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DON’T COMPARE YOUR LIFE WITH OTHERS’
And yet, does not this, too, sound like regret? Perhaps I had to go through all that struggle, the flirtation with suicide before this book could be born. Perhaps without suffering we do not learn our lessons. Perhaps we need to suffer in order to get material for our writing. This is the old, the traditional way of thinking about art: “The more I become decomposed,” Van Gogh said, “the more sick and fragile I am, the more I become an artist.” This statement seems to imply an inverse relationship between health and creativity. Does one have to keep dipping one’s pen and brushes in the inkwell and pigment of suffering? In order to create art does one have to burn, burn like a candle?
Something in me rebels against this as being the only truth. Something in me hopes that we can be wiser, happier, healthier, and still create.
The reason why we are not wiser, happier, healthier is because we follow models that we try to live up to without being aware of our own destiny, needs, limitations. We compare ourselves to others, how they live and are, instead of living in our own bodies, in our own health. Wisdom, as the Greeks knew, consists in knowing yourself. I myself have made myself miserable from a lack of knowledge about my own body, and by trying to imitate others. I have always envied people who need only six hours of sleep, who are capable of living a nine to five life. They never need to take a day off in the middle of the week, and just sleep in, or wake up some morning and want to return to bed right away. Their bodies are like well-trained, well-regulated machines.
Because of these comparisons, I have forced myself to do more than I could, forced my head and my will to lead the way while my body lagged way behind. I have often dragged my body, kicking and screaming, as if it were an appendage, slowing me down, keeping me from my ideas of how I should live and act and be. I too have fallen victim to the hurry, hurry, do do dodo of our lives, the fascism of capitalism where time is measured only in tangibles: a product, money, achievement, fame; where we begin to think even of meditating, that marvelous non-activity that renews the body/mind, revitalizes it, and creates time, as time wasted; where we turn even the activities that we love so much, like writing or gardening, into burdensome chores. I have often got myself to the point of exhaustion where life seems like an endless, joyless grind; to the point where the body rebels, falls sick, or the mind begins to entertain ideas of death.
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