About… Doubts and Decisions for Living
Volume III: The Structure of Human Life
Doubts and Decisions for living trilogy started with my simple goal to share my thoughts about life in an organized, consistent manner with my children when they became teenagers. The first draft emerged fifteen years ago in about half its present size. Still I failed to raise my kids’ interest to read it for many reasons (as noted in the Epilogue of Volume I). Instead, only my hunch about parents’ difficulty to communicate with their children became clearer to me. Furthermore, I realized that I, like most other parents, did not have a good grasp of life myself, anyway, even after many years of thinking and experimenting. Therefore, the manuscript was left alone until recently when I noticed a rising level of desperation and negativism among youth. It is hard to ignore the sad trend in modern societies where kids are facing all sorts of economic and social challenges and their relationships are drastically vulnerable. Despite the prevalent positive thinking slogans, deep down we all feel lonely and betrayed. People’s eagerness to show off their resilience and optimism actually demonstrates their deep insecurities. All this hoopla reveals our rising need for such defence mechanisms to keep our hopes high. Often our struggles for positive thinking seem more like a gimmick or a refuge to hide our frustration, failures, and desolation. After all, life is proving to be not a joyous or easily manageable journey. If it were not for this innate hope that goads us to move forward somehow, many of us would have committed suicide already to get out of our boring lives. No wonder the level of crime and suicide among youth is rising so fast.
Anyway, I felt obliged again to share my thoughts with my kids, especially when they challenged me or sought my opinions. Then I found the old draft and developed it into this trilogy, all with the intention of drawing a general picture of life in the new era. We all know most of the facts reiterated in these three books, yet a collective analysis of the main issues and thoughts can improve our awareness and life perspective to deal with the new realities of the 21st century more objectively.
The basic reality is that life has become a stressful process and all the clues show that it would only get worse in the coming years, yet we should somehow manage our lives. Despite our eagerness to be philosophical about life and build ideal convictions, finding practical means of living remains a big challenge and priority. Living is a sacred, yet often scary, mission for everybody. We must make important decisions and choose a life path based on some form of logic, self-awareness, and facts, instead of doubting our needs and priorities forever, and often lose the control of our lives altogether anyway. The main purpose of building a sound mindset (the foundation of our thoughts—Volume I) is to steer our lives as rationally and smoothly as possible. And the main purpose of sensing and strengthening our spirits (explained in Volume II) is to get the needed energy and resilience to withstand life’s hardships. The goal is to learn how to control our fanciful needs and ambitions before confusion and stress overwhelms our existence. At the end, we either learn to contain our crooked needs and aspirations or leave ourselves at the mercy of our employers, spouses, children, or maybe even institutions such as a penitentiary or a mental hospital. We must make tough and tricky decisions throughout life in order to stay in control and face lesser disappointments. Thus, this volume concentrates on life’s major decisions.
We must choose a path of life once we are mentally prepared to make a decision about the level of independence we desire and can actually handle. We can choose a path that is more in line with the mainstream and get dissolved within the mechanism and the rules of the society. Or we can build a more personal lifestyle based on our needs for independence and our eagerness to pursue our passions. The more independence we seek the more self-reliance we need, as we get a lesser chance of social integration and support—the rewards people get for their compliance.
Obviously, if we have the courage to ignore social norms and accept the risks of isolation from the mainstream, we get the best opportunity to find our identity and soul, and perhaps pursue our passions too. However, our success in terms of wealth and power would be limited in this type of lifestyle. For example, very few genuine artists or writers get enough recognition, yet a passionate artist seeking his ‘self’ and freedom does not care. S/he ignores the privileges of living according to the mainstream and accepts the agony of living with minimal subsistence and social attachment, especially in terms of finding a patient companion who is willing to live outside the prevalent, showy lifestyles. Nevertheless, the main hassle of pursuing a rather stoic life for any independent person is the difficulty of communicating or relating to people absorbed in the normal lifestyle. Very few people can manage this type of mentality and life path. Not enough freethinkers are around to build their own small societies either.
