"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself."
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Out upon your guarded lips! Sew them up with pockthread, do. Else if you would be a man speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. Ah, then, exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure to be misunderstood! Misunderstood! It is a right fool's word. Is it so bad then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood."
I will not be happy until ______. I will not be successful until_______. I will not like the way that I look until _______. They will not accept me until ______.
There are almost unlimited answers to those questions and just as many similar questions. The real question seems to be: I will not be at peace until _____. Happiness is not and can never be a constant state – it is a fleeting and momentary emotion. The same goes for unhappiness or sadness. But peace is something different. Use whatever word you want in place of it – it could go by infinity or the present or “right now.” Whenever we imagine it to be a state in either the past or the future we are only remembering or fantasizing. It’s not real – but imaginary. All that is real is right now!
“Life only avails, not the having lived. Power ceases in the instant of repose; it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state, in the shooting of a gulf, in the darting to an aim. This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes; for that forever degrades the past; turns all riches to poverty, all reputation to a shame; confounds the saint with the rogue; shoves Jesus and Judas equally aside. Why then do we prate of self-reliance? Inasmuch as the soul is present there will be power not confident but agent.”
It seems like I have always (or most of the time) been waiting for something. Not something that is going to make me happy or for something to happen – but for some ‘thing’ to happen. Something that would justify why I wait, the answer to my questions, and the solutions to my problems. Almost as if there is a cure for a disease that I have that I have to find in order to finally be ok.
Sometimes it seems like it’s “Someone” else – love, marriage, relationships – a new dog perhaps? But that’s the exact opposite of “Self-Reliance” it’s impossible to be independent if you’re “With” someone else – anyone else. That’s not to say it’s not a good thing, or at least can’t be a good thing. You can’t be in a constant state of peace or in the moment – or your moment unless you are alone. You could be happy – but like I said happiness is not a continuous state. You can’t control or rely on anyone else to really rely on them. Why? Cause then they can’t be self reliant either. There will always be a compromise and that can be great! It depends on how much it conflicts with yourself and what you want to do. It’s hard to build a house alone if you have a child to take care of. It’s hard to do anything if you have someone else on your mind or have to consider them.
I’ve also had a sense that this “problem” was potentially that I really didn’t have a “problem” and it was just me. I was right – the problem really is me. I have everything I need in this present moment. It’s when I think that there is something lacking or something wrong with me in the present that induces that feeling.
So what I’ve been waiting for has been here all along – it’s the present. It’s the thing between the past and the future – it truly and literally is I.
I just finished reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, Self-Reliance. It could quite possibly be the most significant piece of writing I have ever read. It’s also quite possibly something I already had written – in my mind, over and over again. The language and writer are different the principals are essentially the same. It’ something we all innately know but continue to deny over and over again throughout our lives. It’s also something we are born with – that also fades throughout our lives. There is a point where we stop growing and becoming more and more ourselves but are groomed and molded into society and what we believe other people (past and present and future) want us to become.
Emmerson says that the smartest and most enlightened people are infants. They are truly individuals and their thoughts are their own. If they see or experience something their reactions and thoughts about it are unfiltered and untainted by what they are taught. Those moments are, as he said “As true as the sun.” As they grow older they are weighed down with what others tell and expect them to think. They are told how to see and what is the “right” way to re-act and think. This is when they start to grow away from who they really are and into what they think they should be. To grow together with other people and not away from them – into independence – and, self reliance. Like a dog who looks to his master to ask for permission or guidance on how to act. We look to our parents and society and religion to guide us instead of doing what WE would really do – independently from anything or anyone else.
“Every man discerns between the voluntary acts of his mind and his involuntary perceptions. And to his involuntary perceptions he knows a perfect respect is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. All my willful actions and acquisitions are but roving; — the most trivial reverie, the faintest native emotion, are domestic and divine. Thoughtless people contradict as readily the statement of perceptions as of opinions, or rather much more readily; for they do not distinguish between perception and notion. They fancy that I choose to see this or that thing. But perception is not whimsical, but fatal. If I see a trait, my children will see it after me, and in course of time all mankind, — although it may chance that no one has seen it before me. For my perception of it is as much a fact as the sun.”
