And why it’s not about losing trust in people.
As with anyone who hasn’t glued on their rosy glasses with super glue, I find disillusionment a recurring companion of life experiences. There’s no pathos to this fact, and just a little sentimental sadness. Mostly, after the smoke subsides and the embers cool down, there’s always something left. And that something is ready to put up a new fight for itself. Usually.
The Optimistic Phoenix
Each time we feel disappointed and disillusioned, burnt down by the trust we dared show — the challenge thrown to ourselves more than anyone — somewhere deep down we know that the Phoenix inside us is already peeping its baby nose out of the pile, forever (or still) optimistic. It may be so tiny that it’s barely noticeable in the pile, but it’s there and, if honest, we know it has potential. As the little bird grows and strengthens, time and time again, we feel that we’ll rise again, and again will go through the cycle — or perhaps, luck will be on our side and will spare us a few cycles.
That is the eternal hope: that one day, we’ll be in the right place at the right time and the disillusionment spared us will be a powerful yardstick for our future.
Why are we so eager to find a yardstick — be it a friend, a relationship, or the mission of our lifetime? I believe it all comes down to this:
We need confirmation that this truth we’re seeking (whatever it be in each case) is real. We need confirmation of the gut feeling, of the Phoenix feeling. Because if our very own inner convictions are a lie, what is truth, really? Only when we find confirmation — one that finally doesn’t disappoint — can we relax: there is truth on earth, and one who seeks will find. To prove it— or prove it untrue — one may travel the ends of the earth. That would not be such a heavy price, considering the question at hand. Hence the fairy tales, hence the legends.
Then comes a point when we start wondering whether those Phoenix cycles are as numbered as the hairs on our head, and whether there’s a limit to them. A sort of full stop after which the pile of ashes may seem like a pile of black dust to cover yourself with in order to not see the outer world, hoping that if you don’t see it, neither will it see you.
The inability to trust people isn’t the worst part of losing the inner Phoenix. The greatest is the death of the Bird itself: of losing trust in yourself.
Out of all that can happen, this is the worst aspect. Unfortunately, there is a masochist in all of us, one that thinks of suffering as a way to “throw a challenge to fate” instead of going out there and changing life without relying on anyone.
There’s some sort of condolence to life when we have a point of reference — we’re told: listen to yourself and knowledge of the world will follow. Trust your “gut feeling” and everything will be fine. And that seems difficult enough already. Because humans repeatedly choose convenience over gut feelings. Convenience rules the modern world.
Convenience isn’t just a physical entity: it can be psychological, emotional, intellectual.
By the way, treating others as intellectually convenient is one of the most masochistic kinds of convenience out there: for a long time, the unknowing victim will attribute your attachment to nobility, intelligence, etc. Anything but lowly convenience.
But what if you aren’t like those people?What if you (usually) try to avoid convenience at all costs?
How many people out there have followed their “intuition” to the ends of the earth to one day wake up to a pile of ashes? Or was that not intuition but sentimentality— of one or another kind? When it happens to others, we’re always prone to blame emotion. When it happens to us, we are convinced that our own self has betrayed us in some way. And once upon a time, we are faced with the question:
How can I trust my own judgement when my mind, intelligence, and heart had told me: ‘believe’, and I believed. And it was a lie. So is my own judgement a lie? And if so, whose isn’t?
Each time, at first the prevailing feeling is that of disbelief. As if the disillusionment has happened not to you, but someone else, or in a dream — and you’re going to wake up and everything’s going to be fine, as before. But then you wake up and feel nothing but emptiness, as if someone has pulled the curtain on the mirage you were living in.
Following these deductions and a certain period of time for revival comes a natural list of choices. Force-feeding that bird in hopes it’s going to come alive is one of them. But then, angrily poking around in the pile of ashes in hopes of growing a new Phoenix may not be the best option.
Perhaps a better option is to focus on the ‘fertilizer’ we’ve been given. Because ash is one of the best fertilizers out there. Ask any gardener.
Even if the bird is (for now) nowhere to be seen, there is always an option of growing a field of tulips on the bleak, black-and-white land. Surely, growing something from scratch is always more difficult than picking flowers or gathering harvest (if you’ve grown something from seed, even with the best fertilizers, you’ll know) but sometimes it is the option we are given — and given for a reason.
Perhaps at some point of our life, the ashes are the goal… because with a bit of time, they will grow a much richer harvest than the ‘mirage’ they had once burned down.