“The basic difference between an ordinary person and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary person takes everything either as a blessing or a curse.” ~ Carlos Castaneda
Life can throw us for a loop sometimes, and sometimes it can feel like the entire world is against us. The good thing is that we have a choice in how we handle it: victim or warrior. The bad thing is that it is often overwhelming and difficult to handle.
But the challenge is to become mature enough to go from being a mere victim of the world to realizing that we actually ARE the world. Once we can do that, we free ourselves to embody soul. But first we need a proper orientation between what constitutes a good and bad life.
Carl Jung wrote, “The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Both quotes imply that disposition and attitude is the thing.
A victim walks through the fire and whines about the pain and bemoans his scars. A warrior walks through the fire and learns what the pain has to teach him, and then uses that pain as a stepping stone to a higher state of consciousness, while regarding his scars as trophies.
Like Elisabeth Gilbert said, “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
Both get burned, but only the warrior grows. It is a choice between courage and cowardice. Cowardice is easy, but it leads to victimization and egoism. Courage is always more challenging, but it is also immensely rewarding and leads to an embodiment of soul.
This is all easier said than done, sure. Mostly because of the way we’ve been conditioned to perceive the world. Unreasonable expectation is one of the main culprits. Whether it’s our own expectations or the expectations imparted to us by our parents and conditioned into us by culture, it’s an obstacle to our embodying soul. The universe is not designed to match our expectations.
Neither does it deserve the flimsy definitions we vainly attempt to pigeonhole it into. Like David McRaney wrote, “You can’t improve the things you love if you never allow them to be imperfect.” In order to truly embody soul, we must allow things to be imperfect. We must allow ourselves to be imperfect. And that means letting go of our expectations. “However disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be,” writes Katheryn Schultz, “it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.” Indeed.
If the greatest enemy to imagination is expectation and the greatest ally to imagination is disorientation, then it stands to reason that the way we break the cycle of being a victim is by embracing bewilderment and uncertainty and nixing unreasonable expectation so as to improve our imagination. If we are unable to do this it leads to anxiety.
But if we’re able to do this then we are constantly fascinated by the world “in the moment,” rather than suffering in the hell of unmet expectations. Let’s not taint our here-and-now with superimposed expectations.
Let’s instead inject it with awe and wonderment, with surprise and befuddlement. This way, through our ripening imagination, soul is allowed to blossom and come to fruition, despite the crippling expectations of our ego.
But saying yes to the soul is not an easy task for anyone. As Marianne Williamson writes, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” The interesting thing is: we all know this to be true. We all know, at a fundamental level, we are more powerful than we allow ourselves to be.
You see, fear cripples us in both ways. It cripples us as victims AND as potential warriors. This is because when we base our identity on identifying with an authority, which is how most of us are raised, freedom causes anxiety.
We must then conceal the powerful warrior within by resorting to being victimized by the world, thereby relieving ourselves of the anxiety that comes with true freedom.
It’s a fascinating, if not bewildering, aspect of the human condition. So really, we shouldn’t be worried about children who are afraid of the dark; we should be more worried about adults who are afraid of the light.
In the end, suffering occurs when we want the impermanence of the world to be permanent. Like Neil Gaiman wrote, “Hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go.”
The only Hell is unreasonable expectation. If we sacrifice the need for permanence, and instead embrace vicissitude and unexpected change, then “Hell” will continue to elude us.
Let’s escape the tyranny of the linear. Let’s discover the cyclical instead. Let’s remove ourselves from the victim’s dead-stare of coercion, victimization, and the subliminal urge to bend everything to their will.
Let’s move instead into the warrior’s open countenance of cohesion, compassion, and the holistic desire to bring people and nature together. Nothing could be easier, and yet, it seems, nothing could be more difficult.