QA173 QUESTION: We’re living in a world in which writing is judged and there’s criticism, and performance is expected and you’re measuring yourself against other writers, etcetera. Is it pointless to write, just to write?
ANSWER: The whole question of measuring with someone else is the most illusory pursuit a human being can undertake. It is completely impossible to get a valuable gauge in that way. For every writer has a different type of talent, and it is impossible to really state one is better than the other.
This applies not only to writing. It applies to anything else you do or anything else you are. You cannot get anywhere in any field if you are bogged down by this erroneous and totally distorted worldview. The fact that the rest of the world is afflicted with this error does not mean you have to be.
If you come into your own, you will use a completely different measurement, which is, “What is the best I can be?” And you work toward that. That is, of course, not achieved from one day to the other. You will be the best you can be, perhaps, today, and next month your best, if you work at it – if you are compulsive and not driven by false ambitions, trying to prove something else by your activity which is an additional distortion then.
But if you really write just for the sake of writing, just for the sake of self-expression, for the sake of unfolding the best that is in you and thereby enriching life and giving something to others – and it cannot possibly ever be everyone, because what you have to give cannot be accepted by everyone, anymore than what anybody has to give can be accepted by anyone – you will draw to you a certain amount of people.
They will be responsive and if you truly give your best for your own sake, for the sake of itself – not in order to prove something and measure with others – then you will bring value to them. This is the only way what you do is meaningful.
Otherwise, you are constantly chased through life with a relentless whip, which is the greatest illusion of all. For how can you ever be your best if you try to compete with somebody else’s best? It is totally illusory. Do the thing for its own sake and not for the sake of measuring with others.
Become your best through your own growth and development. Your best today will not be, therefore, the best tomorrow if you are in a state of growth. And that is the way it should be. If you accept and understand that, you will not be impatient that your best today is not good enough. You will be content with the best of today, knowing that tomorrow’s best will be different. Do you understand that?
QUESTION: I understand that, but I want to raise something. I’m fighting you a little. If everybody – half-baked actors, half-baked writers – just produced to produce, what kind of…we have enough lousy literature.
ANSWER: The lousy literature is lousy because people feel that way. And the truly good literature is precisely based on what I said. That applies not only to literature, but also to any art. You are totally mistaken here. If you truly speak to a great artist – not a half-baked one – and you really go into his deeper-most self, you will find that he indeed produces in order to be true to himself.
He does not ever think of measuring up with others. It is precisely the measuring up with others that creates mediocrity. You are totally mistaken here. That applies to art in any form. It applies to science. It applies to anything you do well – anything you do well – anything that is truly full and rounded, harmonious and in itself a masterpiece.
The most humble of activities – a piece of art – can be a masterpiece if it is done in this spirit. All mediocrity comes precisely from the false idea and vain ambitiousness of one-upmanship.
QA173 QUESTION: I have the illusion – and I cherish the illusion – that I’m a really superb writer and it’s not necessary for me to work at all in developing my skill. The reality is that I’ve had this illusion for so long that I’ve spent very little time developing my skill. This has suddenly become a problem in connection with my work, where I’m really going to have to improve my writing radically. And this is going to require a lot of effort on my part. Could you tell me something about this?
ANSWER: Yes. Let me ask you something first. Does making the effort seem a very arduous and difficult task for you?
QUESTION: Well, yes and no. I realize that it’s going to take a lot of work, but it doesn’t seem like an impossible task. It’s something I can do but it’s going to take a lot of effort.
ANSWER: There are several reasons why you prefer to believe in the illusion. The first is that there is a doubt in you somewhere, whether you really are as good a writer as you would want to be. By committing yourself in honest truth to working toward this goal, you would have to discover whether or not it is true that you are so good or whether your doubt is justified. And that seems to be a frightening thing to you.
Therefore, you would rather stay in a situation in which you can constantly tell yourself, “If I would make the effort, I would be good, but I am lazy – or whatever other reason – and do not make the effort. Therefore, it is no wonder, under the circumstances, that I am no good.” In other words, your not working toward it is an equivalent to not taking the chance and not committing yourself to the truth of the matter.
This is a very frequent process that human beings undertake – unknowingly or half-knowingly – not really being quite aware that they’re doing this and why. But, if they would truly face this, it would be a small step to come to the realization that in that way you go through life constantly deluding yourself and letting life slip through your fingers.
To the extent you are doing this in the areas you are doing this – and many people do it in all areas of life; some do it just in some areas of life – it means not living life. And nothing could be a more tragic, unnecessary mistake. No really committed mistake is ever tragic. It is the omitted ones – the noncommitted ones, out of fear – that are the true tragedy.
Because then there comes a time, as one grows older, when the sense of futility increases and the one feels “life is slipping me by,” without quite knowing what it is and why – that one has not really done one’s best. It is infinitely better to tackle it.
If you turn out not to be the greatest writer – perhaps a good writer or medium writer – who nevertheless gives his own best – whatever he has to give – that will be truly satisfactory for you. But if you constantly hold back because you do not want to take a chance of being less than the best, you disappoint yourself.
