No matter what they say, most people don’t want to change.
Or at least, if they do, they don’t want to put-in the work. Instead, they thirst for a quick potion to magically solve their dilemma. All in vain. For proof, 11 billion dollars are wasted every year by Americans on such ‘remedies,’ yet a growing number remain stuck in stagnant swamps of despair.
Askhole (n): a person who constantly asks for advice, but always does the opposite of what you tell them.
‘I just wanna be happy!’ they clamor, but pressed to define what they mean, they draw blanks, like dazzled deers.
‘I wanna be loved!’ they cry like sniveling infants, without once taking the time to define love.
‘I need more friends in my life!’ they lament, like so many lonely Americans, but asked what they mean by friendship, they’ll give you a flummoxed stare.
‘I hate my job and wish I could find my passion,’ they bemoan, but lack the courage to break free to seek it.
Twenty-four hundred years ago, Greek philosopher Socrates — infamously known as the ‘Gadfly of Athens’ — was condemned to death for urging his fellow citizens to think for themselves and arrive at clear and useful definitions — for happiness, love, friendship, work, beauty…
How the hell will you ever find anything if you don’t know what you’re looking for?
But that’s too hard… it’s just too much work, right? And who has the time? So people rather have someone else tell them what these things mean and how to find them, preferably by writing them a 3-step prescription for bliss.
I hate to tell you, but it doesn’t work that way. You must establish your own values, then stack them, from most important to least.
Once guided by your deepest values, the first step on the road to real transformation is to define the kind of life you want to live (in vivid detail), and then examine the chains which shackle you to the life you loathe.
The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. — Samuel Johnson
Fear not, they can be broken, but it requires sacrifice, a word which seems as abhorrent to Americans as a steaming turd.
‘Eww… you mean I have to give up something?… Yuck! Why can’t I just have it all?’
I see your point. The path to bliss is certainly not for the covetous and lily-livered. As French novelist Romain Rolland said: “He who has freed himself from the bonds and gags of an old rotting world; from its masters and gods, must show himself to be worthy of his new liberty, capable of bearing it; otherwise, let him remain in chains!
In his ‘Song of the Open Road,’ American poet Walt Whitman extended his hand and invited people to journey with him to a place of greater joy and a more meaningful, spirited life. Yet, to whomever wished to accept his invitation, he issued this warning:
He traveling with me needs the best blood, thews, endurance.
Come not here if you have spent the best of yourself.
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes.
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn and achieve.
Whoever you are, come forth!
You must not stay sleeping and dallying there in the house, though you built it.
Out of the dark confinement! Out from behind the screen!
Inside of dresses and ornaments, inside of those wash’d and trimm’d faces, behold a secret loathing and despair.
Smartly attired, countenance smiling, form upright, death under their breast-bones, hell under their skull-bones,
Keeping fair with the customs, speaking not a syllable of [themselves], speaking of anything else but never of [themselves].
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe — I have tried it.
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn’d!
Comrade, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Whitman could’ve well have written this in 21st century America for the “secret loathing and despair” he saw in people more than a century ago remains alive and well in the unhappiest place on Earth.
A prison break is no easy matter; you must first know all about your prison. — Henry Miller
The key to your prison turns with a paradigm shift.
You will be happy once you realize happiness doesn’t exist.
You will find the love of your life, but not until you have properly defined what love means, and only once you begin to lead the life you love.
You will be embraced by true friends once you accept that most of the ones you have don’t measure up to the true definition of friendship.
Passionate and meaningful work will forever elude you as long as your values and priorities are ass-backward, and money remains your holy grail and banner of success.
You will never ‘find yourself’ until you stop trying to be someone else, and even then, you never will. For we are each a river with a particular abiding character but show radically different aspects of our Self according to the territory through which we travel. “Today’s identity,” says writer Sam Keen, “is tomorrow’s prison,” and only a self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living, added Virginia Woolf.
Finally, you’ll never travel the Open Road unless you welcome sacrifice and see the path for what it is — a sacred pilgrimage reserved for the stout of heart and lavish of soul. This will require you to welcome and embrace uncertainty, give up hope and expectations, and vanquish man’s biggest fears: The Fear of Want and The Fear of Death.
Whoever you are, reading this now, I can attest to one thing Whitman was wrong about. The open road is not “safe” as he claimed. It is anything but safe and secure.
But if “safety” and “security” are the watchwords by which you want to live your life, by all means, go ahead, don’t change a thing, and forever remain wallowing in the stagnant pool with all the rest. Just don’t ask me for advice.