Why Beauty is Important, and so is Pain
Never before have wee been sent so many messages to remain complacent, that everything should be “equal”, that we should remain “politically correct”, and copacetic in all circumstances.
This is the second installment of my corresponding responses with Carnivore Aurelius.
As is pointed out in the original article, nihilism accomplished all of the above. Haven’t we heard this narrative before? Do what you’re told, get good grades, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have 2.5 children, buy a bigger house, work to make someone else happy for 40 years, and then retire to live your golden years for the last (maybe) 20 years after your body has been destroyed by “going plant-based” and those 40 years of sitting at a desk.
I wonder, do indigenous populations (in their native cultures, not trying to assimilate into a Western society) experience a “midlife crisis?” From what I’ve read about the Hadza, probably not; so much so that it’s almost insulting to my profession as a psychotherapist. Why is such a trade even needed in the first place?
The vast majority of my professional career has been with children and adolescents, particularly young children and I’ve often marveled at their straight-forward and existential insight. When a 5 year-old tells you that they “just want to watch the sunset and be everything that ever lived”; you need to listen to that and take some time to yourself to let it sink in.
Isn’t this what spiritual practices of all varieties were invented for, to explain the unexplainable and quell these destructive curiosities? Regardless, even if we’re all just waiting for the sun to consume our planet and be annihilated; what do we do with the present moment? Ironically, this is the only time we have to take action against such anxieties.
For a brief time I also worked in a hospice — which, by the way I highly recommend everyone (make whatever COVID precautions are necessary to) volunteer at. Do you think anyone on their deathbed wishes they had taken a second mortgage? What about invested in an IRA instead of a 401K? Maybe they wished they had bought a Mercedes instead of a Ford? In every case, absolutely not.
We’ve been so intoxicated by a curated life through media, “pop” culture, and other superegoic forces that we’ve come to believe that happiness can be achieved by sitting on our butts 24–7, watching porn, Netflix, and ordering “food” though Door Dash. What may be worse is that even though we may “know” there’s something better out there, we are acting as if there isn’t. The stories we tell ourselves often go underrated.
It’s high time to demand more of ourselves. Of course, we have absolutely no control over or responsibility for other people’s actions or the “random” bad s**** that happens in our lives. At the same time, happiness is absolutely something that we can curate for ourselves rather than being reliant on that masterfully orchestrated dopamine distributor you call a “smart” phone.
Choosing to create happiness, or see the beauty around you absolutely does not make the bad or painful things less bad. They will always be just as they are and nothing will ever make them not have happened. Yet again, what next? Do we placidly accept this and our inability to act as we’re told to? Is God, The Universe, Karma, or some other cosmic force “punishing” you? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, you still have a choice to make; what next?
Pain is important in our lives because it tells us that something is awry. This is true in a variety of contexts: physically with our bodies, psychologically with our minds, spiritually in our heart and our relationships, etc… I don’t believe that “we attract the energy we put out” in the world. Rather, I think it’s far more likely that when we intentionally choose what we focus on we fulfill our own prophecy and see what we’re looking for — a perpetual psychosocial confirmation bias.
A couple things I want to reiterate and wrap up on are that these “placebo” or “fake it ’til you make it” approaches aren’t invalid. If a placebo causes you to behave, feel, or believe differently, because you “believe” it’s working; it’s an effective intervention. Period. At the same time “faking it” until “you make it” only works if you actually want to “make it.” There isn’t any lying around this one. Your heart-of-hearts will always belie your insecurities. Our egos and superegos are easily manipulated, but ultimately and always the truth comes out — one way or another.