Sunday, June 15, 2014

Just Give Up

I'm going through a rough time right now. The career that I've spent 12 years (and much more, if you count schooling) working on isn't working out at the moment. My family is at a huge crossroads and we have no idea what is next to come. My writing isn't exactly saving us. My books have a very gentle sales record and--to be honest--I don't know if I've made a total of five dollars from their sales in the last 12 months. This blog, of course, brings in nothing and it's not like I've been nurturing it lately. So as I face an unknown future, hoping something big will come along and save me and that I'll again stand among the successful and satisfied, I encountered some very stirring advice in a book I've been reading: Just give up.

This isn't about throwing in the towel. This isn't about cashing in your chips. This is about letting go of all your hopes for the future, but it's not about filling your pockets with rocks and walking off the end of a pier.

Why should you abandon hope? Because you're already okay.

If I think that having the best job in the world is going to save me, I can never be happy with the job that I get. There's always something better. If I think winning the lottery is going to save me, how can I be sure that even that would be enough? The way things are right now holds a distinct advantage over all those hopes: the way things are is the way things are. This is real. This is now. This isn't a pretend world in a designed future that we're talking about: this is me.

If you're not good enough for yourself right now, you won't be good enough for yourself later. If I write because I'm a writer, because I need to, because I want to express my own original thoughts through my own original voice, I don't need to be paid for it. Yes, there are plenty of people who make plenty of money doing that. But if I wait for the big contract to come around, if I am going to wait for that big book to bring in royalties, I could be waiting an awful long time. Instead of waiting, I'm going to be writing. And if the act of writing isn't good enough for me, if I need to be paid for it, then I'm not a writer; I'm a worker.

We have no real control over our circumstances. There are factors you can affect, but there is so much more that you can't possibly touch. Giving up on the illusion of control over all of this is liberating. My job situation was entirely outside of my realm of control. Most people who are out of work today did nothing to lose their jobs; the world shifted away from their condition of employment without their actions or permission. This is not a personal deficit, this is an environmental fact. By giving up, by seeing that you didn't fail, you can see that you are good enough without that success that you're dreaming of. You can recognize that success is most often an arbitrary issue, not a value judgement.

For every great American success story there is out there, there are thousands or millions of stories where someone had the best idea, had the best planning, had the best connections, and things didn't work out. Just look at Van Gogh and Melville, if you don't believe me. Their work could very easily have not been discovered and we never would have known they were geniuses. Just imagine how many revolutionary inventions, ideas, artworks there are out there that will never be discovered. And know that this is not a value judgement, it's just the shifting sands of coexisting with 7 billion other people on a single rock in the middle of a void.

You don't have to do anything wrong to be miserable. It is the basic state of the human condition. You don't have to screw up or fail to feel like you need more out of life. Everything can be great and it can never be enough. This is a fact that is exploited by our commercial culture all the time. So give up on some fantastical future where everything is just better. Think of your specific reality and see that it is here and now, it is real and you are you. If that's not good enough now, it never will be.

1 comment:

Bear said...

I've been doing a fair bit of reading and thinking on the same idea but in a slightly different context. I'm an Elder in our church and have been prepping for my first sermon. The overarching topic is that through the blood of Christ we've been freed from slavery to sin. But we keep sinning anyway, usually in response to suffering or hardship (real or perceived).
From my reading it seems to me that the root cause is that we always think somebody else always has it better than we do. So rather than trusting that God will put us where we're supposed to be, we take matters into our own hands and try to improve our own circumstances. What we should instead shoot for is contentedness and happiness where we are and wait for God to move us when the time is right. And by 'wait' I don't mean sit on the couch all day not doing anything. Life keeps going and waiting on God isn't an excuse to stop fulfilling whatever responsibilities and commitments you might have. And it's not an excuse or directive to ignore opportunities when they present themselves (see joke about priest on church roof in flooded town).
Sol, keep writing. I'm a father of four girls too. Best thing EVER. :-)