204. The Folly of Our Complacency

I found this old piece that I wrote last year after hearing about another old music idol of mine dying. I felt like taking it up again, for no particular reason. Maybe except one: The feeling I get from re-reading it reminds me that I have to do better.

I want that feeling more.

Here is the piece …

I’m a ‘believer’ – in the ‘hereafter’ (of some sorts anyway).

Difficult to say what and where and how, but I’m a believer in Something. And this belief …  comforts.

Even if there is a very definite and painful distance now between me and those who went before me. A distance, which for all intents and purposes equals the permanent dissolution of … everything. Of our relation. Of their being in the world.

But I have comfort in my belief. So bear with me on that one.

This belief, this comfort, doesn’t make me feel ‘safe’ from death, though- far from it.

For I feel that that is the KEY reason I am here, on Earth, now – is to do something that has purpose.

To give something to someone that only I can give.

Not just friends and family but something … more.

Another whimsical feeling, like the comforting belief. But no less real. No less strong.

But what if it all ends in a car crash BEFORE I have given what I came here to give? BEFORE I have found my purpose?

*

Some say that we can’t really die in car crashes or for any other reason, until we have served our purpose here. (Read Neale Donald Walsch, for example.)

It is reassuring, but hard to believe – you have to admit. It is hard to grasp. It is not real, or useful, unless you can somehow make it so. Either through faith or maybe shelling out for a medium who can help you talk to your deceased loved one. Or some such.

But what if it was … invention? Imagination?

*

Others say, of course, that there is no purpose and nothing when we die.

We have worked with these people in my company for awhile and fired most of them. Not much fun, are they?

So I’ll leave the talk about them for now: Chest-banging colleagues some of them were indeed! Proud of their atheist marksmanship …

*

Then there are the religionists – they don’t give quarters either. They lock you in immediately:

They either say

1) Exactly why you are here – whether it be to blow yourself up or to serve The God in some capacity

or

2) They say you can never know …

Yes, where I live – in Scandinavia – it has become esp. fashionable in the last few centuries to say nothing at all, even if you are a religionist. What you do say is something like this: ‘God’s ways are mysterious.’

So: You can’t now anything about God or what He wants from Your Life. Or when He wants it to end. Or why. Period.

Not much satisfaction there … either.

*

My aunt died in 2016 – of a massive heart attack.

Presumably she went ‘over’ as quickly as Colin did. If she went anywhere …

Not all people do that, of course  – die quickly and relatively painlessly.

My grandmother-in-law suffered for years before she finally died in a hospital bed in May last year, but at least she had had a full life – 90 years to make mistakes and do better.

And there can be all sorts of reasons for why one gets 5 years, another 50 and another 5 minutes here on Earth – IF you believe in reasons for why things happen the way they do.

Like … ‘karma’, perhaps.

Like I said: IF you believe in that sort of thing.

Normally we say it is either coincidence or people’s own fault, if you believe we can take responsibility for at least part of our going out of this world. Like, if we have smoked our entire life.

It seems a plausible premise that we can indeed take that kind of responsibility. That we can control that part of our fate.

Others, like 5-year-olds dying of bone cancer, may have chosen to be here for very special reasons – even though at least one famous British actor would huff and puff at that suggestion and call me a lunatic for venturing it!

I guess it comes down to belief, again, then – as much as anything.

But not belief in the afterlife, or Karma, or reasons. None of those.

I guess the problem comes down to our belief that we don’t need to change.

*

Death reveals to us the folly of our complacency.

When we are confronted with some death or other, especially a death of someone close to us, we are stripped naked – even if only for a short while.

We are reminded of something unpleasant (not only our own physical mortality). We don’t like to be reminded. Hence we try to forget as often as possible, as quickly as possible and … ‘move on’.

I’m as guilty of that as the next man!

What we want to forget ASAP is:

That we think it is ‘all right’ to live on forever in a certain way — or at least for a very, Very, VERY long time.

That it is all right not to change.

That it is all right to always be the same.

It is not all right.

Not because there’s some silly metaphysical rule saying it is not all right!

But because it is ultimately bad for us.

It is bad for us to have a complacent belief in our own perfection. 

For this makes us less than what we can be if we dare to grow, with regular intervals.

If we don’t wait around and become forced to grow. To be more than we are.

(I realize this sounds terribly hippie-ish and/or personal development guru-ish, but bear with me. Just a little while more … )

If we are less than what we can be, we suffer. That’s my experience and premise. We may not know it, though – why we suffer. And therein lies the problem.

