And the only hope is, of course, in the one who is not devoured by the monster--who can deal with it--who can ride the monster. Therefore the old Chinese represented their heroes, or their great sages, as riding the monster. When Confucious was asked what he thought of Lao-Tzu, whom he did not know personally, he said he didn't know whether he was an expert at weapons or at driving carts, but however that might be, he knew he was an expert at riding dragons.C.G. Jung Zarathustra Seminars
All around me men are working;
but I am stubborn, and take no part.
The difference is this:
I prize the breasts of the Mother.Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Believe it or not, Friedrich Nietzsche seems to have some wisdom to share on this issue of life purpose. Here I will borrow from his parable on The Three Metamorphoses in Thus Spake Zarathustra
. Zarathustra shares that in the first part of our human journey we are camels, loaded up will all the rules, mores, expectations, and beliefs handed us by society, family, our schools, and our churches. We heave off into the desert of our existence, laden with weights, which constrain us while keeping us safe in our knowing that we fit into the natural order of things. We know the rules, we follow them, and everyone breathes a little easier knowing you won’t be disturbing the status quo.
You won’t be the son from the long line of physicians who will decide in his third year of college that what he really wants to be is a ballet dancer, or the daughter of the first female partner in a prestigious law firm who wants to be a stay at home mom. Yep. Safe, predictable, and content, chewing your cud under a palm tree. Right?
And yet, you might notice your body saying something different. You may see it in the Tums you eat, the Prozac you take, the occasional episode of road rage, or the number of hours you zone out in front of the TV — there is trouble in the Kasbah.
While safe, secure, and predictable, the camel is no longer vital, energized, and passionate. In those moments the camel might be heard to ask, “Why am I really here?” You may find yourself humming along with Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is, my friend?” The question starts to emerge “What is my purpose?”
Before you think this is an easy matter of dumping the load and frolicking on to the next oasis take heed, a metamorphosis is in order.
Then I’ll become a lion!
Why a lion? Because the lion is the only one strong and courageous enough to slay the mighty dragon, “Thou Shalt.” All those packs you were carrying formed this dragon, fierce and brilliant with golden scales upon each of which is written “thou shalt.”
The lion must slay this dragon. Thou shalt climb the corporate ladder and buy a bigger house. Thou shalt never waste time. Thou shalt not play until all your work is done. Thou shalt not disturb the peace in the family. Thou shalt learn politics and how to play them well. Thou shalt not sport gray hair and reveal your age. Thou shalt not partake of non-Atkins approved foods. (Feel free to insert your own here.!)
The lion’s task is to deliver the blows, the "Sacred No," to vanquish the beliefs, rules, and mandates which have threatened to extinguish the vitality of one’s existence. This is no easy fight and may take place for years (if one chooses to fight at all). The dragon comes from all angles, within and without.
What if I lose my house?
What will my parents say?
What if my spouse doesn’t want me to change?
What if I’m wrong?
What if no one likes me?
What if everyone finds out I’m really a fraud?
What if this is just a midlife crisis?
(Sing along if you know the tune.)
And how about these time-honored techniques:
I can’t slay this dragon today. I have a report due in the morning. I’m on vacation next week. The new boss just came on; things might change. I have to read this book first and clean my desk and lose 10 pounds and pay down my credit card. No, there isn’t time in my life for fighting dragons right now. Perhaps when the kids are grown.
(Picture Bill Murray as the aging Hercules. I cannot possibly slay this dragon. Here, perhaps this salamander.)
My favorite Dragon Slaying Delay Tactic is the “To Do List.” Fighting dragons just never seems to make that list. But which of your to-do lists has ever contained the essence of your life, I ask?
There are risks in slaying the dragon, especially if everyone around you appears to be devoted to maintaining the status quo. Do you have the courage (heart) to cast off what no longer serves you? Are you willing to disturb the peace? Are you willing to stand in the insecurity that will come when you enter this battle?
When I allowed myself to wake up to the reality of what burnout was doing to me (with the aid of very good friends who were brave enough to give me very honest feedback on this subject), things got a little crazy.
You see, I was proud of being a camel! We give nice pats on the back to the camels that can haul the biggest loads. I’m one of those folks lucky enough to be born healthy and with a mind that learns quickly. An oldest daughter, I’m quick to take charge and am a natural leader. Organized, efficient, professional, sincere, helpful, generous, and capable, I volunteered for everything and my opinion and advice were often sought.
I felt like people depended on me and I willingly knelt down before anyone with another pack to throw on my back. They were happy and I felt useful and important and my back was sturdy and strong. I exulted in my ability to carry the heaviest load for a long time. But then came along resentment.
Where were the other camels? Why did I always have to carry the heaviest load? Why did I always have to lead the caravan across the desert?
I resented and, I’ll admit it, cast judgments against the weaker camels and those who had no packs (that I considered to be legitimate packs anyway). Well, they were lazy! A waste of a camel! My back was sturdy and strong.
Because I was bold, the other camels were intimidated and endured my judgments and occasional moods; until one day, a shy and tender camel came up to me and said, “When you snipe at me under the weight of your load you make me feel that you don’t value me or my contribution to our work and that hurts me. I’m sorry your load is so heavy, but you are the one who is allowing this. If you don’t like it, you have to stop. It isn’t fair that you are angry at me because I appear freer and remember how to play.”
This was one humbled camel, let me tell you, and on that day a lion was born.Finding Your Life Purpose (Part Two): Camels and Lions and Dragons, Oh My!
Written by Laura YoungPart of Fierce Living