At the other extreme, the mainstream path of life revolves around a popular structure that people have accepted as norm. They simply follow the same life structure and imitate one another in order to pursue their ambitions and satiate their needs for social acceptance and attention. Following this path is less risky and lonely, while it also maximizes people’s chances of fulfilling their collective needs for pleasure, sexuality, materialism, and power. This often happens at the cost of neglecting their passions, independence, integrity, and identity, but they do not mind. This popular life structure seems the easiest to manage for the majority of people, anyway, because they are not usually driven by strong passions other than sexuality and materialism. Besides, they are properly conditioned and trained since childhood to follow this path. Furthermore, many role models are always around them who provide courage and support to stick to common values and norms. Thus, most people are keen to follow this path, even when it causes them stress and lingering doubts about ‘who they are.’
Between the above two extremes, we usually find the right balance that we can manage, satisfies our needs for both dependence and independence partially, and gives us a chance to pursue our passions somewhat too. We choose to work in a regular job and play certain idiotic roles to keep some level of social contacts and maybe build a family too. By choosing this middle-of-the-road lifestyle, we try to maintain some form of control over our lives effectively.
Another possibility when someone is too intelligent, proud, or sensitive to assimilate with the mainstream and its values is to adapt to the prevalent socioeconomic environment rather passively. S/he learns to play the popular games that help a person adapt or at least remain socially acceptable, while s/he still thinks and lives according to his/her private identity. S/he tries to maintain his/her integrity and independence as much as possible, while admitting to him/herself that playing a conforming role helps him live (or at least survive) better in our imposing societies. Of course, our personality and genes always stand in the way of playing our roles properly and making people believe in our pretences. But we can always do our best to fit and fight simultaneously. The trick is to remain patient and view our options constructively instead of cynically.
Besides our own needs, we must still consider other people’s needs, too, when choosing a less conventional path of life to mitigate the vanity of prevalent lifestyles. Especially our companions demand a sense of security and hope to stay around us. They run away if we cannot exude a great deal of optimism and positive feelings, even though most of those expressions of hope and optimism are superficial in the mainstream path. Our companions are addicted to those phony hopes and positive thinking routines that help them continue their fanciful aspirations. It is hard for most people to believe that their alluring positive thinking slogans have as many drawbacks as cynicism and negative thinking, no matter how often they face the repercussions of their naivety. They do not want to live differently even when their shallow lifestyles clearly mislead them into building fanciful dreams and they feel the stress of getting nowhere. Looking positive and hopeful is another social fad, and partially useful, too, when it provides people’s sole defence mechanism to hide and deny their agonies. Most people need a way to ignore all the negative clues surrounding their lives. They need to feel and show high hopes and optimism just to go through another day. They prefer to fool themselves and remain naive, because life is easier to handle in that illusive environment. They dislike people who remind them of their shallowness and misery too.
Therefore, most of us are eventually dragged into a lousy lifestyle prevalent in the mainstream out of necessity or desperation, despite our divine intentions and strive for individualism. Our strong need for a companion by itself undermines our search for individualism. It simply seems impossible to continue with our convictions and desire to live independently. Besides, trying other paths sounds too ambiguous, unpopular, and entails high risks we cannot justify by only imagining some abstract benefits, such as tranquility, even if we succeed. It always seems easier and more logical for the majority of people to follow the crowd and the established social structure. Of course, the mainstream path of life demands a great deal of efforts in the form of patience, dependence, and compliance, too, in order to succeed. Though the kind of success people attain, if any, in the mainstream path is too tentative and illusive, anyway, and it feels more like a mirage at the end.
