Train journeys are often full of “interesting” conversations, especially if you are not sitting in the Quiet Coach or lost in your own world of plugged up ears listening to music, watching a film or reading a new book on kindle. On one such journey I only had standing room and since I am yet to perfect that great British art of standing upright reading a book, I could not help but delight my unplugged ears in the conversation of two young women. I would listen to any conversation just to take my thoughts away from the agony of standing for about 30 minutes on my feet!
Here are excerpts from their conversation, largely about work and what they were looking forward to. “I am totally stressed out, so much so that I have been bitching a whole lot at my work colleagues. I really feel terrible now.” She continued: “I am bloody disillusioned. I want to leave my job. I just wished I can win the lottery”. “Well, you have to play it to win it,” suggested her friend, who continued. “I am tired myself and looking forward to this weekend to just sleep till Monday morning.” The conversation moved at some point to their engagement, their partners and then total engrossment with each other’s engagement ring, how much it cost, the time spent to look for it and then about the families of their partners.
The thought about being disillusioned got me thinking about the many people who feel this way and especially the number of people who think that one of the ways to deal with disillusionment is to come into some good money and then all will be well. Such is the illusion given our skewed views about what is satisfaction and happiness. No wonder the search for happiness or more like grasping after it has become a massive industry. Hence, in the musical Next to Normal, a suburban mother (Diana Goodman) offers a wise insight: “People who think they’re happy haven’t thought about it enough.”
I also wonder about the series of bad news about banking scandals and how things can quickly “fall apart” (to use the title of one of Chinua Achebe’s book). When one loses one’s balance with regard to our relationship with money there are a series of knock on effect on our behaviour such as perceived loss of control of one’s life, increased anxiety and stress levels, an increase in mental and emotional linked illness, workplace theft and corporate crime. Having been fooled by the illusion of economic happiness, can it be that with the end of years of boom and living in the dream world of our economic bubble we are going through withdrawal symptoms of the unavailability of our next “fix”? