“All the activities of life seem merely expedient — only a shadow play without substance. I am suffering within my skin, within the hollows of my skull. I yearn to live with purpose, yet my eyes are too coated to perceive worthwhile purposes in the ‘get up/go to work/come home/eat/watch television/go to bed humdrum.’ I ask others why they are doing what they are doing. After they say they are making a living or starting their kids through the same ultimate process, I ask them again. Then they say they don’t know!
“I feel like Paul who said, ‘Things I want to do, I don’t do; things I don’t want to do, I do.’ I look at all of us pushing through life and ask why. Is the main purpose of existence only to maintain existence? Birth, copulation, death — is that it? Really?
“Sometimes I can preoccupy myself and drown out the yearning for a few days. Then it comes back. What’s wrong with me that I can’t be happy with the humdrum until I’m sixty-five? Why can’t I look forward to retirement and the doctors escorting me to my hopefully penultimate tomb? Above all, either satisfy my yearning, pacify this aching heart and perplexed mind or take away, please take away, this yearning. I yearn to be better than I am. I crave that life have more value.”
A Quest for Meaning
Do you have these feelings? Have you ever felt this way? If this yearning were to continue unabated, without being satisfied, it could be dangerous. Without finding satisfaction you will likely develop impaired functioning and diminished ability to relate to other people. In your neurosis, reality can become obscured — and who knows what illnesses might develop after that.
Yet this perplexity is a common experience to most people who ultimately realize the higher consciousness. These people are not merely intrigued by the benefits of higher consciousness. They are desperate people, driven to a quest for meaning. They are haunted by the hope of deep and total satisfaction in the realization of their underlying humanity and spirituality. These seekers crave sight of the polestar that will guide them to values they can wholeheartedly live for and enthusiastically accomplish.
Being desperate, they’re somewhat menacing to the happiness of others. Their lack of satisfying fulfillment in the regular things of life hurts loved ones and friends who are quite content with the way life is going. These driven ones seem to sneer at society.
“They must be snobs the way they’re unable to share in the common joys of life,” parents and old friends say. “Their discontent can make them pessimists for life! They’re ignoring excellent career opportunities! These strange ones say so emotionally that they’re not alive merely to exist. Well, who is? They must be missing crucial brain circuits! And being nice to them doesn’t help. Being nasty merely adds to their apparent martyrdom for the ridiculous. Worse, they might turn to dope or alcohol. They seem to be life’s fugitives.” Beneath these remarks is the judgment that the discontented are too self-indulgent in their dissatisfactions; they are apparently too lazy or too weak to get on with their lives and fulfill their roles in family and society.
Former friends wonder, “They talk about their yearnings and their need to understand life. This yearning looks more like an excuse for eccentricity and a rationale for putting other people down. Yearnings? We all have yearnings. Why do they act so exclusive?”
Enter the Freeway
Yet, in life we all have a choice. The path of higher consciousness is much like a freeway. People turn onto this royal road from the most adjacent community of thought. They also turn off this road when some activity or community beside the road looks more appealing and interesting than the pleasure of continuing toward an as yet unknown reality.
Many people turn onto the road of higher consciousness when they reach a personal state of deep yearning. They do not much care about the benefits enumerated and exclaimed over in earlier Lessons. They do not have to make an effort to be more conscious. They already crave greater consciousness. They enter the freeway at this point exclusively because of their yearning. They need — they deeply need — to find higher consciousness. Nothing they know, nothing they have found out so far, either from respected teachers or from their own musings, has soothed their pain. They have been ejected from routine satisfactions, as well as from the community of thoughts in their own minds. They have to find a love that lasts and satisfies. They have cried quietly for many a night to know the how and why of life. They want to find a place where they will fit in. Somewhere.
The Sincerely Confused
So it is that the freeway, which was once traveled mainly by those seeking fuller awareness of their potential, is today newly populated by the sincerely confused. If you are one who seeks fuller awareness of your potential, the newly arrived “sincerely confused” travelers will look at you and wonder what you are doing on the road. They will question your motives, and you, if you are one of the comfortable, unagonized seekers of higher consciousness, may feel: a) superior to these neurotic people, or b) inferior and not worthy to be traveling with them. While you, after all, are planning simply to apply some effort toward a number of specific benefits, these new travelers seem ready to give their all — everything. But at times they act as if the benefits you hope for are merely self-gratifying items on an egoic shopping trip.
The new entrants on the freeway, the sincerely confused, should be appreciated and accepted as fellow human beings. One day you may become similarly motivated, if you’re not already. You may, at some stage on your pleasant journey, suddenly convulse in the realization that you are not the person you yearn to be. You may sense there are much more important issues in your life than you have been willing to face before. A sudden, intense dissatisfaction with your character flaws may grip you and not let go. On the other hand, if you, by some special grace, are somehow enabled to value and appreciate the goodness and beauty which underlies life, you may never have to know the agony of yearning. You may not need the power of its motivation. You may do extremely well without yearning because of your eagerness to grow, coupled with your honesty and a sense of good will for all, whatever their nature.
You’re a Traveler
In your eagerness to grow, along with your freedom from “the yearning disease,” you will be a bright light, a cheery face, and a harmonious influence in the lives of the dissatisfied. As they move forward, confused about their goals, accepting new possibilities only to reject them, and then sometimes rushing back to seek once again the rejected goal, you will be, in your steadiness, a fine inspiration.
If you find yourself on this freeway toward higher consciousness and you recognize you are a traveler due to your yearning, dissatisfaction, confusion, or perplexity — welcome! Many have come this way before you and have succeeded. If you yearn to know what’s worth doing, your question is not regarded as nihilistic by your fellow travelers. Come along. In the meantime, don’t stop taking an active part in life, whether or not it makes sense to you. Do! Be about. Be active and perform the work that comes most easily to your hand. Retain your ability to do. Retain your skill in action. Your present abilities will become very, very useful when you find your higher consciousness.
If you view the world and your peers as being very confused, surely you can feel deep compassion for them. Surely you would not condemn them but lend a helping hand, would you not? There is always something you can do. Even if it seems insignificant to your state of mind, there are many ways you can contribute something.
“Do you feel you are confused about yourself, that you do not even know who you are? Great philosophers had the same problem — Mahatma Gandhi and Benjamin Franklin, for example. Gandhi studied his life and himself with painstaking honesty for years and years. Franklin, the genius who helped draft the Declaration of Independence, was mainly self-taught. On his own he worked through mathematics manuals, scientific journals, foreign languages, and daily exercises in character development. From youth through advanced old age, Franklin’s life was a quest for Truth. What made Gandhi, Franklin, and dozens of others great was they did everything they could to resolve their yearnings and satisfy their questions.