Sunday, April 22, 2012

16628--Allow Yourself Permission

Some people are more geared to believe it than others. Others live in a world of denial and suffering and fear. It isn’t just a few of you either. The number?’s quite large, staggering really. I’m talking about the number of you who have allowed yourselves to be convinced of your own basic lack of self-worth.

Whether you believe you’re not enough on a physical, spiritual, emotional or intellectual level and have accepted that the power to change the circumstances of your dissatisfaction is out of your hands, you’ve bought into the lie. If you’re only believing it because someone else has decided you’re not enough and can’t do anything about it, then you’ve not only bought it, but paid extra for it.

Like other lies, this one only has as much power as you give it. That’s your choice to make, but I’ll tell you every time you ask me that it’s a bad one. You should be channeling your energies into worthwhile pursuits. Allow yourself permission to enjoy your life. That power is yours, too. Allow yourself permission to believe that you are either sufficient as you are or that the choice and power to better yourself reside within you. Grant yourself that gift of happiness.

If you find yourself clinging to your old ways, unable to move forward to the happiness of freedom as you labor beneath the weight of accumulated lies, then you need to find a way to convince yourself that you can. You need a challenge. Not just any challenge, but something that reaches deep inside you and stirs the feelings that dwell there.

Our modern society has smoothed a lot of rough spots, spoon-feeding us so many conveniences that finding real challenges that help show us who we are has become hard for a lot of people. Some run marathons, ultramarathons or triathlons. Some climb mountains, some ski off them and some do fight clubs (but I'm not supposed to talk about that). These sorts of challenges, though, are as manufactured as a "reality" TV show.

Real life-defining challenges are harder to come by for those seeking to push envelopes. The boundaries of the frontier have been pushed further out. The number of new things one can invent dwindles and more of those inventions are being created to remove men from battlefields, mankind's classic forge for hardening men. The age of finding adventure by daring to walk where none have before has passed. Most of us will never know that experience.   It won't truly be available again until interstellar travel reaches the level of consumer accessibility that automobiles enjoy.

In our civilized time, even conquest has become a social taboo. Being an accomplished warrior was held as defining and glorious for most of man's history. War has fallen out of vogue in favor of legislatively restrained clashes in the realm of business and industry. Even with the relatively new venue for high-stakes struggle, older wisdom's remain valued. Sun Tzu still provides matchless strategic guidance. Machiavelli continues to yield insight in obtaining and retaining power through manipulation. Genghis Khan united half the known world beneath his rule and offered probably the most elegantly visceral words on bringing joy to one's life: crush your enemies.

Here's the thing: happiness comes from achieving goals.  Oh, sure, getting to relax and play and do as you like sounds great, but all that paradise becomes boring after a while if it doesn't come with some challenges.  It feels good to check things off the To-Do List, but it's much more interesting and feels like you've accomplished something when there's a bit of a struggle involved.  In your heart, you want your rewards to feel they've been earned.  Look at your favorite fiction.  However you want to classify it, as drama or action, but it gets interesting when the characters have to struggle to reach their goals.

"Crush your enemies."

Say it.  It's not politically correct, but say it out loud and tell me it doesn't feel good deep down inside. If you find yourself without classic enemies (should your challenges be in the realm of business or sports, for example), call it opposition instead. Identify whatever it is that stands between you and your goals, whatever is out to tear you down, then crush it. Give yourself permission to seize and enjoy victory and happiness. Believe you're worthy of the experience.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

16613--You Don't Give Someone a Gun Unless You Know Which Way They're Going to Point It

I used to revel in the exploits of superheroes.  There were neverending thrills to be found in champions of all things good and right fighting to stem the tide of relentless evil.  The willingness of individuals to push themselves beyond the limits of the average, struggling to hew order from chaos in realms where weaker beings dared not, simply felt right.

Time marched on like it's supposed to and...the audience changed.  We learned things that made us ask more questions.  "Why?" started coming up with increasing frequency and we sought answers in places that made us look for other parties to hold responsible than whoever happened to be drawing our attention.  We wanted to know not only who was behind them, but why our superheroes weren't doing something about them.

This is to say that heroic figures as powerful as some of those presented in popular adventure fiction should also be running about like Fox Mulder, shining lights in dark corners where a lot of folks don't want those lights shining.  If these icons were going to truly uphold their ideals, Superman and Wonder Woman would be fighting corrupted governments to protect the oppressed masses, Batman would be more wanted than Rorschach for having exposed the secrets of the Kennedy assassinations and a litany of other shadowy operations far more disturbing than a midnight mugging (though fighting street crime obviously holds a special interest for him, considering...) and Thor would have been labeled an eco-terrorist years ago for his hard stance against pollution.  A wise Professor Xavier would use his resources to lead his civil rights activists discreetly lest they draw armed opposition.  These and other powerhouses would be targets of The Man.

The Smoking Man (X-Files).jpg
These sorts of scenarios don't seem to be much focused upon in our fiction.  In fact, the Comics Code Authority placed a specific ban upon any creative avenues that would cast authority figures in a bad light.  Modern heroic tales go further in that direction from time-to-time since they set the CCA aside, but the protagonists still work largely within the confines of the established order and political powers don't spend their time figuring out how to track them down and kill them in their sleep.  In that regard, The Man (in his many guises) probably appreciates the distraction afforded by supervillains, natural disasters, alien invasions and random street crime.    Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?  The Shadow Government says it does.  Still, there remains the issue of our heroes not being who they appear to be.

The mystery men and women we call superheroes are much more than their colorful public personas, just as our parents had lives of their own before they started raising children.  Many of our iconic heroes are truly nothing like the champions they pretend at being.  Behind their costumes, they are royalty (Thor, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Black Panther, Sub-Mariner), they are the wealthy upper-class (Batman, Zorro, Green Hornet, Iron Man, The Wasp), they are doctors and scientists and government agents.  Some are even mild-mannered members of the respected news media (Superman, Captain Marvel).  If we want to push the issue of how much the government really knows and covers up, a few of those capes belong to aliens and alien-human hybrids.  Can you fight The Man when you are The Man?

Because of the very magnitude of our biggest heroes, they couldn't honestly be allowed to build careers on being rebels against governmental administrations because as loose cannons they couldn't be trusted.  They'd quickly be painted as selfish individualists possessed of dangerous abilities that needed to be put in check ASAP.  If anything, it looks as though we've been conditioned to celebrate extra-legal champions of the common man while being slipped a simultaneous message to blindly trust the wealthiest and most prestigious among society's power structure as figures of authority.  Conversely, it means we can't trust them to stand against the most pervasive forces in our lives.  Does that count as sneaky when it's been done right in front of us for decades?  Does conditioning us from childhood count as sneaky?

Even when they operate outside the strict letter of law, these heroes remain figures of order and justice, poster children of The Conspiracy that makes itself invisible through immensity.  As long as they're to secretly remain integral parts of traditional, institutional society and not be branded enemies of the state, bucking the system and rebelling against The Man will have to remain practices of the common man.  The common man created society and has to bear the responsibility of policing it while our heroes use their superior attributes to grab headlines for transitory accomplishments of lesser significance.  I still enjoy their adventures in the right context, but I know they can't save us from ourselves or the monsters we've unleashed.  Only we have the power to do that.