Monday, December 9, 2013

Dancing With Compromise

My sons and other young people I meet and work with are at a crossroads. They are trying to figure out how best to be happy while making a living. They are new to the maze where reality engages with desires.

All I can tell them is that they have to referee a battle between hungry dogs. There is a war that is waged in the psyche between the need to be practical and the heart's desire, between the mind and the soul. Joseph Campbell famously said "Follow you bliss," as the guide for a life lived well and fully. Then there are the fairy tales of industrious critters making hay while others dawdle in order to be the ones who survive when winter comes.

Both bliss and street wisdom are great truths, often at odds with one another. They need respect and they need each other to thrive. They form one of the great questions that I have yet to fully understand. 

Together, they form a question that is a tough nut to crack, and even now, in my late fifties, I have little counsel for young people who are trying to map out a life, to make decisions about how to live.

For people like me, work is a requirement for survival, and income makes the difference between misery and comfort. Money talks and people respond. Poverty talks too, but people are deaf to what it says and usually turn away or wrinkle with scorn.

On the other side, the universe dances when anyone finds his or her passions and lives by them. It dims a bit when the lights of talent starve for lack of expression.

The problem is that passion doesn't always equate to income. Sometimes it's hard to live on bliss.

So, how does one manage both the economic realities while feeding and living by dreams? How does one survive while fulfilling a calling? How does one make a living while trying to write?

And what if making a living precludes the writing, or the music, or the painting, or the dancing, or whatever it is that lights the fire of the heart?

The answers to these contemplations lie with the individual and there are as many as there are lives to reveal them.

In addition,the fight, it must be said, is often not a fair one. Few of us are asked what it is that we want to do, what it is that lights a fire in the spirit world, what fills us with energy and passion. As children, we see the calling, but, for some reason, over the years, we forget, or betray it, to be "practical." The consequence of such little attention to soul is complicity in its starvation.

Very few people fully taste and follow what it is that makes them happy.

On the other side, the voices of making a living and defining one's self as an income generator, are everywhere.

Before embarking on a decision, I recommend that seekers create a level playing field, say out loud what it is that they want to do, look at it squarely, and get some experience with success or at least practice before embarking on a direction, moderating the contraries. Then see how it turns out, benefits and consequences, and prices paid; take a cold look at the possible outcomes. 

The results of the struggle take many forms.

Down one path lies anger, compromise, bitterness, or regret at abandoning the dream to make a living.

Down another path lies a stack of rejection letters that do not pay many bills, exhaustion at having gone for it, but not finding the audience or the forms that resonated in a way that made money.

Of course there are myriad mixes of compromise and realization.

One can make a living, earn some time at the end of life and then go for it. One can steal time in the mornings or evenings to write while making a living.

One can find a patron or a sugar daddy/momma to pay the bills while chasing bliss, security and shelter from the storm while cupping the flickering candle.

One can live on nothing and be happy with that, on live well and just stuff the dreams into a closet of closed discussions.

Each of these is the story of a life, a story of happiness or anger and resentment, of sacrifice and reward or consequences.

For my part, I let doubt get the better of me and took the path of work. I only occasionally regret it. I have been lucky enough to taste both the rewards of creativity and the regularity of a pay check.

I would be lying if I said I was happy about it all the time. But I am grateful for the fullness that this life has been so far.

It has been a both/and compromise that was the best I could do, given my fear, doubt, need for companionship, clarity of heart. 

The dogs are hungry, as the great teachers say, and which gets stronger depends on the one we feed.

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