Malaise. That’s the word. My life had drifted, settled, compacted like the bottom of an old river. Attempts to break free from it were erratic at best. The fact that my life looked fairly interesting and that parts of it were actually pretty good only bogged me down further: why go to the trouble when it’s not really that bad? The thing was, even if it wasn’t horrible compared to some, it wasn’t remotely as good and productive as it should have been. So much had been given up for no reason, and a horrible inertia had set in. Dreams briefly set aside had become assumed to be permanently abandoned. And what remained was slowly rotting.
Though you may not be able to actually boil frogs as the metaphor has it, you really can drag humans into the scrap heap by inching them into it. Job? Enjoyable work, great people, no future. Relationship? Easy-going, pleasant roommate bond, miserable and declining sex life. Health? Better than most Americans, but sliding into weight gain and unnecessary aging. Personal goals? Restarting anything meaningful got inconsistent treatment and very little perseverance.
I was more or less dying, while putting a good face on it all.
Untenable. That’s the other word.
It turns out that slowly increasing the pain does have limits. I’ll tell you my further history some other time, but in short, some part of what I used to be woke up and asked what the hell I’d done with my potential. I was coasting on my natural skills and intellect, and not at all making use of my gifts. The glimpses past the heavy curtain of a supposed reality, glitches in the Matrix (as it was put in that movie), began to become hard to ignore, and I went looking for the truth.
What I found was akin to using a new sense, like someone had turned the light on and suddenly I could see the things I kept bumping into for what they were. Now I could avoid them or make use of them. It was like discovering a 3rd dimension after living in Flatland, and simple movement appeared where mystifying appearances and disappearances had frustrated me before. It wasn’t a man in a booth behind the curtain, it was most of the world.
Naturally I was both elated and angry. My excitement at all this discovery should be obvious enough, but the anger might need a little explanation. See, I realized I’d been lied to. Well, they weren’t always lies: misinformation came sometimes through deliberate deception, sure, since a lot of people prefer their own motives unknown and their selfishness unchallenged, but as often as not it came from perfectly well-meaning people who were themselves either deceived or deluded, and usually hopeful that their worldview would turn out to be accurate even if, objectively, it rarely worked that way. In fact, I was angry with them for repeating untruths they should have been able to see through, and doubly angry at myself for having fallen for the illusions when I had thought myself so clear-sighted.
So what were these illusions about? Oh, everything. God help me, just about everything. Instead of being a few mistakes here and there that just need tweaking to bring into a fruitful alignment with reality, the grand illusion is an interdependent network of follies. So much comfort, so much emotional investment, all depending on its continuance. Is it any wonder that a conspiracy isn’t needed to maintain it? Everyone desperately hopes that it turns out to be the truth after all. No one wants to risk unraveling it.
A New World
The rabbit hole I had fallen into (to bring yet another metaphor into the mix) was very, very deep. In fact, every paragraph of this post could have, and probably deserves to have, its own article. I’ll get to it when I get to it. There’s so much. I wandered in the strange new dimension for a long time before figuring out what to do with it all. At last I decided that I had to restructure my thinking. Nothing less would reconcile seeing the truth with living in the illusion. Returning to ignorance isn’t possible.
It was about 3 years ago that I disassembled my approach to the world, to life, and began to construct a conscious, coherent personal philosophy. I read voraciously, tried many things, bashed against the limits of my sad excuse for self-discipline. The essentials of an approach to life at last began to crystallize. A few key concepts, ancient wisdom some of them, unlocked my ability to move the right direction. At last, I did.
A New Direction
The primary idea behind it all coalesced as Joy. Not flimsy, floppy-minded, palms in the air shouting “Woo!”, fragile as a glass bubble happiness, but joy. Joy, capital J, and it was something bigger than the word usually brings to mind, though it seemed like I was pretty close. Things I’d known years before returned in force, and I needed a better way to describe the full concept. The joy was combined with power, and I realized they were always combined, and finally I had the solution that rang true.
What I should be – what I truly am, when developed to fullness – isn’t always happy, and may at times be furious, but is always full of power and joy and truth. This wasn’t a butterfly’s flight, but a falcon’s. Not lazy contentment, but solidity and wonder and action. It carried a roar of laughter and a roar of a bear, a lion. I have played the Spirit of Christmas Present on stage, and it was pretty much typecasting; I should have known, then. Why is that character “jovial”? Because of the qualities of the mythic character, Jove. As with the rest of this, I’ll explore it another time in more depth, but for now it’s enough to know that the word that summed it all up was Jovian.
That was the word. And so, now, it is.