By a refusal to grieve, by lapsing into a host of manic evasions, one risks becoming a monster--a being devoid of empathy that, in an attempt to avoid experiencing suffering, will wound, demean, and exploit the things of the world.
In collective terms, we know this state as the agendas of empire. Conversely, to embrace one's humanity, one must accept being shattered by grief, yet restored by love, simultaneously. Being in unashamed possession of a heart, both broken and whole, serves to mitigate the compulsion to act in the manner of a monster.
The price of self-deception (e.g., political partisanship, monomaniacal careerist striving, compulsive consumerist distractions) is not worth the palliative relief provided. To endure the undoing of illusion, one is tempted to retreat from life into a bubble of isolation or partisan group-think.
Somehow, somewhere along the way, one can become convinced the life that, as imagined in one's entitlement-addicted mind not the byproduct of an ongoing, humility-shepherding dialog with the world, must be made manifest by relentless deed and actions, no matter how dishonest and ruthless. In this way, an individual is prone to becoming an exploitation maintained empire of one, a walking analog of the state that sired, weaned, and socialized him. How could it not be so?
Of course, by his callous disregard of the humanity of others, he makes miserable all that he touches. By his hollow ambitions, he demeans himself, and the happiness that he seeks becomes ever more elusive, and, caught in a self-resonating circuitry of self-defeating actions, he will eventually bring to ruin all near him.
This is how empires fall, and this is the means, on an individual basis, how its citizens move it along towards the precipice.
Conversely, it proves propitious to face the twilight of treasured convictions, to survive the collapse of the empire within, a decision that can provide practice in surviving the collapse of its collectively constructed, outward analog.
Often, events in life can play out badly. Painful as it is, we must not flee from reality. When one becomes prone to acts of habitual evasion, there is little chance to exist with one's dignity intact; it becomes impossible to live with a sense of grace.
Rationalizations are by nature ugly: They are the disingenuous face of desperate souls who have come to fear others and hold a contemptuous dread of life itself. In this way, you can mistake your defense mechanisms deployed against grief and dread as comprising a large portion of your personality.
Take a moment to contemplate what an awful circumstance it is to incessantly pass by your true self, sans recognition, in a similar fashion to the manner one regards an anonymous stranger passed on a teeming boulevard.
The dilemma involves, to paraphrase Rilke, how will you spend the days of this finite life? Will you give into the compulsion to build a construction of ghostly artifice--life lived as a self-perpetuating lie that you are in control, that the caprice you conjure to ward off feelings of despair, regarding your powerlessness over the coursing flow of events, is an accurate description of your true nature? Will you create a bristling fortification of convenient cynicism, allowing you to remain ensconced within a dead womb of bile and ashes?
Or will you risk being the midwife of your own tale, grasping that there exist forces within you, when in dialog with the soul of existence, that are greater than the sum of your assumptions, that exist deeper and beyond life-negating banalities, such as winner and loser, shame and pride, and grief and happiness?
"So don't be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don't know what work they are accomplishing within you?" "-Rainer Maria Rilke
Slightly more than eleven years ago, on September 11, 2001, my wife and I awoke to the blaring of sirens, one following the next. Our air conditioning unit was broken and our windows were open. The air carried an acrid odor.
I checked my email and stacked in my inbox was an avalanche of messages, all inquiries bearing a unifying theme""Are you alright?"
I called out to my wife" to plug in an old black and white television set, because something terrible, it seems, was happening here in New York.