The Fever of Humanity and the Antidote: Reconciling Self-Love and Self-Improvement
One day, Rumsfield came home after a long day at work. His face was pale, and he gripped his stomach tightly.
His wife rushed up to him. “What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I have a stomach-ache. I feel queasy. I don’t know,” he replied.
Nancy had been a nurse for twenty years. She checked his temperature, and found that he had gotten cut by a rusty nail. The wound was infected, causing him to have a fever. “It’s a fever!” she exclaimed. “Sit down, honey, I’ll go and dress the wound, and get you some medicine for the fever.”
“No!” he shouted. “I told you, it’s a stomach-ache!”
His root disease was the cut and the fever it had caused; his body had become weak, and that led to his stomach troubles, a sore throat, and a thundering headache.
But despite all of Nancy’s objections, he refused to take anything for his fever – a stubborn man. He demanded that he brought her something for his stomach-ache, and so she did. He sat down for an hour, and soon his stomach began to feel better.
And when his tummy stopped bothering him, the other symptoms began jumping for his attention. The next day, his voice became hoarse, and he couldn’t eat properly.
“Bring me medicine for my throat!” he shouted. And so Nancy did. And the next day, his throat got better, which meant that his attention was now focused on his headache.
“I want medicine for my head!” he shouted. Now he could feel his anger arising; he had been sick for many days in a row – and yet nothing seemed to fix him. But he continued yelling, and so he got his headache medicine.
The entire time, his cut was still there. Just silently sitting there; no-one was paying any attention to it.
And so a few days later, the stomach medicine Rumsfield had taken at the start began to wear off. The poor man flew into a rage, and called every single doctor in the vicinity. “I want the best stomach medicine you have in stock, RIGHT NOW!” he shouted.
And so, on and on the cycle continued.
The fever of humanity
This is how many people live – they go on treating the symptoms – they are hacking away at the branches of the tree, and never get to the root.
Most people don’t know what is happening to them. Rumsfield was lucky; he had a wife who knew what was going on. But still he refuses to listen.
Why is this? Maybe we are too stubborn, too full of pride. Or perhaps the infected wound is too scary to look at – all the pus, the blood, the broken skin.
And the result was something Henry David Thoreau must have seen in us when he said: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”.
Lives of quiet desperation
On and on it goes. We’re always seeking something, but we’re pouring water into a leaky cup, throwing our gold and diamonds into a furnace that never dies down. Some get lost in the scramble for power, money and fame. Others indulge in endless sex. Others find religion, spirituality, or go to therapy.
Done without hurting anyone, there’s nothing wrong with any of these. But we’re endlessly treating the symptoms; never finding – or perhaps realising – there is something deeper.
The walking wounded are everywhere. They are depressed and angry; always ready to pick a fight, always on guard against some attack, imaginary or real. Always searching, always wanting – that is the way we live.
Barking up the wrong tree
I was first pushed into personal development because I was unhappy. I had attachment issues, low self-esteem, all of that. And that meant I dated the wrong women again and again and again. They were essentially the same people in different bodies. It made me deeply unhappy, and one day I decided I would do something about it.
And so I went off to develop my self-esteem, to improve my body language. I trained my mind to think positively. I took on public speaking roles to overcome my shyness; I took classes to improve my speech patterns. I spent money on overhauling my wardrobe, getting accessories, trying out new haircuts. I even thought about whitening my teeth; I was lucky I stopped short of waxing my legs and plucking my eyebrows.
And it made me happy for a while. My social status improved, I had much fun dating, because of the “new and improved” me. But lying there in the background, my fever was still raging.
Change comes from the Inside
Sooner or later it will come out again; it always does. No change in your external circumstance will mean anything if it is not accompanied by a shift in your inner consciousness.
But this is something I’ve seen in so many of my other friends in personal development. They spend months and years trying to fix their career, their relationships, and even the people they are with. The scramble, the search, never ends. Accumulating more! More! One day I will have enough and I will be happy!
There’s nothing wrong with any of these – but they are all superficial.
The root cause
And so the question arises: What is this root cause, what is this fever?
Honestly? I don’t know. But one thing struck me when I look back on this past year, a year of wild change and growth. Most of it has been documented in this website, and when I looked back at it – I found that all the lessons I have learnt pointed to a lack of love. That is all it is, a lack of love.
We’re always running away from ourselves, running from our shadow, our emotions, our life. It is time to turn around and face them, to love and accept them.
Simply relax into yourself. Start from the middle; start from yourself. No more condemnation, no more hatred, and you will find that all your anger and anxieties and all of that just simply begins to dissolve. From there, you’ll find that love for others has been silently blossoming at the same time there is no difference.
A tale of two men
One more story about Love. It is so very relevant at this time of the year, when everyone is setting their New Year resolutions and goals.
Arthur loves his car tremendously; he treats it like a long lost lover. He spends hours on it: tenderly polishing it, tinkering with the engine, trying to make it purr like a cat. He knows the car from the inside out, and his bookshelves are filled with manuals on taking care of his baby.
Bryce hates his car. He simply doesn’t think it is good enough, that no lady will ever fall for a man driving some beat-up trash heap like that. And so he spends hours tinkering with the engine; maybe if it was faster he would feel better about being seen in public with it. He polishes it like an obsession; maybe if it was shinier the girls would pay attention to him.
The world is filled with Bryces; I see so much of him in myself still. Which one are you?
Perhaps, just perhaps, your goal should be first to find the Love within.
I have been guest posting a lot recently, and I would like to thank the following three awesome bloggers for giving me a chance to steal their readers… I mean share my message.
First is an old friend, Donald L from Life Optimizer. It is a classic personal development blog, solid practical material and a very easy to read style. One of my favourite articles there would have to be 11 ways to have a calm and peaceful mind.
Next up is Luciano P from LiteMind. It’s a very unique blog from a really cool blogger. His material is based on getting the most out of your mind – problem solving, imagery, creativity, and mind mapping are some of the goodies you can find. Very scientific, no mumbo-jumbo. A favourite here is: Improve your memory by speaking your mind’s language.
Last but not least is Gleb R from the perfectly titled Personal Development Blog. Very practical material, also written in a very easy to read style. A good example would be: Secrets to successful time management.