Some may remember a series of books by Carlos Castenada written in the seventies about a “real, spiritual”** adventure taken by Mr. Castenada, soon afterwards debunked. In these books the concept of human battles was presented; battles against fear, power, clarity and finally old age.
Fear is the first of the four battles that we must, as individuals and societies, overcome. While fear is evolutionarily founded on the overwhelming desire to survive, in the context of our modern lives it often misinforms us given our homogeneous societies, given the social pressures that we all endure: mind your parents, go to school, get married, have kids, and retire. Fear, I have found, often leads many people down paths that they never wanted, that they never desired and stunts intellectual growth. In short, most of our fear is disconnected from its evolutionary roots of survival and has become a road block to personal growth.
Once we realize that fear is sometimes founded, but more often not founded in reality, we recognize the power that the realization offers us. Power comes in many forms, one of the more common forms is money. With money comes security and with security comes the illusion of power. Our happiness, our contentedness, our self becomes defined by the power that we hold as all important and they (in turn) become dependent on the power that we believe we have. Soon enough the slave becomes the master.
Our happiness, our contentedness and our security safely put in their virtuous places we are enlightened to the fact that our lives are short and perhaps insignificant in the grande scheme of things. Perhaps we recognize that independence is based upon understanding and curiosity and that it is these concepts that lead us to the ever illusive peace and contentedness that seems to elude so many. The universe opens up, we achieve Nirvana, we find god(s); we are clear about our place and purpose in the universe. And then we are old.
Our bodies let is down when our minds should be at their best. Aches and pains sneak up on us as we watch the universe expand beyond our comprehension. We have lived enough years to realize the regrets that we fought so hard not to have, and now some changes, some things, are outside of our grasp. Our clarity drives these truths home, and we watch as our happiness is now in danger.
It is at this point that we must make our choice, according to Castenada: to jump into the abyss leaving all we know behind, or to fade toward the light and into the oblivion of the masses. The one leads to loneliness, and the other leads to loss of self; and it is at this point that we face our old enemy fear again and the journey begins again. Pick your paths carefully and fight like a Viking.
**I believe this phrase to be oxymoronic.