Be yourself everyone else is already taken was painted on the concrete wall of the overpass. Ray drove by it every day on his way to the job site. It was about here on the drive that the SUV engine started to get warm. The floor heater of his Chevy Blazer kicked up the smell of effort from a pair of steel toed boots well past their prime. The boots were both pride and shackles to Ray.
He barely paid attention to the graffiti on his drive but it was one of his first thoughts on this morning as he walked into the kitchen. He’d felt conflicted at work lately, this quote graphitized on the wall seemed like a hint to a little more happiness. He researched the quote and realized that the message behind it was only the first step because he found out that to know thyself is the beginning of all wisdom.
The problem was, the more he looked, the more confused he was about who his real self was. He couldn’t figure out why major philosophers disagreed about becoming your best self or how to know thyself. Then after you figured out how to be yourself, you were supposed to trust thyself. Who were you trusting? It all seemed like a complicated game of cat and mouse.
All he really wanted was to be a little happier. To not be so anxious all the time and to quit waking up in bed, awash with panic when the shadow of death hovered in the early hours of the morning.
Ray growled looking at the tailgater in his rearview mirror. “I’m in the centre lane, going the speed limit and this moron won’t get off my ass.” He breathed deep trying no to let it but him at the very first part of his day. He failed. “Time for a couple days off work at the cabin,” he said letting out a sigh.
Be Yourself – Trust Thyself
Sam was a long time friend of Ray’s. He’d retired during Ray’s first year in the infantry but they’ve kept in touch through tours and battalion until now, Ray retired too, they both found themselves civilians.
Ray turned off the ignition and the Blazer rattled to a stop. Sam looked up from packing his pipe on the porch and laughed.
“Hey Sam,” Ray said. “It’s serious this time. Why you laughing at me already?”
Sam looked up as if reading the sky. “Because the truest religion is turning anxiety into laughter,” he said between chuckles, “and besides, the alternative is me being pissed all day.”
Sam pulled out a small box of matches, “What brings you to my neck of the woods?
“Well I was doing a little self improvement work…”
“And how’s that working out for you?” he said as his shoulders jerked up and down in silent laughter.
“Yeah, yeah. I wanted to talk with you about the quote Be Yourself Everyone Else Is Already Taken. You know anything about that?”
“Yeah, that’s a tricky one. Be yourself everyone else is already taken is an important guide to jumping over anxiety into legitimate happiness in my opinion. To be yourself does not mean to try and become yourself or to try and discover yourself. “Be Yourself Everyone Else Is Already Taken,” is a call to stop trying to be anything else. You’re already there.”
A confused look crossed Ray’s face.
“Here,” he said patting the chair beside him on the deck. “Let’s have a chat.
Go inside and grab a mug then pour yourself a cup of tea,” he said pointing to a carafe sitting on the table between two chairs.
Ray did and came back smiling at an old 2PPCLI mug that must have been around since Kapyong.
“Be Yourself Everyone Else Is Already Taken” is often attributed to Milton. Others say it’s from a Thomas Merton quote in a piece called Day of a Stranger. Goes something like,
In an age where there is much talk about “being yourself” I reserve to myself the right to forget about being myself, since in any case there is very little chance of my being anybody else. Rather it seems to me that when one is too intent on “being himself” he runs the risk of impersonating a shadow.”
“That has quite a bit more depth than the more popular one,” Ray said.
“That’s usually the case.”
“It probably became shortened down to “Be yourself everyone else is taken” over time. What’s important is not so much who said it, but the kernel of truth in there.”
Sam dug around for his pouch of pipe tobacco leaving Ray hanging on the last bit of information until he had to speak up.
“Well what’s so important about it?” he said almost bursting.
Sam pushed himself out of his chair and stretched overhead, “Let’s go for a walk.”
They stood for a moment as Sam looked and paused at several different paths leading from the house.
“Yup, that’s the one for today,” he said as if selecting a fine wine. The two headed up the steep trail.
“Ok, so the quote be yourself everyone else is taken is the subject. It is supposed to be a “ground zero” thought on enjoying a life filled with purpose, pride and enjoyment. “The beginning of all wisdom,” some say. The end game on this one is instead of finding yourself or becoming your best self, think in terms of peeling an onion of self-deceit or stripping off the clothes of public expectations.”
