25 April, 2016

recipe for self

i think it goes without saying that i'm not a believer in horoscopes. there is one notable exception to this rule, free will astrology, with a far more literary and philosophical approach than mere star-gazing woo. time and time again, i've plucked pearls of wisdom from his thoughtful and often irreverent words. this week hit one of the themes I’ve been exploring in various guises lately:

I've got a controversial message for you, Pisces. If you're addicted to your problems or if you're convinced that cynicism is a supreme mark of intelligence, what I'll say may be offensive. Nevertheless, it's my duty as your oracle to inform you of the cosmic tendencies, and so I will proceed. For the sake of your mental health and the future of your relationship with love, consider the possibility that the following counsel from French author André Gide is just what you need to hear right now: "Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation."  

i don’t think i've been a very good cynic in recent months – yes, it pops up on occasion but i feel that a great deal of my earlier cynicism has fallen by the wayside. that's not to say that i won’t engage in some good old fashioned skewering of our society over a bottle of wine, but i think i'm falling more into the other side (except when an overload of what-is pushes me firmly into the arms of team apocalypse). and even if i still engage in cynicism, i think i'm finding it a weight to carry: an entertaining friend who, over the years, has become a burden. i'm slowly working on laying that burden down. my choices have very little to do with the final outcome of our civilization, but a lot to do with the way i perceive and live my life. like another old friend righteous anger, i’m willing to back away from cynicism to save my own psychological skin.

a good friend sent me an article recently that at first made me very very angry. then, as i continued to resentfully work my way through it, it forced me to put aside some of my antagonism and to reexamine how tightly i hang on to my opinions. an adjunct, i think, to the idea of the moral supremacy of joy over sadness, is the idea of the moral superiority of compassion over smugness. step by slowly taken, hard-won step, i want to think i’m moving towards the idea that being right might not be as important as being kind, and being blasé might not be as healthy as being open to the wealth of the good things available in the world. both notions come hand in hand with my growing awareness of my own agency - if i have the power to choose how to react to what life throws my way, then i may as well choose the higher path. 

oh sure, some of you are vigorously rolling your assorted eyeballs: that'll be the day when you're some sweet-smiling pie-baking polyanna, spreading kindness and light across the universe. well, perhaps i will never fully be that person (for one, i think pies are far more trouble than they're worth), but i have moved far away from the person that i used to be who'd blithely join in the bitter squawking choir that certain female family members of mine engage in with chronic regularity. increasingly, i find it an exhausting and pointless exercise, so completely irrelevant and old that i just want to walk away as i have yet to find a way to make them stop. it is definitely a personality trait that's been undergoing a profound shift and for the better, if i may say so myself. 

so what final point am i making? not much of one, and definitely not one aimed at anyone other than myself. i really don’t want to be the person whose self improvement path becomes a weapon to beat her readers with – as it is i've already been proselytizing about meditation to anyone who will listen, though i have nothing to prove the efficacy of said exercise save the anecdotal incremental improvements in my own ability to function in this mess of a gorgeous universe. so take it as you will – the newest ingredient in my recipe for building a better me – not necessarily the recipe for building a better you. 


Tom said...

I'm speechless.....almost. I really cannot let this wonderful post pass by without making some attempt to respond. You know, you have a great gift with words....and the ability to use those words with great honesty and openness. If there is anything in my comment that you find worthwhile, I will stop here in case I gild a lily. Wishing you much, my friend.

Zhoen said...

Free Will is the only astrology column I ever read. And I don't think it matters what sign you read, either. It's all kind and provoking and rich.

Pema Chodron is another who writes about these issues with great clarity.

As for you, good. And yay.

polish chick said...

thank you both, and thanks zhoen for the recommendation.