The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, November 05, 2007

Shh...the children are sleeping.

I have a friend locked in a loveless marriage for decades. She is finally about to make a move, and trust me, she is absolutely raving with fear, and that fear is biting her butt every time she turns around. Recently, she was speaking to a divorce support group which meets at her church, and was hypnotized by a video on the sacred bonds of matrimony. Let me tell you—in the decades I’ve known her, she has NEVER talked about her Biblical obligations to ANYTHING. But suddenly, she’s fixated on it. Her fear, seeking anything to hold onto, anything to keep her from plunging into the unknown.

I have another student who has a serious weight issue. She literally can’t keep her eye on that ball. She constantly distracts herself with synthetic busy work, constantly generated as soon as enough room or time opens up that she would have to admit she has the fifteen minutes a day it would take to get in shape. It’s amazing the number of excuses, distractions, rationalizations, and dark fantasies that arise to keep her from dealing with her truth.

I think that we have a certain number of “square inches” of humanity. When we are balanced, we grow to encompass more “square inches,” and can cover more territory without distortion. But that requires more honesty and willingness to tolerate existential pain than most of us are willing to endure. So we distort ourselves, creating odd geometric shapes to stretch out and cover some particular goal…refusing to see that we inevitably neglect something else.

Want to know the greatest tragedy? So many of these people are teachers, counselors, coaches, and therapists. Swiftdeer once said that “helping other people is a form of self-pity.” I interpret that as the position that it is easy to see what’s wrong with other people, hard to do something about your own crap. Helping other people becomes a substitution for working on our own lives. We get to feel good without actually destroying our ego shells. Our “Self” gets to believe it’s own press another precious day.

And what happens? How can you coach a student in areas where you yourself have only theoretical knowledge? And if you had true knowledge, would you really be stuck? Isn’t helping others just a way of dealing with your fear that you don’t know?
The trouble is that these people haven’t the faith to get through their Dark Nights. Instead, they back up, take a new goal, and charge forward full of enthusiasm. Wow! I’m improving my life! Well, yes. But you certainly aren’t waking up. But what the heck—and I mean this sincerely—for most people, it’s probably better to stay asleep and just get the very best and most comfortable furnishings for your dream. And shhh…walk quietly. The other children are sleeping. Best not to wake them, or they may cry.

1 comment:

Deva Kalki said...