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Discussion in 'Essays' started by ChrisA, Dec 20, 2006.

  1. ChrisA Guest

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    The Path of Self-Delight

    Lately, I’ve been seduced by a feeling of power, self-confidence and sheer self-delight. This new sense of myself curiously reminds me of another period of my life, a period when chaos and madness were the gods I worshiped.

    At Hamilton College, I led what I will refer to as “the demonic years of my life”. I had always thought of these years as a period of extreme ignorance and infantile grandiosity. It seemed my behavior was largely unconscious and shameful—as if there was “no point” to these years of my life.

    But lately I’ve come to believe a different story about my demonic past. And it is the revelation of the striking resemblance between my past and my present that I wish to investigate in this essay.

    Like many parents, my father projected his insecurities onto me, which was his desperate need to please his mother. Of course, I don’t blame my father for what was largely an unconscious projection. But here in the unconscious sloughs of childhood I developed my role as an individual performer in relation to the world.

    I strove to please my father by performing well in school. By high school, my discipline for study was astounding. I was like no other student. While my intelligence remained more or less average, my compulsion to study was extreme. The high marks I scored were the result of tremendous effort and by no means was my studying efficient.

    Just as my father strived to perform academically for his mother, now I was striving to do the same for him. I was rewarded by my father’s approval and that seemed to be enough. He patted me on the back. He exalted me in front of my sister. I was his “golden child”.

    What happened, then, at Hamilton College? In essence, once I got to college, I rebelled. But I did so unconsciously. Therefore I never broke from my old pattern of obsessive-compulsive studying. I was still trying to please my father. Beneath the veneer of self-achievement, however, I was becoming a day and nighttime drug-user.

    Essentially, during these years, I was self-divided. While I took study-drugs such as Ritalin and Adderral in order to out-perform my peers academically, I was also asserting a new, dangerous role of my own self-expression. Drugs allowed me to act out a demonic performance that was centered on me. Cocaine, Crystal Meth, Ecstasy, LSD. For the first time, I had the sense that I was directing my own life, creating my own image: artist, dandy, seducer, philosopher, charismatic, rebel. I portrayed all of these.

    And while most of my fraternity brothers rejected me for being so extreme, I was gaining a reputation around campus as an eccentric. While my outlandish self-display disgusted most of the conformist-types at Hamilton, it did appeal to a handful of others. College students were intrigued by me because I was totally uninhibited. By taking drugs and expressing myself openly, masculine or feminine, proud, vulnerable, ecstatic, melancholic, I did whatever I pleased and acted how I felt. I seemed to acknowledge that I was a complete fiction of myself and was having fun with being a fiction.

    Taking excessive amounts of drugs helped me to break out of the role I had unconsciously assumed in order to please my father. In a way, I was trying to “just be myself”. But something was wrong here; this could not be healthy.

    I had previously thought of this “demonic period” of my life as a period of complete ignorance, a “sleep” of sorts. This assumption however would suggest that some events in our lives are anomalies and do not really serve a purpose. But as I continue to examine the story of my past, I discover that my demonic years at Hamilton College contained some seeds of wisdom.

    When I would take drugs and dress up in flamboyant ways, parading into the dorm rooms of beautiful college girls, I believe I was trying to let go of my false persona, trying to remove the constraints of the role I had unconsciously acquired in childhood. It was as if I wanted to unfurl out of my father’s shell. I wanted to become my own person. To delight in being who I am.

    There was real purpose, then, in my demon. Something inside of me knew that I was not being true to myself. Something inside of me screamed for a revolution, for an overthrow of the old regime. While the initial desire to break free of the old role was intuitively correct, the new role I acquired would prove deadly.

    Today I am in the best of health. I wake up and go to sleep at almost the same hours. I exercise regularly. I mediate. My days are full of life-affirming activities. Ironically, it is today that I can “relate to” my demon at Hamilton College. I understand him. I understand why he took all of those drugs, dressed up and performed wildly for others. Today I’m not very different from him. Though I don’t take drugs anymore, I do feel intensely. I suck the marrow out of life just the same. I stand on the rooftops to get my point across.

    My demon-days were an attempt to be true—but I failed. I could not be true to myself because I was seduced by a false sense of power, a romantic fever, a vivid hallucination. Today my life is more or less in balance. For the first time, my mind is calm enough for me to touch the actual feelings inside of me. I can articulate myself. My power and self-confidence is real and self-sustaining, not a dream or an illusion of power.

    My demon-days were also a failed attempt at self-delight. Self-delight is more than merely “pleasing yourself”. By taking drugs and creating an aura around myself, I was trying to enjoy or delight in myself. But I couldn’t fully achieve self-delight; I could only dance around it, never fully embrace it. This is because self-delight involves a deeper understanding of the self, an understanding I did not have at the time.

    Pleasure is not the same as self-delight. Self-delight involves compassion toward the self. For example, if the ego has an unhealthy drive, the practice of self-delight involves doing something else, such as taking a walk, painting or drawing. Self-delight also involves creating a presence of self-awareness. By allowing myself to open up, to simply enjoy being myself, I can begin to access the boundless unconscious realm of who I am.

    Look around. The dead ones are the ones living in the shadows of anxiety, mostly family anxieties. They have not yet found themselves. They have not yet examined their unconscious roles. They have not yet broken out of society’s expectations. They live not for themselves. We forget that we live in fear and that is why we prefer the façade of social concern to the fire of self-love and self-knowledge.

    At Hamilton College I became acquainted with a false-persona, my shadow, my demon. I knew him very well, I practiced him everyday, and somewhere inside, I knew he was not me. Eventually I shed the skin of my demon, though he is wont to grow back from time to time. Tomorrow, when I sight him, I will shed him.

    Our demons possess real insight. Investigate them. They want us to explore other possibilities for ourselves. They want us to travel outside the bounds of social convention, outside the bounds of the “day-time world”. We are just as backward, if not more, if we remain in our conventional roles from childhood. It is better to burn the house down wholesale.

    Because I burned down the house and everyone in it (thank god!) I know my part in the universe today. I am a poet, a writer. I use words transform my world. I am here to open and close my wings. I am here to delight in my being as my being observes and creates. And I feel it is that simple.

    By delighting in ourselves, we encourage others to delight in themselves. Soon we will be delighting in others’ lives. Being who you are is not being selfish. It is life’s mystery.



    Posted By ChrisA | Dec 20, 2006

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