“Suffering is sometimes cleansing,” said the man. His clothes were casual, but expensive. “It can purify.”
“It can also fuck you up,” said Shadow.
– Neil Gaiman, American Gods
I love it when the brain takes two completely different sources of input and creates something new.
I just wrapped up my initial round of studying Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (one of five novels I’ve decided to really break down and hopefully gain insight as to why it resonated with me and other people, and also why it didn’t resonate with some). I’ll try not to spoil anything, but the central concept is that things only hold great power if we believe in them. I’ll leave the universal truth of this up to theologians and philosophers, but the idea is a simple one and I believe it to be true on at least some level. I’ve seen thoughts have a large influence on actions, both with myself and with others. The whole movement behind “positive thinking” is testament to this creed.
But as useful as positive thinking can be, that’s only one part of the equation. Next comes the action.
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18, Holy Bible (King James Version)
Joe Rogan and Jocko Willink believe struggle is an imperative of mankind. Without it, we’re never truly human.
It’s so easy to give power to the bad things these days. How do we ensure that the things we become don’t harm us or others?
How do we give good things power?
Is a person you know suffering with depression or grieving? We’re so busy. We can send a text or make a quick phone call and leave it at that. That fits into the ten-minute time slot you have between meetings today. Then you can feel the lingering guilt the rest of the week over your token sympathy.
Or you can postpone the “me” time you had planned for Saturday and invite them over for their favorite meal, play a board game, and remind them of the good in life. Even better, you can ask them what they most need right now and do that thing for them — iron their clothes, clean their kitchen, and so on.
What about deciding what you’re going to put in your body? You can pick up that $5 cheeseburger combo meal on the way home from work and burp the night away.
Or you can take the extra time to stop at the market and pick up some fresh spinach, a few other vegetables, maybe some salmon if you’re omnivorously inclined, and spend the evening preparing a meal that your body will not hate you for.
All this isn’t to say we should always and only be struggling in life. After all, the point of struggling is the celebration of overcoming. Of knowing that you earned your place.
But it’s probably a good idea to keep a running tally of the things you’ve achieved of which you’re most proud and remember the scar-inducing battles you fought along the way. It’s also good to remind ourselves that not all struggles are large and visible. Most of them, in my experience, are quiet and personal.
Please, join me in the struggle to give the good things power.