we have a more visual representation of our oppressor.
The thing is, along with imagining the sum of our shortcomings as a little frantic demon-child running around our brains trying to do us wrong, we also tend to see that demon, not as a child, but a monstrosity we have no chance of overtaking.
We, but frail little creatures of light, sit at the controls looking over our shoulder, waiting for the bad man to come back and kick us off.
When temptations and bad habits get the best of us or our outer and inner critics yell too loud, it’s easy to imagine that what’s happening in your mind is that this demon is pulling us out of our own seat. We’re allowing this behemoth to strike such fear into us that we seize up while they grab our shoulders and toss us into the corner of our mind. From there we sit and watch as they twist knobs and crank levers and cause us all kinds of grief.
We watch all day as this surly and bitter representation of ourselves makes us start the day in a bad mood, get angry at little things beyond our control, snap at coworkers, get jealous over people better off in whatever way. We brood in the little corner of our heads into which we were thrown, witnessing the erosion of our once healthy psyche.
The demon laughs as they push a button which causes us to fixate on a regretful past, another button another angry outburst. And our better half sits and stares. It can only watch in petrified horror as the creature of dismantling habits sits and controls the day away.
It’s not until it becomes exhausted from a long day of self-hatred does it stretch and retire to its quarters, allowing us, but for a few stolen moments, to sneak back into the seat and enjoy something simple without the guilt of feeling we wasted time or had our attention fixated on unimportant things about the past or future. We can simply be present and enjoy our moment.
Until it wakes up.
Where I wanted to take this so I could ultimately get back to the idea of owning our authority, is that we don’t realize this demon has no actual power. We sit in fear of confronting this thing sitting at the controls of our life when the true power lies inside our intention. That is no behemoth. It’s a shape-shifting chameleon, an amoeba of impersonation.
It only reflects you how you think you are. It becomes bigger and stronger the more attention you give it until it towers over you like a tribute to everything wrong about your existence. This is fake news.
Understanding our perception of who is really in control gives us the power to shrink this devilish dickhead down to a manageable size until we realize it’s nothing but an angsty teenager, throwing an emotional fit at the demands of the adult world, down more and now an obnoxious child, stamping their feet at the continual loss of comfort, now a spoiled toddler, falling into habits it knows to be self-affirming and safe, then the loudest screeching baby you’ve ever heard.
Just like an animal fearing for its life is at its most lethal, so to will your fears be the most powerful when you think you’ve done away with them for good, but down and down we go until it’s nothing more than a fly on the wall, occasionally buzzing its way into earshot in a pitiful attempt to get you to pay attention to it.
The hard part in all of this is that most of us aren’t dealing with the fly just yet. For those of us who have chosen to take a more active approach to control our lives, we’re usually somewhere in the middle. We may not have to deal with overwhelming full-sized Fear preventing us from doing absolutely anything, but we still have to manage to ignore the annoying devil child as it flies around the room telling us how dumb we are and how this or that person hates us or how we’re never going to be as good as we want to be.
And there we are, sitting at the controls, staring through the screen of our eyes, head in our hands, trying to shrink the demon. If we’ve become really adept at ignoring it, we can construct a cage for it. We keep it locked at all times, and even though we can hear the banging and scratching and muffled shrieking every time we run into a situation in life when the creature in the cage would normally run rampant, we can leave it where it is and let the noise die down on its own without fear of it escaping for now.
This cage is an important step. It indicates that you’ve come to a point where you have at least a semblance of control over yourself. You can keep your shortcomings at bay while you man the wheel and allow the best parts of yourself to grow and flourish, but the thing you keep in that cage, that manifestation of everything about yourself which you want to avoid being, it can’t just be locked up and forgotten about. It can be ignored for a time, but if there’s anything inside that cage that needs to be addressed, it will only pressurize the box.
Working your way through good habits will eventually slough off the smaller things you didn’t like, maybe you’re more confident now, maybe you don’t rush to judge people as you used to when you were younger, maybe you’re not as tempted with momentary pleasures as you were in a more rebellious time, but when we know there are bigger things about our lives which we haven’t confronted. Like parts of our personality deriving from some childhood trauma, or not understanding the root cause of our particular physical or sexual desires, we let the cage swell with steam until the potential of that swamp thing escaping and taking over is very real.
There are plenty of ways in which we grow over time and become better people in general, and each time we solidify one of these positive things into our being, its inverse, the opposing side of our progress, falls off the demon-like dead skin. It can no longer use these things against you because they are no longer insecurities. It’s the big ones that keep the demon alive. It’s the big ones that are the hardest to deal with and take the longest to overcome.
I wonder if the Buddha is just someone who willed the demon from existence. I said that the thing could be shrunk into nothing but an occasional buzz, but you’d have to think you would be able to do away with it altogether, right? To shrink it into an atom, a quark, a neutrino, and then…
The Promised Land? Enlightenment? Nirvana? God’s gaping eyeball?
Did Buddha really evict the dark roommate of the mind? And now walks peacefully around his brain without ever care to share the space? Has to be.
If anyone were ever to truly own their authority, it would have been Buddha. The master of all things inward is the god of a universe. Not all universes, but his own, to be sure.
So, when we speak of owning our authority, we speak of things inherent to the system. One such thing being the power within us to shrink the squealer. To silence the howling heathen inside us and banish its influence from our minds.
The thing is, it knows you’re the one with the real power, but the weapon it can use, and it’s only one at that, is its hyper-detailed knowledge of your history of missteps and insecurities. It even knows that standing up to it is just another thing to fear and uses the fear of that itself to keep you from speaking up against it in a meaningful way.
We have to be just as clever and two steps ahead at all times. If it doesn’t see us coming, and we’ve taken the proper precautions, we can attack when it’s not looking. We get the jump on that slimy, devil-horned pile of insecure shit and it can’t help but surrender to the pure immeasurable power we exude when we truly believe in ourselves
When we turn the lights on this shadowy creature of the soul, we see it for what it truly is, a manifestation without substance, without weight. It is ethereal and fleeting. It takes the shapes of the things we fear most and paralyzes us into a corner. Our authority comes from standing up, walking tall over to the hysterical beast slamming away at the controls, staring it into submission, and saying, “Move”.