Knowledge of Self (Happy Festivus)

A year has gone by. So much has changed. So little has changed. The drowning man cannot see the shoreline, even when it is just ahead. All he can do is fight the water that is all around. It is all he can see and touch, so it is his reality. That was me. Looking back, I have to be thankful for all of the struggles I have gone through in my life prior to this last year, for they molded me into a survivor. The near death experiences brought on by my own foolishness, and the tribulations that have been thrust upon me when I was only looking to do better, these situations tempered my soul into something hard enough to withstand that pressure that breaks the heart, and resilient enough to burn brighter when the darkness of the world closes in.

I know that I have weakness inside of me that I have yet to eradicate. This knowledge gives me power, for a fool is one that overlooks his weakness in the belief that change is unnecessary. Change can be good or bad, but whether we want to believe it or not, personal development, which is a form of change, is inevitable. The development of who we are is largely shaped by the situations we go through. Our reactions to situations form a pattern which in the end, defines who we are as people.

I have been guilty of simply reacting to situations and letting them mold me, while failing to recognize even the most negative of situations as opportunities for personal growth. You see, we can develop good characteristics, as well as bad characteristics. Habit, which is formed from the routine we have developed within our environment, turns into character over time. Instead of letting life just use me as a piece of clay, it is up to me to be mindful of each situation, and to rise above whatever challenges come my way. I cannot control what will happen in my life to any great extent. I am, to some extent, at the mercy of chance. The only thing that I can do on a daily basis is monitor and control my reactions to situations, both internally and externally. Of course, much of my natural response is subject to my particular biochemistry, but at the same time, the buck stops with me. Maturing into an adult does not been physically growing up. It means developing the emotional intelligence and controls to manage yourself within your environment in the most effective manner. It seems people in general are so quick to make excuses for themselves, no matter how ridiculous or heinous their actions. Apparently nothing is ever anyone’s fault and everyone has good intentions. So why do we live in such a hate-filled world? Most grown-ups are children who were raised by children, and who treat life as one big competition to see who gets to go down the slide first. The though of succumbing to that order disgusts me, and so I challenge myself to do better. If I succeed, I want to give back and show my gratitude to everyone who helped me out, because no one does it on their own. And when I fuck up, I want to take it on my shoulders and become a better man as a result. We live in a world where those who have gained status and recognition look down on anyone who hasn’t done the same, as if there was really any great difference between two human beings who walk around on two feet, remove lids with their thumbs, communicate with complex language, and poop indoors (mostly). Meanwhile those who have less constantly look for a handout and try to game the system in any way possible, using the callousness of the upper class as their go-to excuse for why they have had failures in life. The world will leave its stamp on you. Only you can choose to leave your own mark on the world, and unfortunately it is easier to do this in a negative way, then in a positive way.

All this leads me to think about how finite life is. I see the image of death, great and dark as the expanse of space, rising forever up above us. Its great weight is supported only by us, the living breathing beings. Like Atlas we live our days beneath the constant downward pressure of forever’s nothingness. Slowly, inexorably the weight will crush us down. We are all subject to us, and we will go on living as long as we can bear its weight. Eventually though, everyone must sink beneath this burden. Some do not make it to old age, to be ground slowly into remnants. Sometimes a slip occurs, footing is lost, and with a mere stumble, all of that terrible weight comes crashing down, obliterating in an instance the life that once held it aloft. We have little choice in this matter, it is a game of chance. No, we must all take what is given to us, shoulder our portion no matter how we protest. Most will live their lives, slowly growing weaker and degenerating until their day comes. I see this, and instead of resigning myself to the damage that life will do, I want to try to push back. When my time comes, I know I will go, whether in a flash or slowly going cold like embers in the fireplace. But along the way, I will strive to exert my own force back on that pressure which never ends. I want my burden to make me stronger, not weaker. I will not always seek the easy route, for that is the road which leads more quickly to stagnation, weakness and death. No one becomes fat and soft in a day. Babies are soft and fat, but we as humans are supposed to grow out of that state of being, mentally as well as physically. I haven’t mastered yet the art of using the boundaries of my mortality as a tool, and maybe I never will.

I do know though, that the circles of hell I have already survived have shown me that I am stronger than I ever realized. I choose to grow, to make my weakness into my strength, to leave my own impression on the dye which stamps me. I do not need the recognition or the power over others. What I seek is the inner strength that comes with true knowledge of self.

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