It is not life that disappoints you – you disappoint yourself because you avoid the truth. You avoid taking a chance, and you insist on a grandiose idealized self-image rather than truly living. So this would be one aspect of the problem which you could tackle. The overcoming of the inertia would be much easier once you face this and work it through and really look at it from this respect.
The second inner difficulty that confronts you is the misconception that not proving yourself to be the best writer would make you an inferior human being. With such a concept, it is, of course, extremely difficult to take a chance on not being the best writer. So this misconception also has to be faced. You really have to look at it.
Does your value, your adequacy, your acceptability depend on you being the top in any field? Perhaps with your brain you will quickly answer, “Of course not!” And yet, when you examine your feelings, I venture to say that you feel precisely that. In anything you are not the best, you feel it devaluates you as a human being. Therefore it is so extremely difficult for you to take chances.
These are the reasons primarily – together with a lot of side effects that may arise out of these two misconceptions – which hold you back and which make the effort of self-discipline and of overcoming your own inertia much more difficult than it would be if you would truly test this idea that you harbor in your soul.
This applies to some of my other friends here too, although perhaps the issue may not be writing. It may be just living.
Now I would like to add on here, generally speaking, that many of my friends have recently come to the point in their intensive personal Pathwork – with some, after many years of ardent work, and with some others perhaps it goes a little faster – where they have reached this area in themselves where they are face to face with the self-rejection, with the fear of not being valuable, with a self-dislike and various real or false or imaginary or superimposed reasons why they feel that way.
One of the most insidious vicious circles in this respect is the false belief that value is the result of perfection – otherwise one is valueless. One therefore is stymied to do anything about the really existing negative and destructive traits, because the attitude then is somewhat like the following: if one feels one only has value if one is perfect in one way or another, one then has already a definite and very devastating judgement against oneself. One says to oneself, in secret, as it were, “You do not live up to what the world expects of you; therefore, you are no good, and that is it.”
In this devastating self-judgement, one nevertheless wants to have some semblance of a life, since if this had to be really expressed, there would be no life. Therefore, the personality seeks, as a pseudosolution, “I will not show what I really think of myself, what my truth is. And I will make believe I am just as other people. I am all right.”
Therefore, all efforts, all psychic and mental and emotional energy – and therefore, to a large extent, also physical energy – is invested into presenting the front that is supposed to hide the unacceptable, secret truth.
This is the basic picture here that makes looking at the truth in this Pathwork such a threatening thing. Of course the threat is entirely illusory, but since you are so convinced that is the truth – your inherent unacceptability – looking at the truth, exposing yourself, is the most threatening thing in the world.
Although one part of you is not quite aware of this and feels the strong urge to develop, unfold, and follow the Path, another part in you constantly blocks it. That part says, “I cannot divulge that unacceptable secret, because then I have no further redeeming feature and my life then is finished. I have to live up to that unacceptability. That is the final truth that will come out of me.”
Now the tragedy of such a misconception, of such a pseudosolution, is the fact that one constantly uses the energy for pretending something and hiding some imaginary truth. The real fact of certain destructive elements can therefore never be eliminated, since one feels that is the final judgement and that is final.
One would not have to hide it so busily if it were not believed to be final – how can one then feel it would be of any use to do anything? That is the feeling of threat when one comes across a new insight before one is ready to really face it. And that is the reason for the resistance. That is the reason why one feels also sometimes so hopeless about oneself.
You see, if you would not have that attitude, my friends, deep down in yourself – if you would really believe that whatever faults or destructive traits you have, that does not alter the basic fact of your intrinsic real self, that is always there with its potential always ready to unfold, no matter what is wrong – if you could believe that, then you could use the efforts to work and face and change those destructive elements – rather than feeling compelled to keep up that idealized self-image [Lecture #83 The Idealized Self-Image].
I know I have talked about this years ago, but it does need repetition when you come across these elements within yourself – and many of my friends do at this time. They feel it is impossible to give up the idealized self-image. They feel threatened to do so because underneath they feel absolutely lost and valueless and nothing.
QA173 QUESTION: About writing, you said that the important thing is to express yourself and to have concern only for your own values. But how could someone who makes his living by doing a fairly specialized form of writing, that doesn’t involve self-expression, apply that? There, don’t you have to pay attention to what you’re writing?
ANSWER: Well, if you accept that kind of work, you have to comply with what is expected of you. Whatever you do, if this violates your own beliefs, your own deepest feelings, then doing this will possibly not be the best thing for you.
But it is also conceivable that this is not necessarily the case, that you accept this as a temporary thing for certain reasons, which may not mean a violation of your integrity at all. And you could do that for its own sake, not for the sake of measuring yourself with someone else. If your boss has set certain requirements, you do that to the best of your ability for its own sake.
You see, I think there is a misunderstanding involved here – that you believe if you do something for its own sake, that you have to defy everyone else. It does not mean that. You can be – whether as a writer or in any other capacity of work – in the employ of someone and fulfill the job that is expected of you without violating your integrity, yet not measuring your worth by saying, “I must be better than so-and-so,” but doing the best you can under the circumstances.