They say that on the battle field, every man finds God, not out of faith, but out of desperation. Facing death is revealing. In our final moments, we throw down our masks and reveal our true nature. Not all soldiers are religious, but when the time comes, even the most adamant non believers will reach out as a last resort for comfort . Heath Leader’s, Joker, said it well when speaking to the officer about his fallen brothers in Dark Knight.
“In their final moments, people show you who they really are. Would you like to know which of them were cowards?”
This is a theme that exists in nature and has been relevant since the beginning of time. Animals live and die by this truth. When survival is at stake, there is one polarizing choice, fight or flight and no time for masks or false pretenses. There is only the harsh and unforgiving reality that death is all but certain. In these moments, the primal impulse to survive, to prolong one’s life, dominates every thought, every action.
In our present day civilization, for most of the world, this feeling is felt so rarely that we often forget that it once ruled our every move. We live with the luxury of never facing this choice or even acknowledging that it still lingers at the very core of our entire being. We are left only with awareness of our other primal urge to find a mate and reproduce. Instead of focusing on finding our next meal while avoiding being one, which proved our quality to a potential mate, we are more concerned with the color of our cell phone case, or how many “likes” our last post received. It is truly beautiful, though. We should be conscious of, and grateful for, this gift of comfort and ignorance to the sobering realism of how fragile and fleeting it is to be alive.
Unfortunately, too many of us lack this understanding, denying us the appreciation of the most beautiful and valuable treasures in life, our true selves and those around us. This absence of comprehension gives way to other dominating ideals that drive our daily lives. Useful skills and characteristics that really meant something have been replaced with gimmicks and flare.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that we have evolved as a civilization to the point that survival of the fittest no longer applies to life and death. I also revel in the fact that merely being alive no longer qualifies as success. Survival now applies to business and the work place. That is our survival now, monetary success, and we are left twiddling our thumbs with all the extra time we have in our day. For many of us, being alive is so easy that we don’t have to think about it. We are free to focus our energies on other things, but we are still driven by a desire to be successful, which leads to that ever constant desire to find a mate. That has not changed and probably never will. What has changed, however, is that being successful is not synonymous with survivalist. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about survival in that sense anymore, so reproduction, love, relationships, whatever you want to call it, does not hinge upon success in terms of bravado. We get to choose who we fall in love with instead of fighting over those who are left.
Ironically, we tend to still favor success, or what we perceive as success, when searching for “the one.” Im not saying this isn’t a good quality, but success and our ability to excel as individuals isn’t limited to our physical attributes or the amount of currency we posses. Beautiful is beautiful. It comes in many shapes and sizes and is conveyed by many mediums. We can’t all look like Beyonce or Brad Pitt, and we won’t all be filthy rich, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. Luckily, we don’t have to be. We are all unique, and we are all beautiful. We all have something to bring to the table.
We have so much time to sit and think, in our luxurious comfort, that we are so easily swept up in the distractions around us. We forget how great it is to be alive and how amazing it is to have air filling our lungs. We see pictures and movies of the rich and famous and want so badly to be living their lives that we forget to live our own. We hold physical beauty on such a high pedestal that we lose sight of the inner beauty we all posses.
In an attempt to live this distant fantasy, our priorities fall apart. We stop working on becoming the best version of ourselves because we are too busy trying to become someone else by camouflaging the parts of us we don’t like. Expensive cars, fancy clothes, designer make-up, tattoos, giant trucks, flashy watches and jewelry, page likes, Facebook friends, number of followers…The list goes on. None of these things are negative by themselves, but when they are everything to you, you are nothing without them.
The most attractive thing you can do in this life is to be completely and unapologetically you. The most valuable traits we have are the ones that make us special and bring us to life. They are intangible and no one can take them away. Some people were born to be pretty, and some of us are intellectuals. Some of us are athletes and some of us are mathletes. Some of us can handle the stress and burden of leadership while others thrive under the direction and structure of a system. It doesn’t matter what your gifts are, what your strengths and weaknesses happen to be. What matters is what you do with them. What matters is if you are willing to chase your passions to mastery, develop your shortcomings to proficiency, and put it all together to become the most amazing individual you can be.
This is where true beauty lies. This is what true success is. When we focus on the things that make us who we are, the appeal of living someone else’s life fades and is replaced with the understanding that we can achieve anything we desire using the tools of our character; any hand can be won with the cards we were dealt. We just have to figure out a way to make it happen.
