About… Doubts and Decisions for Living
Volume II: The Sanctity of Human Spirit
Something extraordinary seems to have happened in the last few decades to make most parents too concerned about, and attached to, their kids, much beyond the customary levels in the previous generations. For one thing, the rivalry among families to give their kids the best of everything has put most parents on edge, as they strive to indulge their kids and be the best parents they can be, to the point of often appearing too liberal and submissive. As another factor, the rising social chaos and complexity makes us anxious and more protective of our kids, while hoping to give them enough confidence and guidance for handling the disappointments they must face. Parents of my generation were not so concerned and attached to their kids and they did not show their love and worries adequately, if at all. They were perhaps too relaxed, but their approach seemed more practical, natural, and in line with humans’ inherent needs to find their own way of life. We learned much faster to become self-sufficient and get ready for life’s hardships. But now, things have changed and we have been dragged into this overly liberal and protective mentality toward our kids. And still we are not sure whether our approach is appropriate and our guidance is helpful to them. We often wonder whether we are accomplishing our goals and duties. Actually, the outcome so far indicates that youth have been too spoiled for their own good. They have indeed become more confused about the purpose of life. They do not learn about humans’ inherent limitations and potentialities, or about the sanctity of human spirit that must be revered through self-realization, and not selfishness. Instead of learning humility, which is the seed for exploring our spirituality and individuality, youth is encouraged to find their identity, happiness, confidence, and success through aggression, arrogance, greed, and sexuality. They are driven by fashion, fantasy, and superficiality. Thus, it is perplexing how people with such narrow mentalities and personalities can find their morality and spirituality in this environment and lift their spirits naturally.
Another major problem is that we are too keen to see our kids happy when we do not know much about the possibility and means of finding happiness ourselves. We have a wrong impression about happiness, but also feel entitled to it automatically as an inherent state of living. Accordingly, both parents and society have ruined the youth’s chance to figure out life realistically. They grow up with high expectations for all kinds of privileges and happiness, which they believe should result from their shallow pleasures without building a pious mindset. Thus, they get confused and overwhelmed when they face reality. They have no clue or patience about the huge amount of efforts and sacrifices needed only to maintain a simple life, never mind attaining that elusive happiness that only a few people with real understanding of ‘self’ might achieve.
We feel responsible for building our kids’ spirits along with their foundation of thoughts and their knowledge base about the oddities and values of the prevalent life structure. However, our struggles fail when we hardly know anything about our convictions and cannot stay objective and firm about the sad realities of life in the new era. We cannot help anybody when social and personal limitations have crippled our own lives. Without changing our lifestyles and refining our values, we cannot build our spirits or help our kids build theirs amidst the chaos we have inherited and forced to accept as the best option for living.
Learning about ourselves and admitting to the vanity of our values would be difficult for most of us. Nonetheless, the goal is to build both our own and our kids’ spirits without recourse to religious teachings, away from the positive thinking propagandas that misguide people, and by avoiding our own personal prejudices, which is usually the most limiting factor for helping our kids.
For enriching my kids’ lives, I tried to provide them with a rather calm and comfortable environment, all the privileges that other kids enjoy in modern societies, and an open communication channel. My goal was to help them build strong, independent minds to grasp the hassles and beauties of life realistically, away from the debilitating notions of the illusive world out there. By learning about various obstacles and traps within our prominent life structure, I hoped they would be ready to face hardships positively, make the right decisions, and succeed in pursuing a simple lifestyle with the least amount of frustration and setbacks. They needed a solid foundation of thoughts and a reliable knowledge base about the structure of life, but also the right beliefs, personality, and outlook to bear disappointments and proceed confidently. The task was to inject optimism in their heads and tell them about the power and sanctity of their spirits.
But exploring human spirit and hoping to build it in ourselves or our children is a daunting task. For one thing, our genetic traits, rearing environment, and personality determine how much a person can activate his/her divine potentialities to grasp spirituality and reach the essence of his/her being. Moreover, the unrelenting social influence on people, especially youth, makes the task of independent thinking and soul-searching almost impossible. We are all too attracted to the rewards or promises of modern life and we crave social acceptance wholeheartedly. Thus, we hardly find time or motivation to attend to the deeper aspects of our being, i.e., our spirit and ‘self,’ which are ambiguous dimensions of humans, anyway, and quite an abstract topic.
Religious families inject their faith in their kids’ heads and naively believe they have enriched the spiritual aspect of their kids’ lives too. On the other hand, unreligious parents, with no divine stories to support their beliefs, have even a bigger hassle in explaining human spirit. Offering some vague notions about spirituality as a hidden personal potentiality and the conduit for freeing our spirits is tough for everybody. Yet people raised outside religious influence usually have a better chance of ultimately finding their own spirituality and reviving their spirits more honestly and naturally.
Exploring human spirit and spirituality is a natural by-product of self-awareness. The more one learns about the inner nature of him/herself as a human, the more his/her sense of spirituality emerges and the freer his/her spirit feels. Self-awareness and spirituality are on the same continuum, but gaining these levels of enlightenment requires determination, sacrifice, and patience to go through a long process of learning and exploring. It would be an easier task for people with curiosity about life and ‘self,’ though, than it is for religious fanatics with a preset mentality and reluctance to search for the truth independently. Brainwashing kids’ minds with religious stories—even if those teachings were not narrow-minded or had any practical values—would only restrict their chances for self-awareness and finding real spirituality. Religions neither release people’s spiritual potentialities nor serve their spirits. Especially youth need to learn to think independently and find their own spirituality gradually the same way they learn about all other facts of life based on their instincts, research, intelligence, and logic.
At the same time, youth must also learn about the distracting effects of social norms in its attempts to raise people’s spirits in artificial manners, e.g., through shallow slogans about positive thinking or living in the now. Society’s attempt to spread positivity in the population, mostly for subduing them, exploiting them for economic purposes, or as a means of building fake ideologies and life philosophies, only cause more confusion and stress for the public. Many of the positive thinking slogans in the recent era in fact harm people when they often do not match individuals’ unique personalities and/or the overall workings of human psyche. They hurt them when people fail to accomplish all those illusive dreams that positive thinking and modern living promise them. Our illusions distract us from learning and facing the harsh reality of life in the 21st century head on. Instead, we only hide behind a vast veil of desires, and then get frustrated and complain when our fantasies do not bring us the happiness and authentic positivity that only our liberated spirits can offer naturally.
Neither religions nor positive thinking methods of the new era can help us strengthen our spirits and explore our own sense of spirituality. Thus, this volume of Doubt and Decisions for living delineates the task of building our spirits and spirituality by firming our personal beliefs and gaining our rational positivity. We must honour the sanctity of our spirits lost amidst all the superficialities surrounding us, while fighting all kinds of social forces and personalities that always attempt to crush our souls.
Tom Omidi, Ph.D.