by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
In a society such as ours which places extraordinary value on measurable belongings and undertakings, it is not surprising to discover the overflowing effects of materiality and accountability upon our emotional and spiritual well-being. It is common practice for example for an automobile manufacturer to define itself by the persona of those who drive its products. The character of the driver may, however, become a mere façade rather than capturing the true personality of the driver. There are endless incongruities between the “appearance” of a car and the person who drives it though it is equally apparent that the driver is intensely in earnest to project the image that matches the car.
The alignment of value with the things we own and the things we do does not stop at cars; it goes on to include the homes in which we live, the fashions we wear, the places we dine, the resorts to which we travel, the sports in which we participate, the booze we drink, even the friends we have. If one allows oneself to be swept up in this mosaic of associations it isn’t long before one has entirely lost sight of whom one is except by such associations. So weighty is the apparent nexus between our soul and our stuff that any severance of the connection is either unimaginable or downright irrelevant. In the result we get headed in a certain direction from which there is ostensibly no deviation. Before long the hours turn into days which turn into weeks which turn into months, which then turn into years. We are effectively hooked by eternal predilections from which we imagine there is no possible extrication, rather like being addicted to some despicable drug. Regrettably these penchants which once so enchanted us and which now define our character can turn from mere tendencies or preferences to weaknesses. Thus begins the decline.
To cut one’s self loose from these established moorings is no mean task. Setting one’s self adrift without knowing where one may travel is hardly the gear of design and management. But if one has not been separated from these tangible connotations, the adventure can be less than hospitable. It is uncharted territory to head into the unknown mist motivated only by one’s own strength and imagination, without the benefit of the advertising dynasts to tell you where you’re going. It may even occur to you that you hadn’t until now ever contemplated your own naked and uncomplicated meaning in this world.
Where the commitment to self-discovery loses some of its strength is when the application is confounded by such echoes of materialism as “the good life”. Combine that convincing observation with other adages as “life is short” and you have a cocktail (perhaps literally) designed to entrench you forever in your old habits. Additionally if pressed one may have difficulty formulating an argument which trumps the value of all that you have spent a lifetime accumulating and developing. Let’s face it, the number of people who turn their back on it all and snap their fingers at it are few and far between. This is made all the more perplexing if one has effectively been living a lie. Yet while it may be easier to avoid rocking the boat, the fact remains that until you know who you are you run the very serious risk of losing your mind. I realize that may seem to overstate the case but one need only examine the frequency of stress, strain, tight muscles and indulgences of food, booze and drugs to accept that there may indeed be something wrong with this picture.
It is one of the welcome accidents of despair that when one is driven that far, the alternatives become fewer and fewer and recovery – at whatever the price – becomes the sole object. It is then that we disengage and set off on the barque of our own doing, perhaps with a wistful eye to the past but a determined view to the future. In short it is a liberating moment in time.