"Ideals are the whips with which we punish our innocent selves for something we haven't done." Happy Cow
Imagine a society whose entire education system was set up to make sure people are unhappy. Imagine a society in which our children's innate sense of self-worth is systematically removed and replaced with a system in which only certain individuals are considered 'worthy', and even then only on a temporary basis. Imagine a society in which unconditional love and acceptance is systematically replaced with incessant judgement and comparison against other incomparable individuals or against some arbitrarily made up 'ideal'.
Imagine sending your happy, loving children to an institution where they are constantly pounded again and again with the idea that they are less than worthy unless they achieve this or attain that. Imagine watching as their wonderful innate sense of self-esteem is gradually harassed out of them. Imagine paying for the privilege. Imagine joining in with these damning judgements yourself at every given opportunity.
Have you recognised the society yet?
Achievement is pushed relentlessly in Western society from a very early age. I remember some time ago having a discussion with someone who might be politely called a 'pushy parent' (and impolitely called something else). They were astonished by the notion that I might not have any interest in pushing my children to achieve this goal or attain that skill. Amazed by the idea that I might just allow my children to do whatever they want to do and stop doing it whenever they want to stop doing it.
Their main argument was that teaching my children discipline and focus would enable them to achieve certain 'goals' and that this would give them a sense of achievement. I asked them what a sense of achievement was and they confirmed that it is a temporary sense of joy or happiness that comes just after reaching a goal.
"Why would someone who is already happy for no reason need to get a temporary sense of joy or happiness for a reason?" I asked them. They then changed the subject.
Now imagine that you meet someone who has a constant underlying sense of unconditional love and happiness. They still experience life's inevitable ups and downs, but these can in no way make any difference to their innate sense of self-worth or love for both themselves and others. Imagine someone comes up to that person and offers them some heroin.
"Why should I take this heroin?" asks the first person.
"Because it will give you a temporary feeling of euphoria like nothing you have experienced," replies the pusher.
"What is euphoria?"
"It is a deep sense of happiness or well-being which only lasts for a short while."
"But I am already happy. Why would I need to become temporarily happy?"
In these circumstances the pusher would find it hard to sell to the happy person unless he took steps to first destroy his innate unconditional happiness. That is exactly what achievement pushers have to do as well. They have to first make you feel unworthy, not good enough. They have to first destroy your unconditional acceptance of yourself and others as unique, incomparable individuals. Only then can they get you hooked into the game. Only then can they interest you in the achievement drug.
My pushy parent friend might argue that a more relaxed approach would mean that our children would just sit about doing nothing and the world would grind to a halt within a generation. Ha! Have you ever tried to suggest to a vibrant, happy young child that they just sit about doing nothing? If you haven't, give it a try and see how long it lasts.
"Leave a small child alone with some dolls and see how quickly they start to animate and create stories with them. Leave them with some blank paper and some colours and see how quickly a picture is created. Creativity is the fulfilment of Being. Formal education systematically snuffs it out and replaces it with productivity. No wonder modern life can feel so unfulfilling." Swifty Flame-Anderson
Goal-striving is not necessary to stimulate creation and effort. Just you try to stop it! The only difference is that the end product is not known in advance. Creation is spontaneous, organic. It will not be a linear progression to a pre-set target. But that does not mean that nothing will be created. Achievement then becomes a side-effect or a by-product of the simple enjoyment of Life, a characteristic of which is spontaneous creation. Doing whatever you love doing naturally leads to creation. Creation of what? We cannot say in advance. That is why it is called creation. It will be something that has never ever been seen before. Unpredicted and unpredictable.
What people often refer to as their children's 'creativity' is not creation at all, but production or reproduction. We are going to produce this certain outcome. We are going to practice and drill until it is produced. That cannot be creation. If the outcome is known in advance, it must be something that has already been created by someone else and you are just copying them. You are just reproducing. Sing in this prescribed way. Play the instrument how the book tells you to. Paint like this artist. Dance the steps we tell you. Design whatever you like as long as it is not much different from these other designs. Maybe there is a bit of variation, maybe a new interpretation. Take what we already have and tweak it a little.
That is not creation. They even have exams! Ha! How can unique, incomparable creation be tested? Tested against what? Exams can examine one thing and one thing only - our ability to take someone else's ideas or methods and to imitate them.
The word 'achievement' is often heard in close proximity to the word 'success'.
My definition of success is very simple: are you happy right now?
If you are, then you are already living wonderfully successfully and have no need of the achievement drug. If you are not, then consider the possibility that you have been suckered in by those very cunning achievement pushers who have managed to destroy your unconditional love for life and for yourself and who keep calling you on to your next temporary fix.
It is never too late to see their cunning deceit. It is never too late to break free from the chains and start playing freely once more.
"When joy has a reason, it is not going to last long. When joy is without any reason, it is going to be there forever." Osho
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