I will use writing my book as an example but you could replace it with almost anything. Every time I get an opinion, every time I let anyone influence me in anyway what so ever – is changing it and taking myself out of it. It’s altering it’s essence in the same way that each and every time we make compromises and do things to try and please others – that we fail ourselves.
The problem with thinking in this way is that it seems selfish’ – and it is – but why is that bad? It is more “bad” to modify yourself or edit your own truth – which is the only truth there is. There are parts of my book that I decide to take out or change or even include – for other people. Sometimes even specific people. Each and every time I make a concession or addition I am taking away from myself.
Emmerson says the same thing about how we behave and re-act towards others. Every fake smile or feigned politeness is really just a lie. To lie is worse than to be afraid of being “rude.” When a toddler says “That person is fat.” Or something that is “impolite” – yet TRUE and we tell them: “No, you SHOULDN’T say that.” We are teaching them to lie. If they ask: “How could all the animals fit on one boat?” and they say: “You can’t question that. It’s the truth.” They are being taught to bow down to convention and ancient teachings.
If you don’t graduate, if you don’t get “good enough” grades, if you lose your job or fail at starting your own business – if your book or art doesn’t sell “Enough” if you are not successful in the “Traditional” sense – if you quit something and decide to do something else – then you are a failure. This is all in consideration of what OTHERS think or expect. Your true success comes from within yourself.
“If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always like a cat falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days and feels no shame in not "studying a profession," for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances. Let a stoic arise who shall reveal the resources of man and tell men they are not leaning willows, but can and must detach themselves; that with the exercise of self-trust, new powers shall appear; that a man is the word made flesh, born to shed healing to the nations, that he should be ashamed of our compassion, and that the moment he acts from himself, tossing the laws, the books, idolatries and customs out of the window, — we pity him no more but thank and revere him; — and that teacher shall restore the life of man to splendor and make his name dear to all History.”
Emmerson said the same of education and after finishing it you are only taught what others from the past have taught – and that true genius and “truth” comes from within – originality. Shakespear did not learn from studying Shakespear. Einstein didn’t learn about relativity in a classroom. Originality comes from within a place that exists beyond time and others – it comes from instinct and not from any other person.
“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it. Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is an unique. The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part he could not borrow. If anybody will tell me whom the great man imitates in the original crisis when he performs a great act, I will tell him who else than himself can teach him. Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare. Do that which is assigned thee and thou canst not hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment, there is for me an utterance bare and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all of these. Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousands cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if I can hear what these patriarchs say, surely I can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature. Dwell up there in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart and thou shalt reproduce the Foreworld again.”
So to search for originality or to find out who you really are or to discover peace – you go within yourself. You don’t find yourself by traveling to distance places. If you go to Italy to be inspired by the “Greats” you are lowering yourself to the past and become burdened with their inspiration – their originality and this takes you away from yourself. The influence of others and the expectation that you cannot find it (whatever it is) without something or someone else – is wrong. Emmerson says that it’s when our minds travel from within their own home that they find what they are looking for.
“I have no churlish objection to the circumnavigation of the globe for the purposes of art, of study, and benevolence, so that the man is first domesticated, or does not go abroad with the hope of finding somewhat greater than he knows. He who travels to be amused or to get somewhat which he does not carry, travels away from himself, and grows old even in youth among old things. In Thebes, in Palmyra, his will and mind have become old and dilapidated as they. He carries ruins to ruins.
Traveling is a fool's paradise. We owe to our first journeys the discovery that place is nothing. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern Fact, and sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go”
When we regret the past or more specifically OUR own pasts and mistakes and when we have been wronged and others have wronged us – it takes away from our present. We are not our past(s) and what we did yesterday doesn’t have to be what we do today. We don’t have to be the persons who others have come to expect and want us to be. Everyday is not just a new day it’s a new you – if you let yourself!
“The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this monstrous corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. Trust your emotion. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity, yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hands of the harlot, and flee.”
When I think that I need guidance or that I have not yet FOUND what I want or need – it’s because I am looking anywhere and everywhere BUT the only place it is – within.