“Unzip The Truth” courtesy of ChubbaArt/DeviantART
I recently went to see the remake of ‘Clash of the Titans’ at the cinema. I loved the 1981 version as a kid and was keen to see the new movie.
Perseus’ quest to defeat the kraken, save Andromeda and fulfill his destiny is the archetype of everyone’s life. We are all on a journey and, like Perseus, we encounter plenty obstacles along the way. Many of them seem strange and frightening, and we can be tempted to give up in the face of what appear to be overwhelming odds.
But many of the terrors we encounter along the way are just phantoms – they disappear as soon as we stand up to them. When we face them down, they dissolve like a dream upon waking. Our real enemy, however, is much more dangerous. It is the dream we create for ourselves – the dream of comfort and security, the myths we feed ourselves on. These myths are dangerous because so many people believe them and they can be hard to spot.
We tell ourselves stories because we life to feel safe. They are comfortable and pleasant, and they keep us asleep. Anthony de Mello, a man who really understood human nature, wrote, ‘The first thing I want you to understand, if you really want to wake up, is that you don’t want to wake up.’
Here are some of our fondest dreams.
1. Myth: There is time
Reality: You have less time now than you have ever had. You have less time now than you had an hour ago. You are nearer to your death than you have ever been. Plan thoroughly, but don’t wait too long before taking action.
2. Myth: You can rely on other people
Reality: You are more alone than you know. Certainly, there are people who care about you and will support you, but they can disappear at any time. We are all ships passing in the night. Some stay longer than others, and it is good to enjoy the company and the love of other people, but in the end, we are sailing our ship alone.
3. Myth: You are important
Reality: Go and stand outside at night and look up at the sky. Contemplate how remarkably insignificant you are in this vast swirling chaos of darkness. In a hundred years from now, chances are nobody will even remember your name. Why would they? So make these few short years matter.
4. Myth: You should put others before yourself
Reality: Sometimes we fall victim to a vague sense that, in order to be ‘good’ or to ‘do the right thing,’ we have to put other people before our own needs. I’m not entirely sure where this comes from – perhaps from our Puritan forefathers – but the truth is that your happiness is number one. Let’s not deceive ourselves – we want to be happy and we care more about this than anything else.
5. Myth: Conflict should be avoided
Reality: Conflict is all around us. Our ancestors were almost constantly in open conflict and, although we might think we have risen above such things in our ‘civilized’ societies, if you just scratch the surface you will find plenty of evidence of conflict taking place. The truth is that conflict cannot be avoided. We are all different and have different needs and perspectives, so it is inevitable that conflict will arise sooner or later. Instead of trying to avoid it, why not embrace it? The kid who stands up to the school bully won’t get pushed around; the one who tried to avoid trouble only ends up bringing more trouble his way.
6. Myth: The difference between success and failure is LUCK.
Reality: This is a myth that appeals to the lazy. Being successful – whatever that means – takes some planning, commitment and work. Yes, there are many things outside our control, but the lives of successful people are full of lessons we can apply: courage, persistence, single mindedness, vision. To say that success is down to chance is to abdicate responsibility for our own lives.
These, and other myths should be recognized and ruthlessly eliminated. I leave you with more wisdom from Anthony de Mello, a man who truly saw through the dream:
‘Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they marry in their sleep, they breed children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up.’
Are you still dreaming?