216 – The greatest challenge …

“Your children are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.  They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.  You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.   For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.  You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”

Excerpt from Kahlil Gibran “The Prophet”

Life is a constant struggle between shifting opposites

Acceptance Intolerance
Boldness Timidity
Openness Reticence
Equality Discrimination
Despair Hope
Failure Success
Strength Feebleness
Greed Generosity
Obedience Rebelliousness
Truthfulness Deceit
Hate Love
Health Illness
Justice Corruption
Leader Follower
Wealth Poverty
Security Uncertainty
Virtue Vice
Wisdom Folly
Free will Determinism, etc., etc.

Some of us are open to the new and challenging, some of us prefer the norm and the safety of routines. But the essence of survival is to find a balance, an equilibrium between opposites, seeking to remain closest to the middle without compromising our integrity.

Although not included in the list above, the most dramatic set of opposites is, to me, to be or not to be. They are the existential challenge we, as no other creature we know of, face when gifted with health, opportunity, power, and must decide whether to be what we want to be, or what others want us to be.

During our upbringing, and under the name of Love, most of us are forced to fall in step with established norms of behavior – conformity with educational curriculums that perpetuate consumption and corruption, obedience to authority, unwavering respect for our parents. A vision for our future under these norms, especially during our formative years, hangs on the support of family, society, educational, and beliefs systems, and is therefore greatly dependent on the dictates of others. To break away from these dictates is almost impossible, and therefore our innate capacity to hear the internal call of our destiny is overpowered. It is thus most of us end up pursuing the expectations of others.

Life is the most amazing gift we are given. But we never asked for it. And because in human civilizations, shelter, food, and education are provided in our early years, a right to demand obedience and a sense of entitlement easily surface when we dare question the decisions made for us. We become property; there are expectations to be fulfilled and consequences if they are not; we are owned. So, Life becomes a struggle to be free, a struggle to find what we are, a struggle to take control of our own destiny.

This is at the bottom of Humanity’s predicament: to be what we want to be, or be what others expect of us.

And so, how to be what we truly want to be when we have already lost ourselves to the expectations of others?

How do we break away from something like that?

A first step is to accept the reality that, although it might have been done unwittingly or with the best of intentions by those we had no other choice but to trust, it was a terrible wrong: they annihilated our dreams as theirs probably were.

A second step and the most important is to know that we are a commanding PRESENCE in the world; a PRESENCE that cannot only navigate with determination and foresight the assailing labyrinths between shifting and oftentimes conflicting opposites, but a PRESENCE we can direct to take us where we were born to be.

This is the greatest challenge. This is your Life. This is YOUR PRESENCE in the world. Take it back.

Revised November 2021   

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