Your Epic Life

I have probably always—or at least frequently— tried too hard and said too much and stayed too long at the party. My struggle has been to dial back my ardor, let things rest, temper my essentially romantic spirit, not make too much of things, quit being so extravagant.

But jeez: life is important and colossal and epic, isn’t it? Mine feels like that, and when I listen to you talk about yours, I could swear yours is, too! Your challenges, visions, conflicts, frustrations, triumphs, desires to live more fully and do right by yourself and those you love—what’s not epic about that?

When you get right down to the nub of things, your life is of fundamental, earth-shattering importance to you, isn’t it?

Isn’t that true even if you’ve dedicated your life to helping others? Heck, if you’re dedicated more to others, you had better consider your own life important. No you, no helping them!

But: are you a tad embarrassed about the importance you place on yourself? Are you sometimes tempted to hang your head, waving away your ego with a don’t-worry-about-me modesty, not wanting anyone, including yourself, to make a fuss? Would a part of you prefer to blend back in the shadows, make a modest-blip life as a modest-blip person, the original Nowhere Man or Nowhere Woman, living and dying quietly, humbly?

 

To hell with that! I want to make a holy fuss, because life is holy and precious and it comes around only once and man does it ever speedondowntheturnpike! But in making the most of it, grabbing it by its brawny shoulders and giving it a good shake, am I making too much of myself, becoming just one more cliched version of Narcissus staring into his pond?

Question to self: If I don’t deem my life as supremely important, who will?

 

 

Perhaps this is why we invent God: because we’re slightly embarrassed to love ourselves wholly and unreservedly, with passion and a sense of infinite importance—but we’re O.K. if we can pin that on God.

God is allowed to cherish (and not unimportantly, forgive) us in a way and with a depth that we may not allow ourselves or each other. Matter of fact, we often vest our life partners with loving us wholly and unreservedly, again, like God. But our partners, not being God, need something from us in return—our love back.

“Unconditional love” in committed, long-term, interpersonal relationship? Can we have a sidebar discussion about that? I’d like to hear you lay out your case.

 

Our partners need to feel as cherished as they make us feel; this is the ongoing dance of relationship, and if it gets out of balance, there can be hell to pay. In short, we expect and need all the epic importance and love we feel for our own lives to be reflected back to us by our partners, and vice versa, in as many dimensions as we can get it. That’s the essence of “I do,” yes?

Interestingly, we also project our need to feel loved back onto God as well. Fundamentalists of every persuasion, Islam in particular, make it an imperative that we praise God without ceasing—as if he’s an intimate partner with an ego to be fed, a body to be tingled and a heart to be gladdened by our relentless adulation and affection.

 

Does God really need that from us? Does she have human and fallible qualities that make her need to hear sweet nothings from those who adore her, be hurt and wounded if that adoration is not forthcoming, and then plot, quite literally, eternal revenge in the form of a fiery hell if we don’t give her the good lovin’ she requires? (Talk about the “nuclear option!”)

Some people think so. They say God created humans in order to be in relationship with them, that such relationship is God’s highest pleasure—as if the rest of his cosmos doesn’t matter as much and isn’t as worthy of his relational ways.

(A slightly tangential thought occurs: If God is really that needy, and we are why she created the world, wouldn’t she have made one that’s at least a little less messed up than the one we’re saddled with? Did we really need fleas and ISIS and Donald Trump and “Religious Restoration Acts” and similar atrocities in order to meet the challenges of our lives and thus grow as people?)

We live in an era of super-media-saturated chest-thumpers calling attention to their exploits, pointing at themselves, Tweeting and Selfieing away, acting for all the world as if they’re God’s gift to that world.

Odious as much of their expression and practice and self-understanding are, maybe they’re onto something, too. In their extreme expression of selfhood, perhaps they are underscoring, albeit unwittingly, that there should not be any Nowhere Men or Nowhere Women, Anywhere, Anytime.

Instead, a life engaged demands that we be Somewhere, Somebody, as much of the time as we can muster the effort and accept the task that God has bequeathed us.

***

The late and loquacious philosopher Alan Watts gets at much of the above in this brief clip:

 

For regular and brief posts of inspiring (or sobering) words from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied by the usual lovely photography as exemplified here, see my public Facebook page  at: http://www.facebook.com/TraversingBlog

Twitter: @AndrewHidas

Deep appreciation again to the photographers:

Rotating banner photos at top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Small jetty photo near top of page by Interior_Photos, Sydney, Australia, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/interiorphotos/

Photo of woman above the sea by Vrangtante Brun, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vrangtantebrun/

Photo of lovers’ sculpture by Victor Porof, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vporof/

3 comments to Your Epic Life

  • Kevin  says:

    Love it Mr Hidas – another delicious post bringing up many of the BIG perennial questions – the issue of being Somebody – our quest to be unique, make a difference, distinguish ourselves, accomplish/acquire etc and yet as we deepen our spiritual grasp of this human incarnation the opposite (as eloquently noted by Watts) quest appears to be equally if not more profound… I recall once hearing Ram Dass (aka Dr. Richard Alpert) frame it as the 1st half of his life was dedicated to creating his “specialness” – college, PhD, books, I am SOMEBODY special and the 2nd half was dedicated to training himself to be nobody special (LSD, yoga, meditation, service, etc) – comfortable being simultaneously a marvelous fully alive individual while at the same time learning to forge/realize the inherent oneness with all creation … I was recently at the memorial celebrating the life of a dear friend’s Mom who died at age 95 – at one level she was “nobody special” (no PhD, books, etc) an “ordinary person”, yet at another level a VERY special person who made enormous contributions to the lives of all she touched – as a mother, grandmother, friend, sales person (women’s cloths and jewelry)… every day living. People from all of these walks of life gave moving testimony to the little things she did that enriched their lives (humor, amazing Italian meals, quick wit, etc etc). The memorial was a living testimony to this rich mobius strip of experience you articulated in your post… maybe embracing these seeming contradictions and reaching some deeper synthesis is what a truly engaged life is, at least in part, all about….

  • Loren Webster  says:

    Your thoughts here remind me a lot of one of my favorite American poets, Walt Whitman, who managed to celebrate himself and the common man. His poetry was considered shocking when it was released because he dared to praise slaves and prostitutes, not to mention nearly everyone else.

    It would have been impossible for me to love Whitman’s Song of Myself if it wasn’t also a celebration of everyone else.

  • Andrew Hidas  says:

    Kevin, I ‘m convinced it’s the literally billions of everyday people doing their billions of everyday, mostly benevolent things, that keeps the world on its axis, whatever the headlines trumpet about the latest atrocity or political tussle or literary spat among all the “somebody” people with PhDs & books & important offices. Your citing of the mom/grandma/salesperson is moving testimony indeed to that notion.

    Loren, I think you’ve boiled down the key distinction between healthy self-celebration and narcissism: the first enlarges and expands ala Whitman in an inclusive, closely held bearhug of others and all humanity, really, while the latter never goes beyond “Look at and love mememememememeeeeee!”

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