There was something on the trail that caught Sam’s eye. He paused, bent over and picked up a long pine needle from the thousands dropped from a Western White Pine.
He twirled it in his fingers, showing it to Ray and then they continued down the trail, Ray in tow.
Once Ray was by his side again, Sam continued, “We are lucky enough to have an appreciable amount of freedom where we live. In some places, being yourself is not an option. And one of my favourite quotes “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string,” cannot be acted on from fear of personal safety.”
“Trust thyself,” Ray repeated watching his feet as he walked.
Sam twirled the pine needle, “Yes and even before ” Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string” and ” Be yourself everyone else is taken”, you had “Know Thyself, To Thine Own Self Be True” But they are all true and at the same time misleading.”
Ray stopped walking. “What do you mean by that?” he said looking up to the sky holding his arms out in confusion.
Sam laughed. “Calm down young blood. Remember the onion. Your outlook on life is a direct reflection of how much you like yourself. You can’t like yourself if you’re living a lie. Which is where “Trust Thyself,” comes from.”
Ray noticed that when the leaves on the trees fluttered in the wind it was as if they were laughing.
Sam continued. “Lies divide you and shatter your integrity. Especially the lies you try to sneak by your soul about yourself. They leave you collecting pieces of your best self and cradling them in doubt and fear. A fully integrated person is one who knows the shadow and light inside and doesn’t scold or applaud either. What you act on is choice. A lot of choices you make are based on fear. Mostly fear of repercussions. Losing your job. Going to jail. Getting a ticket. Public outrage or simple embarrassment.”
Sam turned right down a path without warning catching Ray off guard. He jogged a couple steps to catch up just as Sam sat down on a log.
“This is one of my favourite spots,” Sam said pointing at the water as it bubbled and twisted slowly over the smooth rocks.
Ray gave the water a quick glance. “So what do I do? What’s my next step?”
Sam smiled and looked fully into Ray’s eyes and said one word.
“Nothing. But that’s not what you want to hear.”
Sam saw Ray’s jaw tighten shaking his head in confusion.
“Did you ever feel this frustrated and confused when you were on tour, walking through a mine field, leading the rest of your supply convey to deliver those ceramic roof tiles?”
Ray thought about it. “No. I was just amped out of my mind.”
“Exactly. You only get frustrated and confused when you don’t know what to do. The ego needs a task to chase. Even in bad or dangerous situations like a minefield, if you know what you’re supposed to be doing, you’re just super pumped. But not frustrated. ”
It was true. Being excited, scared, and amped were just different levels of the same emotion. Frustrated and stuck however knotted him up inside.
Sam could see Ray was getting the point. “I can see you’re worked up Ray. I’m not trying to be confusing. It’s just the topic is a hard thing to convey with simple words.”
Sam still twirled the pine needle and then nodded his head.
“But you can get rid of that stuck feeling. Genius is a belief in your own thought. Speak and follow what your gut is telling you instead of going with the flow. We call the great poets great because they wrote what we all think. Not what we all say.
What I mean is this,” Sam paused and held up the pine needle again.
“Learn to trust your intuition and flashes of mind. Trust thyself more than the voices of authority washed in public opinion. This pine needle is obviously not a leaf. Without trying to be a pine needle, it is one. If it tried to be a leaf it would fail. If it actively tried to be a better pine needle it would be like trying to prick itself with its own point. It’s already doing one hundred percent pine needle without trying. Everything else is confusion and frustration.”
Ray’s eyebrows rose a little. It was the look of a person learning something new.
It excited Sam to see he was getting through a little. “Great works of art all teach the same lesson. They teach us to stick with our spontaneous impressions with good-humored inflexibility. Especially when the rest of the world disagrees. If those musicians, rebels, poets and heretics hadn’t, those works would be lost to time.”
Ray’s mouth opened a crack and then he shut it.
Sam smiled. “Go ahead. You had an idea didn’t you?”
“Out with it then,” Sam said patting Ray on the shoulder.
“So an actionable part of this is that while it’s impossible to not be yourself because everyone else is already taken, you can do less of what other people think you should be doing, that goes against your gut.”
“Nicely put. And that the less you do what you think society, convention, whatever expects of you, the more you, you become.”
