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Painting by John Atkinson Grimshaw

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” — E.E. Cummings


From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; at any rate it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we — I mean all human beings — are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet or a Beethoven quartet is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven; certainly and emphatically there is no God; we are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself. And I see this when I have a shock. — Virginia Wolfe


For the ancient Greeks your character is “given” to you in some sense — who you are is not completely within your control. “Your” actions reveal “your” character but are also something given to you, something granted by the divine…With the ancient Greeks, the daemonic appears not only through elements “inside” the self — the passions, the blood — as noted above, but also “outside” the self — in wind, rain, fire, animals.

— James Hillman

Yes, we ourselves are the fingers and toes of God. We are strings in the fabric of creation, and yet we carry a creative power in our essential self if we can allow it.

But there’s the rub. We make ourselves small. We worship the rare authentic people because they live by the energy of their original self. Those are the heroes we try to imitate.

To be who we really are is not easy, as Cummings points out, but if we can resist all efforts to suppress evidence of it we have a chance to find and live our reason for existing. In our society there are forces arrayed against just about everyone except the mechanics, sociopaths and narcissists. We want to know how to, not why to. We plot our way to success without questioning whether we really want what everyone is supposed to want.

What do we really want? Do we know ourselves deeply enough to answer that question?

The details will be different for every person, but basically we all want intense living that involves our joy in existing as what kind of being we are.

Our culture offers us a million ways to get lost in this process. We have to keep our wits about us so that we know when we are taking a wrong turn. Energetic signs are there, if we’re paying attention. Attempts to push you off your path don’t always come from others. You will decide to do just the wrong thing sometimes. You’ll set yourself back with misjudgments and false assumptions. None of us can see around corners.

I believe we are surrounded with opportunities to live our best life, if we can see them. Seeing them requires knowing ourselves. If we’re still trying to imitate a false template presented by the society we live in, we’re easily led astray.

Fighting for yourself while staying creative means resisting the world yet preserving your natural sensitivity. A lot of our acculturation processes, from earliest childhood on — our education, family and work life — work counter to the flowering of the self we’re born with.

Accepting what we’re given without question is the common way to get lost. Being willing to question and see things anew is the antidote.

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