Something incomprehensible powers the universe. Perhaps it is the universe itself, the one and only creator and recipient of the effects of perpetual motion. The universe is the only real model of self-creation, self-replication, and self-renewal. The universe created itself before it existed, yet it must have existed prior to that moment in order to create itself. The reason we find it impossible to understand the nothingness before the Big Bang is that there is nothing to understand. Our minds are incapable of conceiving the inconceivable. All the investigations based on physics and all the explanations from religions and all the spiritual explorations that seek to know the unknowable are utterly fruitless. Explanations, regardless of the source, simply are theories that lack the substance to give us even a glimpse of reality. Because reality is, like everything in it, based on the illusion that we can know anything. Everything we claim as truth or knowledge or fact is mere speculation supported only by concepts we choose to believe but which can never be proven nor disproven.


Except that I know the quoted, unnamed, historian was writing about Samuel Johnson, I might think his words were written about me: “…wrote nothing of first importance in the history of literature, and made no appreciable contribution to the philosophy or sum of knowledge of his age….” Johnson often is quoted as saying “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” I, then, am a blockhead, because I’ve written for money only on very rare occasions. I write and write and write and write to no avail. The only outcome of my writing is the occasional temporary clearing of the clutter in my head.


He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.

   ~ Samuel Johnson ~

The obvious solution to the unsuccessful pursuit of happiness rests just above the neck. It is not pursuit at all, is it? Seeking happiness is not like hunting. It is more like building a car. It is a manufacturing process that requires assembling parts in such as way as to make the car run as intended. If a part does not fit or does not operate as expected, it must be replaced by one that functions appropriately. A car does not move smoothly along a roadway if a propeller is used in place of a tire.


Too often, we adjust ourselves to ensure the comfort of people in our lives: employers, spouses, employees, neighbors, customers, merchants, etc., etc. With due respect to Samuel Johnson, perhaps it’s not entirely one’s disposition that must be changed but the context in which one’s disposition is on display. Though it sounds selfish, perhaps the best approach to life is to first satisfy oneself and, only then, to seek the company of those who would be comfortable in one’s presence. Yet we rarely engage with the world around us as we wish but, rather, as the world wishes us to engage. And we are taught that seeking approval from others is the way to happiness. At least one way. Sometimes, perhaps frequently, that does not work. We can become addicted to approval; it is the heroin of the insecure and leads, ultimately, to the same sad end.


We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.

   ~ Hermann Hesse ~

I have yet to actually confirm Hesse’s assertion, but it rings true. And it reinforces my sense that seeking approval or adjusting to others’ expectations or desires is contrary to one’s interests. Only when we can be in congress with the deepest parts of ourselves, and be at ease with whatever those parts may be, can we find ourselves undisturbed.


One last point. I identify with Charles Bukowski’s words, in his novel, Factotum: “My ambition is handicapped by laziness.”


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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