“Sometimes the best way to play the game, is not to play the game at all.”
“Yes, and that’s where we should stop this conversation. What you just said is all there is to know,” Sam said throwing the pine needle into the water. He stood transfixed for a moment watching the needle drift out of sight and mumbled, “That’s a whole other topic for him.”
Be Yourself Everyone Else Is Already Taken – Imitation Is Suicide
Ray looked around as they walked, stewing on what they had talked about.
“So Sam,” Ray paused.
“Yes,” Sam said picking through a small wild blueberry patch without looking at him.
“You mentioned Ralph Waldo Emerson?”
“You like his ideas?”
“Every author has tasty morsels but few chefs make only delicious meals,” Sam said finding himself funny.
“Did he have more tasty bits?”
“Tons. One that has stuck with me that’s relevant here is that there is a time in every persons life when they realize that envy is ignorance and that imitation is suicide. That you must take yourself, as you are, for better or worse. That no kernel of nourishing corn can come to you but through your hard work from the given plot of ground bestowed at birth.”
“Be yourself everyone else is already taken and trust thyself” with a dash of, “Just do you and add elbow grease.”
“I’m sensing a theme Sam,” Ray said stepping high over an exposed root across the trail.
“You do. Most people hold back on what they feel. They don’t show the world what they really are. There’s a kernel in everyone that is so bizarre and weird that it makes life interesting for the individual and the people around them. It will even annoy some but without a change in the ocean floor, we don’t have waves to surf.”
“Trust yourself and give your gift to the world. That would take a lot of fearlessness and courage,” Ray said.
“Maybe. It could also mean not giving a flying fox tail and letting the cards fall where they may,” said Sam raising an eyebrow. “That’s why I like martial arts, it helps me fear others less so I can be more true to myself.”
Sam pointed to the right where the path diverged. “We’ll take this one and loop back to the cabin.”
Ray stutter stepped and veered to the right to follow Sam.
“What if you don’t know who you are? That seems kind of like a prerequisite before you can be yourself doesn’t it? How do I know where the real me starts, ends and what I’m doing that’s just self deceit?”
Ray tripped over a drop in the trail and Sam pointed to another exposed root, “Watch that one too.”
“Thanks,” said Ray. Sam obviously knew the trail well.
Without even watching where he was walking he looked back to Ray and continued. “You decide what you want to do. Not what label you want, but the act that you want to spend time doing. In order to do something well and with ease, you require some skill at it. Which requires skill, time and practice. Copying greatness is a learning tool. But it creates only shadows of both the original and your true genius. It’s a ghost of what you’re actually capable of.”
“See, you need a boat to cross a river, but once you cross the river you don’t carry the boat on your shoulders for the rest of your life. You learn how to do the thing you love doing to the best of your capabilities from someone who knows more, but when your skills are good enough to let you express your individuality, you bring that gift to the world.”
“But it’s actually quite a bit simpler than all that,” Sam said.
“After you dance around the quote, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” and try to figure that out. You run into the quote know thyself, first seen carved in the stone of the temple housing the oracle of Delphi. So you try to find yourself. You learn your skill and all that has to do with the outside world. The job, the person you portray to the world etc. Follow?”
“So far, yes.”
“Inside is a different story. The fact is, you are who you are and you cant be anything else. You’re already doing it. You can’t change or be anything other than who you are because it’s still you that’s trying to change you. It’s like a leaf trying to become pine needle but it’s trying to leaf itself into pine needle. A leaf can’t even become a different type of leaf. There are so many types of leaves. Each one does it’s own thing. It is it. Who judges which is the best leaf? So what is there for a leaf to aspire to then?”
Ray took a deep sigh and Sam smiled at him.
“Even the change from green to yellow, to red, to orange during the fall. Even though there is change, there is still leaf. Let’s stop for another couple of minutes. It’s hard to think while you walk. You like deer?”
“Sure I guess,” said Ray.
“This is a great place to see deer. Just down there in the swampy bit,” he said pointing. “They like to come and chase each other and munch on all that long grass. Or maybe it’s to take a drink. Not sure. They like it here anyway.”
Ray didn’t scan the swamp below. His mind was trying to put the pieces together.
“So to apply this to my writing then. I don’t want to stay poor so I write what’s selling and not what I really want.”
“How’s that working for you?”
