Why does it take so long to grow up? Why do we have to learn life’s lessons over and over and indeed over again? Why do some problems keep recurring, and we think, not again, haven’t I already learned that lesson? How does one explain why a bright fellow like oneself all too regularly behaves like an idiot? I for one can only conclude that in many important areas of life I am a very very slow learner, even after forty and fifty repeats, I still don’t get it. We are told that truth sets you free, but no one mentions how miserable such truths can make you feel when you are forced to face them. It is so much more comfortable to live in the prison of denial, to put aside one’s selfishness and character defects for another day and another hour. I also recognize that what and who I am today did not develop overnight, and that after six decades I’ve got a lot to unlearn, and contrary to the spewing of the feel good artists, there is no pill, prayer or principle which can undo what I have left untended for many years.
The seers remind us that there is no growth without change, there is no change without fear or loss, and there is no loss without pain. It is understandable then that so many of us build our identity around our personal limitations, “its just the way I am”. What a gigantic cop out that is. The phrase covers such a multitude of denials, arrogance, blindness, self-absorption. Surely there has to be some recognition that it is impossible to relate to anyone whose only measure is him or herself? Ours is a narcissistic age, and we do well to reflect on our own narcissism. But it is also important to be patient with oneself and with others. We grow through these struggles and storms, and these times of suffering. I love the theology of reincarnation. We are on a journey to enlightenment, a journey back to God, and yes, some of us are very slow learners, and so we come back again and again and again so that we can get it right. I believe that in the end we all do finally arrive, even those who are self-absorbed in the prison of ego.