A few years back I was seeing a therapist and I remember telling him one day that I felt this unshakeable feeling that was somehow like being lost at sea, floating alone in the ocean, adrift with nothing in sight. Just being batted around by the currents. The sea or the ocean or the great void or whatever you want to call it holds a great mystery for many people. It is often used a spritual, philisophical, or brutally realistic metaphor for our experiences. My therapist replied something like: "Hmm... I think there is something very important in that...." Rather unfortunately this particular point was really the only thing of value I took from my time on the couch (almost two years).
The feeling of being adrift in the ocean was something I recognized as a profound basis for much of my unhappiness. On the surface this seems like some sort of a negative and pathetic way of thinking and feeling. And I don't disagree with that kind of assessment. But getting beyond the simple emotional side of it I felt that there was a deep truth: the metaphor of being pushed around by the sea is really just saying there are a billion things that are out of my control yet they still affect me, not to mention everyone, everything.
A feeling of helplesness is quite natural-- and the honest thing to do is acknowledge it. It is also the courageous thing to do.I used to try to be all macho and tough about my feelings--to look at a feeling of helplesness and to say : "You are nothing. You trying to bring me down? Well c'mon and try--I'll fight you to the death!"
In my haste to protect myself I never thought to actually look at what it was I was fighting. Sure I thought I knew what I was fighting but I only thought I knew because I accepted my initial instinctive reaction and never questioned it. To question my instinct eventually led to what I had already known and felt*.
I saw that I was fighting my own fear and that is a battle in which every blow you deal only makes your fear, your foe, stronger. It is a never ending chain of reactions. Furthermore, to fight without knowing what it is you are fighting is the opposite of courage. If we live in a world where we are fighting our own fears yet mistaking them to be truly real is to live in a world of ever growing delusion, paranoia, and violence.
For me, there is one real fear: it is the unwillingness to honestly question the whole of our experience. This is not necessarily as serious as it sounds--I think this kind of questioning is intense, yes, but it can range from the agonizingly cruel to hilariously ridiculous. All of the fears that "we" as a world try to fight result from initially ignoring the question of the very nature of our fear. Once I had gotten over my unwillingness to question--to simply try my best to be honestly aware--I had entered the "true" arena of my fight.
I wanted to end this post with something cheezy and poetic like:" So while I may still be lost at sea, the sea is not lost on me." Then I realized that it is precisely this kind of pretentious pondering that gets me further into my own delusions and selfish interpretation of the world. So I'll just end with the fact that I'm still led this way and that by all sorts of meaningless crap and by thoughts that I think are so profound when I'm really just trying to make myself look good.
There is a touch of cynicism here as in Frank Zappa's Central Scrutinizer character from the album Joe's Garage: "...imaginary guitar notes and imaginary vocals exist only in the mind of The Imaginer... and ultimately, who gives a fuck anyway?" But I hope that this sharing of my own thoughts and experiences can be related to in a way that helps, in a way that is useful.
*--more on this "what i had already known and felt" in a later post.