“It’s not but I feel like I have to cast my net where the fish are.”
“Again. How’s that working for you?”
“You ever wake up at night panicked about the fact that you will cease to exist some day?” Sam asked knowing the answer but waiting anyway.
“You do too?”
“Of course. Once you’re past a certain age a ship has sailed. It’s the awareness of death. It changes how you live for the moment. You either panic and try to get the right things done as soon as possible taking short cuts in a manic race or you relax and just do you. Life is only a string of moments and creativity is maximized by being in each one. Knowing that death comes for us all, what is there to fear or lose by being our true selves? Even if going where the fish are gets you lots of fish…”
Sam started laughing. Then he snorted.
“Whats so funny?” asked Ray.
“Well it’s a perfect statement for us right here and now. It’s that theres no worse feeling then spending your life fishing only to get to the end and realize you never liked fishing.”
“There’s a few times I chased a thing only to not care a bit about it a few years later,” said Ray looking at the callouses on his hands.
Sam nodded. “If something holds importance to you, replace the words should and try with “I will” and “I am”. Use the power of intention, focus and concentration to get what you want.
“Let’s get back to the inside part of being yourself. Thinking and feeling are like quicksand. The more you thrash about in it trying to get somewhere the more suffocated you become. You can’t outthink the thinker. There was a video game once where the bad guy could read the players mind. So when you pushed the controller buttons the bad guy in the game knew your move and you couldn’t shoot or hit him. The trick was to use the player two controller but that’s beside the point. That’s how it is when you try to think about who you really are or what you should be doing. I’ve only figured out one way to beat the bad guy in real life…”
“The zone,” said Sam.
“Like mediation or something?” asked Ray.
“No, well a little.”
“Like third eye stuff or centering chakras?”
“No. Stop. Listen,” said Sam laughing. “Did you have a lot of coffee or something today?”
“Caffiene and ephedrine. Why?”
“Why would you do that?”
“Because it makes a shitty day better,” said Ray.
“You’re not enjoying our walk?”
“No, I am actually. I just take it I guess out of habit and to make myself more alert,” said Ray.
“You’re bored easily. We’ll get to that. It’s ok. It’s good actually,” said Sam nodding his head.
Ray felt a sense of peace wash over him. It was nice to divulge a sort of secret and not to be judged for it. Sam didn’t judge. It made Ray feel like he could ask Sam about anything whereas any time he asked a question at work, or to his father, they would get angry or frustrated. It made him never want to ask.
“You still with me Ray?”
“Oh yes, sorry.”
He had been drifting hard.
“No need to be sorry son. The mind is a great place to get lost sometimes.”
Hearing the word ‘son’ made Ray feel much younger than Sam but he didn’t mind at all. It was comforting actually.
“So I was talking about the zone. A dog is happy when it gets exercise, food and shelter. Right?”
“We would be too if we didn’t think so much. Kids play and don’t contemplate their mortality. The day you became aware of death is the day your ego started directing your actions to somehow… become immortal. To have kids, to leave a legacy, to find your purpose, to keep the universe from falling apart. But people don’t realize they’re just not that important to the universe. Just do you. Move. Have some fun.
The universe and mankind will continue to exist, until it doesn’t and so will you. And that’s pretty much it.”
“That sounds a little depressing,” said Ray.
“Does it? Not to me. We read books to learn something about ourselves and the world. We want to become better and change something about our lives. But what is worth implementing? There is a lot of crap out there held up as holy grails of knowledge. People used to burn at the stake for owning cats.
Becoming what is better? What self needs improvement in self-improvement? Who is setting the bar of achievement?
People believe that somehow, age constitutes validity and truth. That the Bible or Tao Te Ching or some other text has authority.
It doesn’t, which means although you have only a limited amount of time, you’re free to do what you want.
This means you can stop giving your power away. A stubborn child that doesn’t want to eat vegetables has more of a grasp on truth than most of us.”
“I get that. It’s a focus or intent thing,” said Ray.
“Exactly. We are all on a conquest of happiness. And Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. You just need to know what a switch is.
And even more funny is that you already know what it is, only others are hiding it from you.”
“I don’t get that. Who’s hiding me from myself?” asked Ray.
