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Painting by Max Kurtzweil

“And how trivial the things we want so passionately are.” — Marcus Aurelius
There’s an old joke: When the Gods wish to punish us, they give us exactly what we’ve always wanted. Ask yourself if you’re after fame? wealth? the perfect man or woman? Now imagine yourself when you get it. What comes next?
The problem, for most of us, lies in the belief that what we want will fill the void. It won’t. There are plenty of miserable rich people, sad and lonely models, self-pitying celebrities and bored titans of industry. They wanted trivial things — and they got them. Now all they can ask is, “Now what?” and “This is it?”
Much of Stoicism has to do with reacting to what comes at us with equanimity and poise. But this, too, is important: Quelling and quieting that voice in your head that becomes seduced by the latest fashions or fads or must-have riches. You don’t need them. More than that, you don’t actually want them.”
— Daily Stoic, Dan Darwin Hutchins

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What if our religion was each other. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy waters rivers and oceans. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being. — Ganga White

We are born with a need to be intensely alive. Some of us will find ways to do that — creativity, sports, building things, deconstructing things, art, love, family — while some of us won’t. If you lose your way, you may settle on superficial consolations like the impressive house, car or mate so the world knows you are “somebody.” What you can’t dispense with, though, is the gnawing feeling of emptiness, a feeling of missing out that can’t be reasoned away.

A life of passion and love is in a different universe from the life of status and possession. There seems to be no bridge between the two. Consolidating your existence in the world when you’re young means making your way in the world you are given. Love and work can be gotten right or wrong. It’s common to get struck on the wrong path and not know how to get off it. Watching your life pass you by like that is suffering at the soul level. It’s crucial to make a change and something in you won’t let you forget it.

It’s complex because there are so many moving parts to locating and getting on the right path, plus there’s a lot of bad advice to dismiss. We live in a culture where bad advice and bad leaders abound. Finding your way involves serendipity, luck, intuition, the ability to admit when you’re wrong. The will to change, and even a fine indifference to public shame.

If we are caught in the wayward eddies of life, if we are drifting away from a life we love, we are almost certainly listening to the wrong voices, voices telling us to “take care of business” instead of listening to our own heart’s desire.

If we affirm our path and get on it, it will assert itself and take us in hand. It will feed us with energies we didn’t know we had. Our true path will bring suffering too, don’t think it won’t. It’s just that the suffering has meaning in this case. There’s nothing worse than meaningless pain.

Because we all need to grow in wisdom and kindness, finding and affirming your unique mission is essential. It needs to be worked for, sacrificed for, even. That spark we all carry forward in life needs to be fanned and nurtured. The more we do this the more we heal the world.

Written by

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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