We must always pay a price for any type of path we choose in life. The price for a more independent lifestyle is isolation and loneliness. People living in the mainstream pay a high price for their choice of lifestyle too, including hard work, humiliation, repeated failures, disappointments, and stress. But they do it willingly. They have bravely chosen the conventional path, despite its high risks and hardships, merely because it seems to be the best way to cope with society and control their lives. They hope to find love, fame, and more pleasure. Some of them realize eventually that all those wishes had been only dreams, especially love that is the least stable and trustworthy aspect of life in modern societies.
The importance of choosing the right life path lies in accepting the kind of price we are willing to pay, and always remembering its limitations, especially in terms of potential disappointments. We only hurt ourselves by dreaming about an ideal partner or pursuing some fanciful aspirations that we believe can bring us the ultimate happiness. These dreams hardly come true in life and instead we face all sorts of disappointments time and again. Yet, we must be ready to somehow face all these challenges in order to manage our lives and maintain our sanity. A positive note about the mainstream is that at least they feel in control of their lives and do not keep doubting their purpose of living. Some of us cynical people may not share or like their thoughts, lifestyles, and attitudes. But, at the end, they appear more realistic about the whole matter of life. They look strong enough to deal with all the nagging questions and doubts about life that a supposedly freethinker struggles with forever. Not standing above all the facts of life is only a sign of weakness or genetic and mental issues. But no matter the cause, these defects give others enough reasons to stay clear from us, instead of sympathizing with us or even bothering to understand our position. This is the nature of human being and a fact that nobody can change. Giving up on life due to social hardships or people’s apathy is the right justification for other people’s view of our immaturity and vulnerability.
The bottom line is clear, however. Unfortunately, life has very little to offer other than hardships, especially in the eyes of intelligent people who like to establish their purposes of living instead of running with norms and their habits or hide their agonies behind the masks of positive thinking and optimism. Their negativism is the least productive or appealing strategy for living, though, especially for building relationships. Therefore, the ideal would be to learn objective thinking, instead of either negative or positive thinking, for controlling our lives within such a complex social environment—and then perhaps find some tentative purposes for living too. We might even be lucky and find someone who likes to share the same values with us for building an easier life together. But, first, we must come to terms with ourselves regarding the path of life we can realistically pursue, even if it means living alone for the rest of our lives.
‘Objective thinking’ is simply a by-product of one’s level of self-awareness and trusting it to sail through life. The first step is to embrace the shortfalls of current social living as simple facts that we must learn to accept and move on. Then, through self-awareness, we learn to keep our expectations from life and people very low. At the same time, we stop being too cynical and negative to the point of crippling our existence. Negative thinking and sense of helplessness serve no purpose other than weakening our mental and physical health and giving people more reasons to avoid us. Of course, to remain realistic and maintain our integrity, how can we ignore that our contemporary social life has very little positive sides?
Nevertheless, despite all the sad facts about existence, we must eventually choose a practical path that best fits our needs and temperament. As said earlier, we must depend on some form of logic, awareness, and courage to take control of our lives the best we can and then learn to relax and take life in our strides with minimum expectations from it. We must build a solid foundation of thoughts and strengthen our spirits to survive and succeed as a liberated human being. Life is not a place to find happiness and pleasure, but only a venue for testing our resilience and building our identity. Negativism and running away from reality only reflect our inability to put life in proper perspective. It shows that we cannot tame our ambitions in order to live a simple life—and maybe get a chance to pursue our passions as well. It indicates that we have not learned how to deal with the major life decisions and doubts.
Our main challenge is to somehow take charge of our lives, most likely by getting assimilated with the mainstream to the extent we can—simply because it is the easiest option to adopt. Otherwise, get ready to build a very strong spirit, conviction, and personality. We might get lucky and find a suitable career and a companion as well. There are always some hopes that a few good things would happen in our lives. But other than indulging our hopes and waiting, nothing would change for the better considering humans’ spoiled mentality and choice of lifestyles. In this environment, life would make us suffer more, the more we try to figure it out or put expectations on it. Yet, no intelligent person can avoid the crusade to find the purpose of his/her living.
Tom Omidi, Ph.D.