Adaptation vs. Authenticity

That’s a perennial concern for me. How and what extent to adapt to whatever and where to walk a different path regardless of what others may say or do. I struggle on this tightrope daily and too often wind up missing the mark on both accounts and disappointing myself in the process.

Adaptation and conformity is very seductive in that it brings the promise of acceptance by the herd. Or at least that’s the lure. Probably won’t wind up accepted in the end by many either way since humans are so damned fickle. But that road advertises itself as easier, more automatic, less lonely and alienating, less thought-provoking and challenging, more entertaining, etc. But how much of that winds up being an illusion? From what I can tell, most of it.

Authenticity, on the other hand, comes across as a hazy question, an ambiguous journey with no clear destination capable of being mapped and pointed out. It’s murky and cloudy and uncertain and fraught with challenges to one’s character, integrity and courage. It exacts a toll that is paid through personal growth and introspection, which oftentimes is accompanied by suffering since that’s how growth comes about. And it promises to separate one off from the herd, leaving you possibly feeling destitute and emotionally and socially disenfranchised. High cost there.

But losing oneself in familiar comforts and trying to appease the masses by plastering on a fake smile and pretending all is right with the world and censoring our thoughts and words so as not to generate too much thinking in others which they might find disagreeable is a high cost too in the long run. Because that’s asking you to sacrifice yourself and your unique attributes and perspective in order to fit in and not rock the boat.

So the cost is high either way you turn, one way or another. Either pay now or pay later seems to be the universe’s message in this delightful paradox. Pay with your life one way or pay with your life another. Either way though, payment will be shaken out of you somehow. You can opt for the easy way or the hard way. And, naturally, the easy way winds up being the lazy option and therefore will be accompanied by delayed consequences on down the road.

I know these things, and yet I try to escape knowing them time and again. Why? Because I am a stubborn human being. And because the fear of scarcity has scarred my brain and leaves me worried about letting go of what is within my grasp, even while knowing I must let go of this in order to grab hold of something better and larger. I’m no fan of sitting alone with myself for too many hours, lacking companionship, or feeling like even more of a pariah when out around others. It’s not much fun. But, then again, I should be used to it by now and should also realize it’s not as bad as my fears like to pretend it is.

Perhaps it’s most scary because it asks so much out of a person. And maybe I’m afraid of letting myself and others down in the end. Because there’s great allure in holding fast to the distractions and entertainments that help the days go by so much more quickly. But with the slippage of time there go our lives.

Apparently authenticity asks of us to define what it is we love and to take daily action in living accordingly. And defining what’s what and what matters most is quite a chore, particularly if we take in too much advice and chatter from the outside world. It’s easy to wind up feeling like our minds are little more than television sets where the channel is constantly being flipped from day to day depending on what input we’re receiving from others, and that creates a massive amount of confusion and cognitive dissonance where it becomes damn-near impossible to choose a path and steadily pursue it. So, apparently this also calls on an individual to shut off a lot of that external chatter and to aim to be more discerning about what advice and opinions we’re willing to take seriously. Because certainly not all is equal.

It’s mind-bending to try to conform and adapt to that which feels wrong or misguided or regressive. Though it can be quite alluring and intoxicating at times. It’s all a double-edged sword, but adapting toward the wrong path leaves one feeling spiritually gutted and emotionally drained. It requires too much work and sacrifice without much reward. Unless deadening oneself can be seen as a reward of sorts.

Listened to something this morning that was discussing spiritual death where we’re just waiting for the body to die too. I know a number of people like that, and it is their world I’ve been aiming to conform to. I refer to it as the “slow death” because that’s precisely how it feels. Numbing, stultifying, stupefying, and ultimately a betrayal to the Self. And for what? To keep life and living simple? To seem likable to others? To reduce complexity so as to lighten our burden?

Cowardice…that’s what a lot of it is. Much as I don’t like to hear that. Not pretty to witness in others and most definitely sickening to recognize in oneself.

Nearly every day I stand with one foot on each side of the fence. Tentatively waiting for something to come along and knock me one way or the other. But they say a person can straddle that line for an awful long time, maybe even an entire lifetime.

Seemed like I was heading in a more positive direction years ago and wound up regressing when confronted with an opportunity to hide out and construct a cocoon. And perhaps that time period was needed. Maybe this all has been necessary and judgment isn’t warranted beyond accepting it as being what it is, so long as I continue on and remain in motion. Lamenting the past hasn’t improved a thing, that much I must acknowledge. Life isn’t some linear timeline where “progress” is clearly defined. Apparently we loop around and regress and progress until the lessons are learned sufficiently. Just a question of actively striving to learn and to move beyond to the next challenge. Daunting as that too often sounds…

But what’s the alternative? Staying here at this point, disappointed and bitter amid a bunch of others in nearly the same condition, blaming others and external forces for our lack of motivation and direction? And what good springs from that? Not much that I can see.

Much as I wish to escape my own company, it appears I must return to it and seek solace right here within my own realm. Because little value exists in the places I’ve been retreating to. I know this, much as I wish I didn’t.

Ignorance isn’t really blissful, it’s just willful oblivion.

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