Example:

How about the faintly dissatisfied employee coming home late and growling at the husband and drinking a glass too many after that? Every other evening?

It that complacency, you say? Isn’t she dissatisfied? Doesn’t she want to change?

I don’t know? Does she? Does he? Why does he put up with her? Or the other way around?

Why do so many people go through life not wanting to change the stuff that DISsatisfies them in life?

Because they are afraid of change – for some reason or other. And that is the classic.

*

We all know it. We have all been with this problem before:

We stick around with a husband, a wife, a job, a health issue, an anything that dissatisfies us, but something stronger – something that makes us more afraid – a cost about trying to change – that something KEEPS us with the dissatisfying stuff.

That is not victim-hood. That is complacency.

Google the word:

Complacency = a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements

Yes, I’m being hard now but This Is Important.

If you are in a bad marriage, a bad job, or a bad anything and continue to be so, it is not because you are weak or stuck or whatever.

It is, deep down, an active choice because you get some kind of emotional benefit from it that is BETTER than the cost of changing.

Or at least not as scary as the cost of trying to change.

To get divorced.

To fire yourself.

To move.

To face the unknown.

What if it is worse than what I have?!

And so we live complacently, even smugly, with our little individual sufferings – instead of DOING something to suck the marrow from life, and taking the risk that this entails!

I have a friend who seems to take a perverse pleasure sometimes in being a martyr as regards having bad relationships with men. Haven’t you met someone like that? Who is complacent in that way?

But then death reminds us that we can and should never be complacent. Not with the good stuff. Not with the bad stuff. Because sooner or later time runs out.

And have we done enough?

*

A guy I knew confided in my once that he made ONE mistake with girls when he was in high school … he thought that if he just said in a corner each time there was a party and looked glum, some girl would take pity on him and come over and talk to him.

You can guess how that went …

So complacency is not just about believing we are perfect, when we really aren’t.

It’s also about believing that some force will come by in shining armor and do the work for us and turn everything around.

And then sit around and wait and bitch a little bit … until the knight shows up. Or the girl.

I believe in greater forces. But they don’t come unless invited.

Because there has to be a match. The universe, or whatever, has to make sure we are … mirroring its force.

Yes, read that again:

Mirroring the force.

We have to be a mirror for the force of change we want: Action. Power. Belief. Faith. In change.

It’s not Law-of-Attraction-BS. Although it is related.

It is much simpler and much more real than that.

It’s like the girl who never threw a life line to the guy in the corner.

Why should she do that when it looked as if he wasn’t interested in grabbing it? Maybe the girl felt insecure herself just by watching him for awhile and considering: What could be his motives for sitting like that?

What does this single guy REALLY want? To dance? Or sit? Or … is he watching someone else?

Is he sick? Does he not want company? Etc. Etc.

In short, we need to send clear and present signals for change to get help to change.

Not necessarily from God or from the Quantum Power of New Age-ish Law-of-Attraction-belief.

But maybe just from a friend. Or from a girl at a party.

Not because people are evil or don’t care, but because they are not sure what the hell we want.

Our complacency lies in believing then, that other people – and even God – can read our minds perfectly.

Only our actions count here. They signal the true state of our minds.

Action – not words. Like that Che Guevara-guy said.

*

I think sudden death is terrible not because we lose someone

Okay, it is. I know.

But there’s more to it, as I hope I have argued for now. It is also terrible because it reminds us of our own complacency.

Even if it’s not someone close who dies – it can be more terrible! If it’s someone who is close only in our imagination, like Diana or David or – for me – Colin. Then it is more terrible than a family-relation I haven’t seen for years or is 50 years older than me.

Then it is terrible – more so than the million statistics we don’t know and don’t identify with in Africa.

But death of people well-know is especially terrible …

Because – pop stars, movie stars, any starts – like it or not: We aspire to be like them. Well known. To count for something. Or feel like it.

We identify.

So their death reminds us that fame and all things earthly are fickle … and perhaps not really worth striving for, except as a tool to make some lasting changes for those we leave behind when we die:

Our children.

Our neighbors – near and far.

Future neighbors and children.

Because – surprise, surprise: All our fame and possessions won’t last, and we can’t take it with us.

We can only leave something – a memory, a personal impact or a social change that goes beyond our possessions and reputations. Only that will be worth something.

If we work on it in time.

To build it. To make that Real difference. Whatever it is.

 

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