The New Year is a time of new beginnings, do over’s, and resets, where we all have personal and professional goals and if we could realize them in the coming year, would make life much better.
- What if you finally lost that weight and got in shape? Or out of debt? You could do that this year.
- What if you finally landed your dream job or the big account? It’s possible this year.
- What if you finally got over yourself, healed emotionally and began healthy relationships? It’s possible.
- What if you finally made that change, took the chance, begun the first step of something big? It’s possible.
Who exactly is that “version” of ourself whom we are envisioning?
The New Year forces these kinds of questions to the surface, and any good pastor, life coach or therapist will tell you that these possibilities are available everyday, even on a Tuesday in late August. So why do we change in January but not in December?
There is something more below the surface. This “something” is invisible until we talk to those who have made the changes, got into shape, climbed out of debt, landed the job, began healthy relationships, and took their chance. While so many are sitting at the precipice of truly living, many more of us have been out trying and this is where a new level of despair emerges.
An airplane needs the resistance of the air to create lift and begin flying. All planes have a point where the thrust they create equals to the pressure of the air against the plane and that is the top speed or it’s terminal velocity. When a skydiver jumps from a plane, he or she can only accelerate until terminal velocity is reached.
In your previous attempts at lasting change, did you reach terminal velocity? Did you discover that losing the weight, getting in shape, or making that big change was not as easy as it seems? Did you have enough thrust for lift off, but barely enough to sustain flight, yet alone reach your destination? If so, I’d like to offer an unconventional New Year’s consideration.
The “better” or best version of ourself that we are seeking to realize comes when we have enough consciousness or self awareness to discern the “me” today from the “potential me” we aspire to become. Despair is the dissonance of living consciously of both while not being able to possess either.
For many, our consciousness is too high to return to the self we sought to improve, while not conscious enough to even know what to do with our aspirational self.
This is the ontological quagmire of terminal velocity. And I’ll warn you now that there are very few spiritual leaders, or guides that can lead us out. What most guru’s, pastors, priests, imams, influencers and life coaches do is weave an intricate lattice of steps, measurements, and process which anesthetize our despair by keeping us focused on an even more elaborate potential self. By stimulating our affections for escaping our less desirable self, our egos become increasingly desperate for arrival in the so called safe harbor of our aspirational self. I call this “Selling the Drama” because beneath it all is the snare of fiction.
We chase our best life and best self, without truly knowing the self we are. We go from fiction to fiction.
Surveying the world and my audience, some are endeavoring to begin a process of serious life improvement. While the majority are in the process somewhere each reaching their own terminal velocity. Ever wonder why only a very few make it into their ideal life? Is the system stacked against us? Is it all a pointless waste of effort and energy? Or are people finding something real along the way?
You see, we mistakenly presuppose that the arrival at our aspirational self will be the end of despair...but its not. Many people in perfect physical shape, or those with financial success, or those with fame and so called freedom are often still in despair. By making the aspirational self the savior of despair, then the obtainment of it means that everything is lost if such a self is not preserved. Then a new level of anxiety, fear, insignificance, struggle and despair emerges.
Some spiritual teachers tell us we must “die” to ourselves in order to arrive at this aspirational self. I have followed that advice for decades only to discover it wasn’t good advice. This is because my affections remained displaced upon a future self, or a potential self, or a promised self who in this moment is actually a fictional self or one who doesn’t actually exist and whom may never exist.
This led me to the best advice I can offer you today. As you reach for new heights and you accelerate your life and enjoy some measure of lift off, the fastest way to overcome our terminal velocity is to realize that the aspirational self is the self who must die. We must face the despair of returning to the self we have given so much energy to escape. This is not the same death or despair as settling for an unfulfilled life by quitting or abandoning hope of something better, this is the death of surrendering our outcomes and not placing a specific result on them as if they were an idol to escape into. My favorite existential philosopher put it this way:
“Thus when the ambitious man, whose slogan was “Either Caesar or nothing”, does not become Caesar, he is in despair over it. But this signifies something else, namely, that precisely because he did not become Caesar he now cannot bear to be himself. Consequently he is not in despair over the fact that he did not become Caesar, but he is in despair over himself for the fact that he did not become Caesar.”– Sorën Kierkegaard-The Sickness Unto Death
What if terminal velocity did not need to be overcome? What if the weight and shape of an object in this atmosphere is moving at exactly the perfect and maximum speed of that object?
To alter terminal velocity is not a work to be done on the side of our destination, but a work to be done on the shape of the thing right now in the atmosphere. To die to the aspirational, fictional self is to place our calories and focus on that which can be reshaped within the self we seek to escape. One simple act of reshaping, one wise or faithful decision within this moment, is all that is required for the despairing immediate self to cease existing and to become true in its Maker, and this is an incremental transformation, not unto a fictional new self which is escaping, but unto our not fully known true self which has been inviting us to such change.
This is then our word as we set out for the New Year: “Be Here now.” Practice being present within the atmosphere of our own life. Serve where we see a need. Self empty. Open our hands, surrender the outcomes, live fully in faith and excellence and flow right now. Nothing more, nothing less. May we be fully alive, fully present, and fully engaged in the life we have today, so that that the life we inherit in time will be one which is free of despair, because we have found our true self transparently grounded in God, in The Presence, in the present…NOW…which is the same as forevermore.
This is easier said than done. But it’s much easier than living a false life. The best life is not the fairy tale of wealth, leisure and the satisfaction of our appetites, for that turns out to be the temptation to live falsely. Success is found in the Christoform pattern of forfeiting the kingdoms of the world, and returning to our hungry, lonely time in the desert where the spiritual realm sustains what is true.