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Waiting To Live

It is incumbent upon us all to rise to the challenge of becoming heroes, is it not? Failing this, it is incumbent upon us to feel the despair that arises in our hearts when we turn our backs on this task. It is incumbent upon us to rise to the challenge of embarking upon what Joseph Campbell calls the Hero’s Journey; failing this, it is incumbent upon us to experience to the full the unsupportable pain of being locked into the Negative Adventure, which is the appalling antithesis of any sort of adventure at all. Another word we may use for the Negative Adventure is the battery-farm known as society. What a horror story this is – to be trapped without any hope of escape whatsoever in a situation that has no quality of ‘adventure’ to it at all and never will. This is more of a horror story than we can imagine, for we do not realise the significance of the Hero’s Journey. We do not realise the significance of it at all…




The Hero’s Journey is life itself – there is no possibility of life otherwise, there is no life outside of the Hero’s Journey. Without embarking on the Journey there is no chance of us ever living, no chance whatsoever. It’s only when we have embarked upon the Journey – when we have taken the fateful risk of having embarked upon it – that we CAN actually live. Otherwise, we are merely waiting to live. Otherwise, we are biding our time. What a torture it is to be biding our time! What an unholy torture. What are we waiting for? What signs will arise? What portents might we expect? If now is not the right time then when will the right time be? Will it be next year, or will it be ten or twenty years hence? We can try various tricks to ease the torment: we can tell ourselves that we have ‘already arrived’; we can tell ourselves that we have already achieved everything that was needful for us to achieve. We can tell ourselves this, but it is a lie and the lie will in due course let us down and there is no pain greater than the pain of being let down by our own lies. We can seek to entertain ourselves, we can seek to distract ourselves with empty entertainments, but the empty entertainments will quickly pall. There is no pain like the pain of a life that is solely dependent upon entertainment when that entertainment palls, as it always will. There is no solace – no magic ointment or medication – for the pain of being afraid to live. There’s no comfort or luxury or privilege that can take this pain away…




It is incumbent upon us to embark upon the Journey; failing this it is incumbent upon us to be eaten alive by regrets. There is no escaping the pain, therefore – one way we are face-to-face with the danger that we fear the most, and the other way we live a life of torment in which we cannot help knowing that we have betrayed ourselves. No escape is possible, no escape was ever possible. How could we have allowed ourselves to believe that it was possible for us to escape this dilemma? No one has ever escaped this dilemma. It is never been given to anyone to escape this dilemma. One type of pain frees us whilst the other type traps and paralyses us. Which should we choose? What will our choice be? How will we judge this decision properly? Whose advice will we ask? Life itself does not care which ‘choice’ we make however – it’s all the same to life. On the one hand there is the undoubted difficulty and danger of the Hero’s Journey, the journey that may or may not result in disaster (but most probably will). How many heroes have perished in this undertaking, after all? On the other hand there is a terrible ordeal of the Negative Adventure, which is the difficulty that we keep turning away from but cannot ever escape. Our only escape is in fantasy, but the fantasy we escape into only ever creates new and ever-more refined forms of suffering for us…




We have two types of pain here therefore – the clean type and the unclean type. There are two types of suffering that lie ahead of us – the suffering we embrace willingly, and the suffering we refuse but which we will experience all the same. Two types of pain, two types of suffering. This is the Symmetry that cannot ever be broken – the Symmetry of Difficulty. No matter which way we go, a less difficult road cannot be found. Life is one and life cannot be denied – if we do deny it then slowly, inexorably, it reasserts itself, and it reasserts itself in the form of unsupportable pain. We deny the pain as we have denied life (why would we change the habit of a lifetime?) but we cannot win because life cannot be denied. There is only life, and there is no one outside of life to deny it. When life is denied it reappears in the form of suffering and this suffering is our only connection to reality. The more strongly we deny the suffering the more fiercely it comes back at us. The more we try to cure our pain the more heads it grows. This ensures that we cannot ever win, and this is a blessing for us, but we do not wish for that blessing. We do not wish to admit that we cannot ever win. We resist this awareness as much as we are able to; we resist this awareness with an astonishing tenacity. Our tenacity (like that of a limpet clinging to a rock) locks us into the Negative Adventure all the more so that our lives become pointless in the extreme, petty in the extreme, meaningless in the extreme. Still we will not give up however. Even more now, we will not give up. Our terrible self-defeating stubbornness will not allow us to give up. Life itself does not care however – its Symmetry cannot ever be broken…






Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.
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