The Great LieStephen Farah
Do you believe a man can escape his destiny?
I believe a man does everything he can until his destiny is revealed to him.
Nathan Algren, The Last Samurai.
As long as I live I will never forget the line or the sentiment. I believe it expresses something profoundly important about living authentically and with courage.
I want to share with you a small part of what it takes to ‘do everything you can until your destiny is revealed to you,’ and why it is worth doing.
In the not too distant future you are going to die.
Let us imagine the scene for a moment. A funeral of some sort, flowers ‘usually not the prettiest, funeral wreaths rarely are, a few words of comfort to those you have left behind spoken by some religious representative- probably someone you have never met before, and then a tearful eulogy by a friend or family member.
They will either bury or cremate your corpse.
Dust to dust as they say…
And then it will all be over; at least for you.
The rest of us will carry on alright, we may think of you or a kind word may be said in your memory (or not so kind ). Life will go on, the world will keep turning. The only difference being you will no longer be around.
Why do I share this somewhat macabre and slightly depressing, although it must be conceded all too true, image, with you, you ask?
I share it with you not to distress you, although it is distressing, but because I want to encourage you to see through the veil of illusion. Only when you tear from your eyes the illusion- that everything is alright, that you needn’t become distressed, that this story has a happy ending, is it possible to truly live.
It has been said (I forget by whom) that the only way we can live is in denial of death. I suggest the opposite; the only way you can live is in the full awareness of your death. And it is imminent, whether it happens today, tomorrow (both possible naturally) or sixty years from now.
Carpe diem my friend, carpe diem.
‘So what?’, you might ask, ‘How does knowing this change the way I live my life? How can I be more faithful to myself, live more truly, sincerely, passionately and fully than I already am?’
Well you are in a better position to answer that question than I am, seeing as it is your life. However I will make one suggestion.
Stop believing the great lie!
What is the great lie?
The great lie is what you hear every day when you listen to your colleagues, when you chat to your friends, when you listen to the car radio or sit in front of the TV having supper with your spouse, listening to them telling you what you should do, what you should think and what your life should look like.
The great lie is what you see every time you turn on the television, surf the web, read the newspaper or page through a glossy magazine. And you are informed about the ‘way things are’, what the future holds in store, where the world is going, and why you absolutely must have the latest fashions.
The great lie is when people tell you, ‘you are not being reasonable’, that there is an accepted norm for behaviour and you are not conforming to it, more than that, that there is a normal way of thinking and being in the world and you are not being that, or are somehow less than that…
The great lie is that
You need to be educated, get educated or are educated,
You need to get a job, or do your job, or be your job,
You need to get married, stay married or be married.
You need to get ahead,
Go on holiday,
Donate to charity,
Save the environment,
Wash the dishes,
Mow the lawn,
Go to church,
Take out insurance,
The great lie is that you life is a limited enterprise.
The great lie is that your time is best spent in a specific way doing what others have decided for you, in advance, without your explicit consent.
The great lie is that others know better than you and can show you ‘the way’. My dear friend these others are just as lost as you, just as afraid and just as confused. But something they figured out was that by telling you they know, they are able to manipulate you, to recruit you and to engage you in their projects. Possibly you are familiar with this little trick and use it yourself to some effect…
A litany of ideas, concepts, morals and mores are recruited to make you comply, too many to list. Generally speaking though, they work by telling you how you should think, behave and be in the world, both publically and privately.
Is there a meaningful alternative to submitting to this manipulation?
What are your alternatives?
Is there any way to escape this ubiquitous manipulation short of moving to the proverbial dessert island, or living in a cave? And after all, does one not have to comply to a greater of lesser extent in order to simply survive in society?
I concede that these are not easy questions with simple answers.
What I do believe though is firstly, you should not let the bastards grind you down .
And secondly, there is a meaningful alternative to believing the great lie. In fact not only do I believe this, but we have fairly irrefutable proof of another way of being. Let us consider for a moment a few people who didn’t buy into the great lie.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela the first president of a democratic South Africa, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, awarded over 250 peace and humanitarian prizes, one of the greatest humanitarian figures of the 20th century and the principle reason South Africa made the transition to a democracy in 1994 without a bloody revolution.
Mandela (or Madiba as we call him ) didn’t believe the lie that a black man was somehow inferior to a white man or less deserving of the same basic human rights. For not accepting the lie he nearly paid the ultimate price- his life. As it turned out he changed the future of fifty million people in a single generation.
Albert Einstein the greatest scientist of the 20th century and contender for one of the greatest minds ever who single handedly changed the face of modern physics. He didn’t believe the lie that space and time were absolutely objective conditions of the cosmos. He resisted this lie in the face of rather convincing intuitive and empirical evidence to the contrary.
Jane Austen author of Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma, among others, who went on to become one of the most widely acclaimed and read authors in English literature. Ms. Austen never believed the lie that woman were not meant for great things in the world and that it was best left to their far more capable husbands. She believed in herself and her talent at a time when for a woman to be a ‘serious writer’ was considered a ludicrous idea.
Ludwig van Beethoven, arguably the greatest musical composer of all time who never believed the lie that a deaf man could not compose music.
The list goes on, Sir Isaac Newton, Emily Bronte, Vincent van Gogh, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Rene Descartes, Karl Marx, Alexander the Great, Florence Nightingale, Mother Theresa, Joan of Arc.
What all of these people had in common was an abiding faith in their inner genius in the face of other’s telling them that they couldn’t, shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to accomplish what they set out to.
I believe you too have the right to decide what you are capable of.
I believe that you have the right to decide what is right and what is wrong for you, to make your own choices and even your own mistakes. I believe this is your inalienable right as a human being. You can and should choose your life path. It is your life that is on the line, not mine or anyone else’s.
I believe you have the capacity for love, compassion, kindness and beauty. I don’t believe you need anyone (including me) to teach you these things. Only that you need to see through some stuff that may have led you to imagine that you are anything less than this.
I believe you should live as you were born to live, proud and free. Stand tall and live a life that is a testament to your divinity and humanity. A life that shouts out at the world, at the cosmos and the great unknown- this is me, I choose life, courage, hope, joy and freedom! And I do this in the face of all the uncertainty, challenges, resistance and hardship that life brings along with its great gift.
I believe that you should muster every resource at your disposal, mount your own shoulders in the absence of a ladder, and imagine with all your heart a bigger dream for yourself than the one you have been sold.
I believe you should not allow the great lie to stop you from realising your destiny.
That is what I believe, what do you believe?