The Prosperity Trap

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Adversity

WHEN WE LEARN TO TREAD ONLY THOSE TRACKS WHICH ARE UNBEATEN, then life becomes a chain of fulfilling adventures rather than an inadequate series of accidents. When every road sign which says, “Obstruction ahead!”, makes you press your foot harder on the accelerator with anticipatory exhilaration, then an explosion of entropic ecstasy will scatter the colours of your soul across every flickering trace of darkness. Don’t take my word for it (or for anything). Try it yourself. It can only bring you good (which can come in many disguises, including those which look “bad” 😊). If you follow the untrodden road, epiphany after epiphany will spark in your mind until you almost want to beg for mercy from the avalanche of insights received and experiences gained! Hope and faith will grow within you like a snowball rolling parallel down a hill. Then you will begin to see everything as a gift, whether seemingly “good” or apparently “bad”. You will even see that your times of despair in the past were a gift too. For despair is a gift to keep us humble — to enable us more to appreciate the fullness of joy — for it brings a challenge from the Universe to change our ways and deepen.

There are no accidents in our lives. Everything happens for a reason — even despair. In such a seemingly “negative” situation, we are perfectly placed to be better judges of what is truly important in life and better able to empathise with the suffering of others too. Instead of playing out the role of victim, despair can catalyse us to become proactive in taking steps to exchange our present reality for something of greater worth. Often, situations which seem hopeless and worthy only of despair are merely the result of our distorted, narcissistic view of reality. We can turn this around by training ourselves to view seemingly “negative” experiences as a gift. This is why the so-called positive-thinking movement is a blight on humanity and a cancer in the heart. The fear of negativity is a failure to comprehend the gift of adversity. Our part, then, is to discover the gift in the scorpions’ tub rather than freak out about the scorpions, or pretend that they do not exist! 🙂

Of course, there is eventually something beyond that scorpion’s tub. I have friends in South Africa who found a couple on their doorstep one evening. They had been living in a “township” (euphemism for shanty slum) near Johannesburg with their kids, with a plastic sheet for a roof and only the clothes they were standing up in. They were hungry and desperate. They offered their services as cook and gardener to my friends who invited them in, chatted to them and then took them on, giving them accommodation on their land. Now they are happy and thriving and enjoying their work. (Por favour, don’t give me any comments about colonialism or slavery — my friends are good people who look after them and their children, paying their school fees, etc. It’s far better than them being penniless and homeless or living in a neighbourhood of theft and rape!). My point is that this couple didn’t wallow in their despair but actively sought a way out and found it. There comes a point when despair has done its invaluable work. When we push on doors there is much more chance that they will open. However, there may be times when people try to do so and all the doors remain closed. Well then, there is even a message in that too. This life is all about interpreting messages, for they are everywhere.

We may pray or meditate with great intensity for our circumstances to change or to for us receive something we desire. But there can be one of three responses to those desires and supplications: “Yes”, “No and “Not yet”. We often assume that “no” or “not yet” is unjust. But it is in those “no’s” and “notyetnesses” that we learn some worthy arts, such as patience, humility and submission to a higher intelligence. Maybe you have to make the best of what you already have at that particular point in history. We are not on Earth to be constantly healthy, wealthy and living in perfect conditions. We are here to learn and grow, however long that takes and whatever it may take to do so. Being constantly healthy, wealthy and living in perfect conditions is not consistent with our useful growth and education. But what if we do enjoy some prosperity? Is that merely for our self-gratification or self-aggrandisement? Or do we relish the opportunity to share it with others who may be in need — who may be in even more need than ourselves?

And before anyone says it… no, I am not “advocating poverty”. It is not for me to dictate the life-path of others. To advocate poverty would be as foolish as promoting prosperity. We each have our karmic pathway to follow in this life, which may be prosperous or penniless or a mixture of both. It is how we handle these things which counts, for everything is a test. However, sooner or later, the true pilgrim in this wilderness of a world will not find any real satisfaction in anything which this world has to offer. (Let the reader understand…).

In the delightful and wise old book, “Pilgrim’s Progress”, by John Bunyan, the pilgrim goes through many adverse situations — some of them terrifying and overwhelming (though his faith and angelic intervention ensure that he always survives). At one stage, he and his then companion (called Hopeful) “came to a delicate plain called Ease, where they went with much content”. Ah, some respite at last, the reader thinks. However, those words are succeeded by this phrase: “but that plain was narrow, so they were quickly got over it”. Hahaha! That always makes me laugh. For the true pilgrim in this life (rather than those who are immature enough to chase a fortune or a fancy car), there will be times of ease and comfort, but they will not last for long, because for him or her the “delicate plain of Ease” will always be narrow. For the true pilgrim has to plumb depths which others shun, and his body wasn’t made for it, for the true pilgrim outlives the body before it is time to leave it — hence, her dark nights of the soul (and body). The secret, of course, is in still being able to experience joy and contentment when not on that “delicate plain called Ease”. For this, one needs to know that the truly important elements of this life are in what can not be seen rather than the distinctly shaky evidence of our eyes. I know all this cuts right across the New Age positive-thinking psychobabble of today, but the reality of life in this limited dimension is that we learn infinitely more from adversity than from prosperity. And there I will stop for now, to allow that revolutionary thought to sink into this world which is so besotted with material gain. More later…

 

© Alan Morrison, 2017

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