“Almost everything. Social norms, work, parents, bosses, Tv, radio, they all do it. They tell you things that you should like and hate and the whole time you know deep inside what turns you on. You know what you feel is right and wrong and what things are sometimes open for discussion depending on the circumstance.”
“You mean my gut feelings,” said Ray.
“Yes. Everyone has a modality or way where they slide into the zone. It could be moving their body, it could be reading or writing or putting together old cars. The zone is the silent wisdom of losing yourself in something so that you stop thinking and start living.
This is why be yourself, everyone else is already taken is such solid advice. This is why Mr Emerson said, “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” The iron string is a metaphor to trust your intuition inside. Just do you.”
Ray felt like he needed another break. Walking with Sam was like a really rich chocolate desert where after a few bites, you needed to stop. It was almost too much. Time was required to savour, to incorporate, to absorb.
He didn’t want to lose any of the words so he pulled out his phone to write it out. Something fluttered past his head and he ducked. A chickadee circled back and landed on the end of his phone, twisting it’s tiny head inquisitively.
Ray stood transfixed. The little bird sported a robbers mask and proudly displayed a monotone rainbow of soft greys.
“There!” said Sam quickly.
The bird flew away and it hit Ray how sad he was to see it go, even after only a short time.
“I just sacrificed one moment for many I hope,” said Sam.
Ray heard him but was still scanning the surrounding branches for the bird.
“Ray, the trick is that there is nothing to figure out. You just had it. You were being yourself. You can be yourself without going on a spiritual quest or taking part in $4000 silent retreat. When you get lost in the moment like that, you’ve got it all figured out.
All you have to do is wake up and do more of the things that you enjoy and less of the things you don’t. We will always have to suck up certain things we don’t want to do. Society has a tightly woven fabric of things that cannot be avoided, but there is still room for us.”
“We can still play more, ” said Ray.
“Yes. A kid, a dog a brute a beaver making a dam. Be yourself everyone else is already taken, is a call for authenticity. It’s a good call. But the bottom line is that it’s still just a quote.
Quotes are only language and not life manuals.
You don’t have to try to be authentic. In fact, if you’re trying, you’re not. And when you try to do the right things because people tell you too, you’re getting further away.”
What “Be Yourself Everyone Else Is Taken” Does NOT Mean
Be yourself, everyone else is taken does not mean you are an entity carved in stone and eternally unchanging. You’re not a this or a that. There is nothing else like you so whatever you do you’re the best. You can morph, change, become more, stay the same. Doesn’t matter. I say this because sometimes we feel the urge to “Trust Thyself” but it’s inconsistent with our past. It’s not who others think we are. “Im a loner,” for example. But you start to find yourself wanting to get out and try a new judo club. Remember the leaf that changes colour. If you naturally break the loner mold that you put yourself in – that’s fine. People can stay stuck in order to avoid disappointing themselves or others who expect certain unchanging characteristics or behaviours.
Stuck causes anxiety.
But why keep looking back? Who you were is a shadow. The caterpillar that changes to the butterfly doesn’t question the change but is 100% itself as a metamorphosis. Suppose you contradict yourself; what then? Who cares. We learn as we go. The ship changes course to reach its destination. Sometimes destinations change. You’re the captain, you decide.”
“People at work tell me I’m confrontational. That I have an attitude and I should know my place,” said Ray.
“That’s because they are weak and unconfident in their own abilities and decisions. People that know what’s going on always have time to explain things patiently to people that pose legitimate questions or concerns. Especially when the work being done benefits them. People keep you in a box for their convenience and out of insecurity. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do without guile or subtlety. Tomorrow, feel free to change your mind. You are not chained to your memories. A piece of knowledge tomorrow can change everything. Each day is potentially a new you. ”
The cabin came into view below them through a gap in the Canadian maples. The rocking chairs on the porch awaited them.
Trust Thyself – Self-Reliance Is Confidence And Self Belief
“You know, my gut has always said you can become your full potential from the natural building blocks you were born and brought up with. I just haven’t seemed to be able to make it happen,” said Ray quickening his steps as the trail decended.
“Following your intuition is one of the greatest acts of courage. It’s such a subtle battle. There’s no parade or fanfare to encourage you or coddle you if you fail. But great people have always followed their intuition. They feel that the absolutely trustworthy is seated in their heart and working through their hands.”