With this level enlightenment, anything that isn’t true to our nature, ceases to hold value. Like putting on a pair of goggles under the waves brings the ocean into focus, this consciousness illuminates what truly matters, in life, to each individual. These various lighthouses of universal truths and personal importances guide us toward our purpose, happiness, and best suited soul mates. You become less susceptible to fads and advertising manipulation. Your metaphorical “house on the hill” will be unlike anyone else’s, but instead of feeling jealousy when comparisons are present, you are overwhelmed with contentment because the only house you want is the one you built yourself. You won’t need the biggest, or the coolest, just the one specially suited for you. You understand that the best possessions are experiences, knowledge, attitude and mindset. Everything else is simply a distraction from who you really are and an impediment to finding true connections, be it lovers or friends.
To find true love and happiness we have to be honest with others, but how can we be honest with a potential companion when we can’t be honest with ourselves? The sooner we drop all of the masks, the clothes, and the gimmicks, the sooner we can actually start becoming someone we are proud of. Love yourself for who you are, not for the things you can take off. If you were locked in an empty room with just generic clothes on, who would want to be in there with you? Would you have anything to offer, or would you sit there in silence, feeling naked?
If you faced your death tomorrow, would you still be the tough guy you appear to be today?
When I say that facing our death is polarizing, I mean that it snaps into focus, that which we truly care about. For example, many young men act tough, fight at the drop of a hat, and fain aloofness, because it appears to be how one acquires respect and attention. Their need to prove themselves and validate their masculinity manifests as aggressive and rude behavior. It isn’t until maturity and hardship that the appeal of being an asshole is replaced with the understanding of what truly earns respect and makes a boy a man. Often, the lessons enabling this transition are missed due to dishonesty. We blame anything, but ourselves for mistakes or failures, setbacks or shortcomings, denying us the opportunity to face the real cause and produce a remedy. The potential emotional and mental growth available when we face our demons, look over ourselves objectively, own our actions, and associate them with their corresponding consequences, eludes our comprehension without this honesty. We remain a child, trapped in an aging body, chasing purpose and comprehension like a dog fashioned with a harness that dangles a treat in front of its face. We know its there, but it remains just out of reach.
So ask yourself, “are my actions and tastes governed by the fire that burns inside of me, or are they heavily influenced by the perception of others?” If we think back to high school, we remember that the coolest stuff wasn’t what was in style. Trends are set by individuals expressing themselves and everyone else follows. As soon as the school yard was saturated, another trend would sweep the campus. You may not have realized it as a kid, but those people didn’t care what everyone else thought, let go of ego and what others told them was “cool,” and decided for themselves. Ironically, many of the “popular kids” weren’t actually cool, they just pretended well. That same behavior at 35 comes with embarrassment and mediocrity. Only those brave enough to chase their heart and be true to themselves, step out of the norm and embrace their different qualities, will find success. I don’t mean success simply in the form of monetary gain. I use the word to represent a happy, fulfilling, and meaningful life, which is subjective to the user. This is only possible with awareness to our motivations. Are we driven by ego, or are we driven by passion.
The popular kids today seem to be in pop culture, movies and night life. Sex, booze, and the allure of notoriety all seem to be a club hop or a party bus away. Its easy to feel like we are living that life. Walk into any club or bar and they provide the lights, the excitement, and exclusivity so we can feel cooler than the others on the outside of the red rope. But why? What does it get you? Don’t get me wrong, the nightlife and fancy things can be fun and a nice treat, but when we get older and our bodies grow tired from the constant onslaught, what are we left with? Does it help you achieve your goals or does it cripple your efforts? Is it part of who you want to be? Maybe it is, but the path to living the highlife, owning a club, or being something similar to a recording artist is one of great dedication and sacrifice in order to perfect ones craft. Truly living life as a go getter and just looking like one are horribly different things. One focuses on success, in the eyes of others, and one focuses on personal excellence, which leads to true success.
That hole in your chest, the void in your heart, the partial emptiness that follows your every move, and the hollow satisfaction you feel when doing something that used to quench your thirst, are all derivatives of the same unanswered question. This question holds your salvation and no amount of external armor or camouflage can shield its importance or hide its need to be answered. You may have fancy clothes, nice shoes, and an expensive car,
But Who Are You Really?