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From the moment we are born we start ascending. Immediately and repeatedly we are measured and compared to everyone else. “She’s in the 80th percentile… He’s already walking.” We are indexed according to countless external criteria. Where do we fit in? What do the experts say about us?
Asking: “Who am I?”
Our school years codify the importance of measuring up. Clothing, GPA’s, Trophies, and Wins are the externals which tell us our shape. Question this predominant comparison narrative and the system marginalizes us. This…Not that. If we want to climb to the top…we must value what it values.
Compete. Perform. Compare. Graduate to the next thing. One rung…then the next. Out-climb them if you can.
In the workforce, our measuring and competing becomes more severe. There are fewer at the top, but everything we think we want is up there, out there, if we just muster more effort or output. Allies and foes. Backs being scratched. Your ladder is high. You’re going to make it.
You’re going to win…what?
We string our distracting days together and call it a year. We string our years together and call it life.
Once we obtain what we thought we wanted we ask: “Is this all there is?“
The anesthesia wears off and we look around the top of our pile and discover that nothing we truly want is up there, only what we thought we wanted. We were misled. This sobering jolt either resets our course for life, or we double down (in pride) on our fake ID.
It’s a predictable course.
Our biggest dreams didn’t satisfy as promised. “The NEXT thing” is our next chasing after wind. Perpetual emptiness ensues until we awaken to our trap. Imagine our surprise to learn this prison only has three walls. We are free to walk into a horrifying freedom.
Climbing is clutching to life’s fiction. Liberation is counterintuitively downward. Let Go! Surrender. Release FOMO. Trust that nothing is missing from each moment.
Life is not lived by skimming over it. The descent receives each part of today without complaint, worry, or doubt. Life without comparison is neither good nor bad, it’s perfect, (teleios) authentic, or real.
Apathy, defiance or quitting are not the descent. These are the false self who resents the climb but clutches to the prison bars of its illusions. Self pity and blame are the byproducts of those unable or unwilling to compete, but who are too prideful to be taught, and too self-righteous go backwards. The descent is a diligent life of effort, aiming at redeeming the world, not plundering it.
Coasting causes depression and scoffs at joy.
What does it profit us to gain the whole world and forfeit our soul? May the wisdom of this question find us today. Follow the question: “What do I truly want?” and it will cause a course correction. Approval, validation and satisfaction come first from our Maker. This means we lose nothing and gain everything on our way to the bottom.