Ray stopped on the path causing Sam to turn and see what was the matter.
“Sam, I just realized that I die every day I’m not true to myself. And I do it just to survive and delay the big death at the end. It’s scary but maybe one day of 100 percent me is better than years of walking dead.”
Sam turned so Ray couldn’t see how happy he was and walk a few moments before speaking. Just to let it sink in.
“In the simple and uncluttered minds of children and brutes we see truth and purpose. They know what they want and don’t let calculations of the odds sway their determination. Their mind being whole and their eye is as yet unconquered. When we look in their faces we are unsettled by their single mindedness. A child will stamp its feet and stand its ground. As an adult, you try and figure out how to appease the situation. The child doesn’t care. But adults think too much. Trapped in a jail of their own minds and afraid of what they feel and think. – or something like that. I can loan you a copy of Emerson’s self-reliance if you’d like.”
“Man, that’s hard. It’s so awkward to act on instinct without bowing or considering others in order to get what we need. But I guess I act nice and do things I don’t like because I need to be in someone’s good books and keep my job.”
“You’d be surprised how much bull crap you put up with simply because you’re not self-reliant,” said Sam pulling a piece of baked potatoe out of his pocket and taking a bite before continuing. ” See the truth. Never worry about consequences, about interests. Give an independent, genuine verdict based on your instinct. Most people are too lazy or scared to do what it takes to be what they really are. It’s a surreal feeling to be pure, independent, and irresponsible as you look out as those caught in the web of the world of lies. It can be a little lonely too.”
“I can see it being lonely but at this point, I don’t think I have much of a choice anymore. By being a yes man so far I carry the shattered pieces of my soul in my body and mind. I go home after a work day with slivers that fester over night. They ache as I get ready for work in anticipation of more self-denial in the face of more arsenic laced human interaction.”
Sam raised an eyebrow nodding his head. “Yeah, you’re feeling it to be sure. In my opinion, it’s the first battle worth fighting before you start looking elsewhere.”
Ray was here on a beautiful trail in the woods, yet, he was getting angry thinking about people at work. His shoulders hunched and hands tightened as he blurted out, I feel like I’ve got my stuff together when I’m by myself but that inner iron string vibrates softer, to the point of being drowned out when I get to work or get out in the day to day grind. ”
“That’s because -” Sam paused, “Society doesn’t want honesty. Society is a flock of sheep where everyone agrees to take the edge, zest, culture and freedom and exchange it for emotional and physical security. They want you to predictably confirm and a self reliant soul is an aversion to that. The weak either hate a lion or huddle under it’s protection. Society doesn’t want you to speak in truth and realities, but pleasantries and customs.”
“And I’m anxious because despite all that, the inner voice still whispers – “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string,” said Ray realizing he wasn’t insane or needing another medication.
Sam smiled. “You remember quotes easily, but yes and the whisper is ignored out of fear.”
Sam jumped up and then dropped into a Cossack squat to either side conjuring a quizzical look from Ray.
“Not normal behaviour right?” asked Sam. “No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what vibrates to that iron string; the only wrong what stifles it.”
Ray couldn’t swallow that bit at upon hearing it and had to say something.
“Well that’s not quite true. That there’s no good and bad or right and wrong. I mean some things are wrong and bad.”
Sam nodded knowing that this topic had a lot of cherished emotions involved and held back. “Ok. Maybe now is not the time for that conversation. We’ve all agreed that some things are right and wrong and lets leave that one alone for now.”
“Would you agree that nature has no laws but obeys power? Eat or be eaten?” Sam stepped on a spider crossing the trail.
It made Ray wince, but he had stepped on spiders before too because he hated spiders.
“Well,” said Ray, “I guess only the strong and smart survive the longest but we all die.”
“Exactly. To a point our laws ease the vulgar edge of life and make it comfortable. There is a point where it also causes the scent of our crushed souls to waft of the jackboots of authority. Be yourself everyone else is already taken is a hard quote to abide in if you’re scared of going to jail for it.”
“I can die now or in eighty years. I still die. In a way, this makes it easy to blow off confrontation without a care. Nothing will matter given a certain number of years. I only care about what’s important to me now – because that’s what gets me in the zone.”
