One of the dilemmas of my life is the question of whether I am more of a contemplative or more of an activist. My actual personality and temperament indicate that I am really more of a contemplative. But my consciously adopted ethic, rooted in my sincere concern for the world, emphasizes actively trying to make a positive difference in the world. So I have tended to try to push myself more in the "activist" direction (loosely defined).
I can say a lot of things about why I have developed this strong habit of pushing against my nature, but I will refrain. I am guessing that the story of systematically pushing against one's own nature is very common; the reasons for doing so diverse and personal.
What's interesting in my case is that it is not that I haven't known that I'm really more of a contemplative at heart. Why, look at the name I give myself here, for example! Nor is it that I do not value the contemplative role. I regard it as crucially important.
Despite my long time of knowing this about myself, and my regarding it as crucially important, yet I have systematically pushed against this core quality of my nature and only now am I finally saying to myself, "Enough! This isn't working!" Only now am I finally and truly resolving to change this in my life.
The thought of what my life could be like once I fully institute this change fills me with a dramatic ray of hope like I've not seen in a very long time when I look at my life and ponder my future. That ray of hope, shining like a sunbeam through the branches of trees on my path ahead in the woods, keeps me going.
But the distance between here and there seems enormous. This is not the kind of change one can make in an instant. The attitude change is not enough. There are projects I have committed to that I must bring to completion. It will take me a while to get where I want to be. My attitude change, in a way, makes this even harder, because I now find myself a bit impatient about the distance between me and that ray of hope ahead. This challenging hiking that I'm doing used to be what I counted as the meaning and purpose of my life; now it presents itself as an obstacle to endure and survive until I can get to where I really want to be.
But my metaphors are not really fully accurate. The contrast between my "activism" and "contemplation" is overdrawn. I'm not wholly unhappy with following through on prior commitments. And I certainly do not resent my attitude change: it helps me make new decisions with a lot more clarity.
But some dimensions of the change are really really hard.
It's hard to be who you really are, unapologetically, in the world -- especially when a core part of yourself (like being contemplative) is largely underappreciated and misunderstood.
5 years ago