I know Jack Nicholson said it in movie long ago, but his words were so prophetic. In society today, the population at-large cannot handle the truth. How do I know? I experience it every day. It’s become so blatantly obvious. I see it in friends, acquaintances, people’s relationships, the grocery store, the line at the coffee house, and the nine-hundred-pound gorilla of social media. You don’t even need glasses to see it clearly. We’ve become so obsessed with the fantasy of having to live our “best lives” that we left our truer selves behind. That is, if you had a truer self to leave behind. The sad fact is most people never did. You see peeling off the layers of the onion is not easy. The first two are a cinch, then the complexity begins. We humans don’t like feeling pain or the thought of being uncomfortable. We avoid it at all costs. It’s human nature after all. The problem is, unpeeling only a couple of layers doesn’t get you to the core and the core is where your truth lies. It harbors everything you’re made of; the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s the metaphorical mirror in your face. So, when you look in that mirror, what do you feel, not see? Do you recognize that person? Is that person being true to themselves and others? Or is that person a made up, curated, figment of their imagination? That answer doesn’t live in your conscience, it lives in your soul. It’s a feeling, not a thought. It lives deep down inside at your core. If you don’t feel it and identify with it, then you’re just an actor in your own made-up fictional life. But don’t worry, in today’s world, it’s ok to be someone else. In fact, it’s expected and often encouraged.
One of my favorite quotes is “The problem is not that people are uneducated. The problem is that they are educated just enough to believe what they’ve been taught. And not educated enough to question what they’ve been taught”.
At some point in the history of this great nation, we became gullible idiots. This didn’t happen early on. It started with the coddled generation of latter baby boomers who then passed it down to the millennials who fully embraced the concept and have happily passed it onto the Gen Z generation. It’s called the domino effect. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Eventually all the dominos will fall and then what? The United States is the largest consumer by far in terms of self-help and self-development programs and literature. Why is this? In my humble opinion there are two reasons; the first being, we’ve all been hoodwinked that the goal in life is to be happy.
The second; life has become so difficult we can’t face our own reality, so we seek out comfortable alternatives. That’s why self-help is so prominent. It provides us hope, mostly false hope, but hope is hope after all. It also provides us a road map to follow since the answer is always on the other side of the proverbial road. Much of it is bullshit. It’s just regurgitated past concepts and theories that have survived the sands of time just to be repackaged and repurposed when the need calls by whatever self-help guru is popular now. These gurus didn’t reinvent the wheel or place a new element on periodic table, they tell you what you already know but somehow conveniently forgot. We eat this shit up. We’re a society of mass consumers and boy do we consume theories, seminars, memes, quotes, unicorns, and magic fairy dust, just like warm cookies fresh from the oven.
Not all of it is bad, but you must have the curiosity and intellect to filter what is real and what is not. There’s a Harvard Professor and Author that tells us that happiness is not a feeling, it’s a social science concept. Oprah bought into it. So did thousands of others. This gives it automatic credibility and acceptance in today’s world. It’s an anecdotal theory that is made up and cannot be proven so hence, no one challenges it. In spite of this, you still bought the Kool-Aid because we rather chase ideals than reality. So, if happiness is not a feeling, then love is also not a feeling but just a by-product of hormones, chemicals, and fantasy. Do you buy that? I bet some of you just did. Intellectuals are paid to intellectualize. They are paid handsomely and doted upon when they over intellectualize. That’s why they get into academics in the first place. The truth is, when you over intellectualize your other senses become diminished and you lose your broader perspective and what’s real in the world around you. In theory, most of these ideals are plausible, but in practicality, most don’t work in real life. But there you are. Buying the next book. Underlining quotes and highlighting paragraphs hoping to find the answer to that odd feeling inside you that you can’t identify. There must be a better life, right?! That’s what the gurus tell us. It’s the perpetual merry-go-round you will never get off. Why? Because the answers are not in a book, a quote, a meme, an Instagram post, or found in the universe, they are inside you and always have been. You must decide whether you want to continue to be an actor in your curated life or peel off the layers and reveal your true identity.
I’m not a Ph.D., nor an academic. I don’t necessarily consider myself to be highly intellectual. I’m just a normal, middle aged, guy who decided to stop running, drop the façade, and finally figure out that constant gnawing feeling inside. Trust me when I say living a lie is much easier than sitting in your shit. Who wants to re-live trauma’s, sorrow, and heartache. I’m sorry to say there is no easy way. But like anything in life, if you want it bad enough, this is the way. There are no short cuts, no hacks, no fairy dust, and no magical thinking. You must do the work. Because in the end, reality always wins.