Searching for the truth is hard work. Particularly in this era, we are surrounded by conflicting theories. They are available to us at the click of a mouse, or the selection of an app. It is very difficult to ascertain what is true and what is propaganda or delusion (this includes the self-delusion of the provider of the information). Speaking of delusion and propaganda, we have our own biases to deal with as well. Delusion is all around us, but we can still seek truth, no?
We want to believe in something…something magical, or mystical even. When someone tells us “it will all be OK,” we want to believe them. For this reason, we may accept what they have to say. If someone tells us that, “all we have to do is visualize our future and it will become reality,” then we certainly want to believe that as well. The success of self-appointed and celebrity-endorsed gurus is an indication that we all want to believe something, especially if it is something positive; especially if it means that we can have more control over our destiny. I think most people choose this route…to believe. It feels better to “feel” like we are in control, even if it is only in our mind. Furthermore, we want the biggest payback with the least amount of work, toil and suffering. I think we are just wired that way.
The problem is that most of these guru-issued assurances are lies. They are pretty, they are comforting, they are delicious (like a dessert), but they are lies nonetheless.
Eventually, the sugar-high wears off and we are stuck with more hunger, and we feel lousy as well. Throughout my life, I have read a wide assortment of New-Age gurus, religious apologetics, spiritual advisors, and self-anointed prophets (maybe I should have spelled it “profits”). The most successful of these seem to be saying things like this
- Your future is yours.
- Trust in the Lord, and it will turn out all right.
- All of us have a destiny, when you are aware of yours, you can’t fail.
- Just believe and it will happen.
This advice may help us cope, but I don’t think it changes the reality around us: You win some, you lose some and sometimes you just keep losing.
This is not to say that having a positive mental attitude is not helpful. Certainly if we envision something, like a goal for instance, this can help us obtain it. It can direct our energies toward accomplishing our own betterment. But that is only the beginning, and it’s a long haul indeed. What the gurus won’t tell you is the following:
- Accomplishment requires hard work. Certainly our desires and passions drive us to work harder, but desire and wishing will not get us to where we want to be.
- Your success is not guaranteed. People fail all the time, over and over again. Some will die in poverty, depressed, alone. Some will be ill their entire lives, some will lose their life too soon, possibly the moment they think they have figured it all out. This is not their fault, it is just fate.
- You will suffer, as long as you are on Earth. It is all around us. You will face disease, death, and destruction. You cannot wish this away.
To know these truths is to be armed and ready. Ready for what we will be challenged with, and ready for when things don’t go our way. The simple fact of the matter is that a large majority of our lives are out of our control, and much of life will pummel us. This does not mean that we shouldn’t have goals, or try to make things better. Knowing these truths, while maybe brutal at first, should motivate us to do our part to serve, to excel, to care. In my view, this is what calls us to try, to accomplish, to wrestle with existence.
But you can’t be a wrestling champ if you don’t train.