“When everyone speaks in watered down niceties, a truth speaking individual will stand out. You get the dearest supporters and most vehement enemies. But it’s ok to hate things. Not everyone agrees on what good and bad is. You must stand for what you want to do with your time, and you will anger some,” Sam said, “But you only anger them because they are supporting their own cause, which is their right also.
Part of trusting yourself is knowing that your life is for itself and the world’s opinion doesn’t matter. Make life lean and focused on only the things that are important to you.”
“That could be construed as selfish no?” asked Ray.
Sam frowned slightly and only for a moment. “Why is selfish bad?”
Ray thought. Nothing came. Sam waited. Then after a moment, they just stared at each other until Ray spoke.
“The only people that have a problem with me being selfish are those that aren’t getting what they want from me.”
“Ray, everything you need comes from within. Everything without comes from some sort of servitude. I know that for myself it makes no difference whether I do or refrain from those actions that everyone agrees are good. The approval of others has no bearing or worth.
It is harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. Living in line with the world is easy. So is living in solitude to the beat of your own drum. But to be able to live in society while maintaining your independence is most admirable.”
Ray stopped walking and stared at him. “You live in a cabin in the woods.”
“I never said I practiced what I preach. I can’t handle town life. That would take someone stronger. I decided on an easier game with easier rewards,” said Sam before spreading his arms like an eagle at the edge of the trail.
“You can fight, conform or run Ray. If you maintain things that no longer mean anything to you, then force is taken from the life you truly want. If you fight, same thing. You’re so busy trying to change the world that you become them that are trying to change you. Just be yourself because everyone else is taken and the world will know who you are and what you stand for. Not that it really matters.”
Ray nodded. “I hate that feeling I get in my gut when I force a smile in company where I don’t give a crap about the conversation and just want to walk away. But I feel compelled to stay while my body revolts and twists in every cell as the anger grows.”
“See? You know truth. Being calm is a super power. You need a strong spirit to simply excuse yourself from life suckers and to bear trouble calmly, to disdain meanness and pettiness as if no concern to you. That’s true power because eventually you realize that wanting what the worlds wants you to want is ignorance. You don’t know what’s behind the curtain of public image. The pain, the anxiety, the medicated self-loathing. You come to the conclusion that imitation is suicide because someone is already there doing it better than you – And that the only good that will come your way is when you can be yourself because everyone else is taken. Only you can just do you, the way you do.
You are already it and the in absence of trying to be a people pleaser or being swayed by public consent, allows you to live that best self. ”
Being yourself now does not mean this is all you are meant to be. You are not stuck with who you are. Who you are now is who you are from past events. Your best and truest self will always change as you become the things that you admire and want to convey to the world. It’s all whatever you want it to be. Right now. There’s no prize at the end and nothings stays forever or remains. Even the universe will collapse some day. It’s right now.”
This is why you must trust yourself. Not because there is something to attain. Not because there is a higher self to attain. But because you will only be close to happy when you’re doing the things that interest you. Your ego is only satisfied when it is pursuing the things that make it stronger or ensure it’s survival. Trust yourself to be who you are now and trust yourself to do the things you want, that’s enough. You have no control now or in the future. You can’t even tip the odds. Just do you. Now.
The long ending to a short walk ended at the cabin. Ray grabbed his journal he brought with him everywhere and started writing –
Surroundings cannot be controlled.
I can only control my reactions
Outcomes cannot be controlled.
I can only control my actions
Death is coming, why do I fear?
Today, tomorrow, maybe 50 years.
Fearing death today if life last long,
Is not more living but death prolonged.
Fear doesn’t help me.
Fear is an illusion that the ego fights in order to ensure survival.
But there is no survival of the ego.
The snake eats a memory of it’s tail.
My mindset with which I respond to the events around me is the only thing I control.
Not easily ruffled by events, I attract attention and power.
Even though it is temporal and of no worth.
The world is still full of mystery,
I learn from what I see.
With an open mind and intuition comes luck and serendipity.
Is comfort and security in exchange for freedom worth it?
Make your own decisions Ray – trust thyself.
Take what you need, don’t expect it to be given.
Work for others is supplication.
Strive for self-reliance for no other reason than it feels better.
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid. It would be wrong and you would be right. Kind of.”
“Kindly let me help you or you will drown,” said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree. -Alan Watts