We go through hell searching for God-the Ultimate Truth. We scavenge through churches, synagogues, study halls, temples, and mosques. We travel abroad, leaning on walls, meditating on mountains, and ceaselessly praying in chapels. We are relentless in encountering The Infinite. Yet, every sincere man knows God eludes him. Not because He isn’t there, but because in the final analysis God dwells in the last place man cares to search- within himself.
I have to admit I was never a fan of Mac Miller. But there was something about his recent passing that impacted me. I guess, in some way, Mac Miller was a semblance, a representation of all the young men and women I had come to know over the past 13 years who had also fallen to the grips of addiction and as result went spiraling down to the harrowing end of an overdose. Like the young rapper, many of the people I came across had artistic dispositions, possessed a unique way of looking at the world, and always expressed themselves via creative means of music and art. Sometimes, they sang songs, poems, or played musical instruments in between therapeutic sessions. Sometimes, I’d watch in amazement as the words rhythmically escaped their mouths, cigarette hanging out of the side of their lips, their tattooed arms bearing the faded healing needle marks flaying about with the sounds of the music. These souls who I had come to know were soon gone, victims of drug dependency. I could still remember the songs, the poems, the debates, the drawings many of them left behind. It is this art, somehow clearly unfinished, that leaves behind a sense of bitterness and sorrow. I can remember rationalizing their deaths as “a part of the disease” in the many community vigils… later, having to pull my car over succumbed by the crushing reality: Addiction is powerful…indiscriminate, and it takes the lives of young men and women who possess great potential.
It has been through these individuals that I’ve confirmed there is something creative and divine about the addict. The addict lives an expressive life, in a state of constant desperation to reunite with a greater reality- unfortunately, many times, the connection is an erroneous one, sought artificially through a substance. Many addicts die in their relentless pursuit to be whole again, to be reunified with their source and relieved of their separateness. Mac Miller and the 350 souls that die daily from drug related deaths in the US alone should remind us all that money, fame, and achievement alone does not grant us wholeness and that the ultimate source of fulfillment must be sought after to make recovery possible.
I love two boys dearly. One of them I had to leave behind in order to give the other a better life. One is a lighthearted, inquisitive, and affectionate soul. The other, while quite loving, can be rebellious, fearful, self-destructive, hyper vigilant, and unstable. One is my son. The other my inner child. I stood at a turning point where most men find themselves who are able to reflect and take inventory of personal defects and impediments to growth. There I found all the hindrances and shortcomings embodied in my inner psychological youth. It was here in the personification of my inner child that all sources of irrational beliefs lived. I had to make a decision to part ways with the boy I had intimately known for decades.
The boy within men must be outgrown, tamed, or carefully integrated into adulthood if we are to properly function in the world. However, when most men find themselves stuck at a crossroad, repeating destructive patterns, or unable to realize their full potential, most times they will find a restless inner child consuming and sabotaging their present realities. The boy in us may manifest himself in the form of seeking power and control, general mistrust, and a debilitating apprehension to take on new challenges. Many times, the boy will not adhere to manipulative tactics of persuasion or compromise. The boy is adamant in getting what it wants and unless effectively confronted will destroy the man he inhabits. In this case, the inner child must be subdued, bound, and given up for the liberation of a man’s psychological imprisonment. It is no wonder that biblical stories such as “the binding of Issac” or the crucifixion of Christ resonate well with many of us. A man must sacrifice faulty beliefs and dysfunctional familial patterns before he can receive the “blessing.” Subconsciously, we understand that the most primitive and infantile aspects of our psyche must be (or at least one must be willing to) put to rest. However, the stark difference lies in the fact that our inner child will not comply and lie quietly as Isaac or the Christian Messiah. The binding, giving up, and the mourning of the inner boy (false and destructive beliefs) is a necessary process, a journey by which we eventually reach complete psychological and spiritual manhood.
Before you ask what’s wrong around you in any given situation, take the daring task of examining yourself, your beliefs, your values, your greatest fears and worries…We often find that these are the causes of most of our troubles. The process of sincerely changing is like surgery. You must go deep into yourself-beneath bone and marrow-and find those ideas that have been slowly eroding away at the possibility of reaching what you want to achieve. The greatest victory is in keeping these invalid beliefs in plain sight and be fearlessly willing to battle them on a daily basis. This is the path of awakening.
What makes anything beautiful, what gives it life, is the experience it has had. We stare at a certain painting and become mesmerized by something unexplainable-there is an emotion, a life, a story that it has lived. This is the essence of all things worthwhile. They are neither fabricated or desired. Instead, these are the things that preserve us and provides a deeper connection to ourselves and the world around us. To be fully in the moment entails a full participation and realization of the experience. Experiencing moments where we are submerged in what’s occurring is the lifeblood of humanity. A bellyaching laugh, a melancholic embrace, a joyful victory, an attentive posture-all provide the opportunity to make the most of our lives.
Without the experience of participating in the moment, we lose an essential part of ourselves-a missing part that becomes excruciating to live with. Before we turn to medicine to alleviate our instabilities and sorrows, let’s ask ourselves how much are we participating in the joy of living, and how much are we avoiding it through diluted means of connecting? An emoji can never take the place of seeing a beautiful face smile. An “lol” cannot doesn’t come close to shared laughter around a table of friends. And words types across a screen can never replace an invaluable embrace of a loved one in distress. What makes anything beautiful is the loyal commitment to strive to engage in life as much as possible.
Inside every person is the built in desire for salvation. This need is two-fold: we want to save and be saved. Children and adults long to encounter or become the heroes of society. We look deep within and ponder the possibilities of saving those in great need, and we await to be relieved of our problems-to a time where our troubles will all make sense. But rarely is the meaning of heroes, salvation, and reconciliation ever explained. We entertain, fantasize, and pray of attaining qualities of heroship but when the process of attaining begins to happen, we give it up. This is because the character building of usefulness doesn’t come in light and power- it comes in struggles and suffering. It comes in understanding the human condition and being able to navigate through the negative aspects of life and the mind. A person who doesn’t understand the map of insanity…of depravity, cannot save a lost soul trapped in the trenches of the underworld. Both would be lost and consumed by the darkness. A person that wishes to be used effectively must understand that his reward is in rescuing others, but the price is knowing first hand the atrocities that imprison them.
If you’re struggling with something too deep to express, have you considered you may be in a process of preparation to one day help a few or perhaps many people? Remember, the greatest heroes in history were not those with crowns but carried wounds for the sake of being used in a purposeful way.
Fear is the symptom we experience when we have deviated from G_d’s plan. Every challenge we face is perfectly orchestrated. We are also inherently wired to overcome our challenges either through toiling or surrender. Our hopes to conquer fear should not rest on illusory methods to temporarily relieve worry posed by men. Rather, our eyes should be set on the Designer of life Who has meticulously etched out every second of our lives to fulfill an individualized objective. A man who can say “G_d is in control” in the midst of his problems is likened to one who has conquered the world.
The spiritual life is not a theory. In this realm the win always goes to the man who places unconditional trust in his Creator. Whether he is prospering or penniless, his soul rests confidently on the reality that G_d is always in control.
The best sign change is happening: We are ready.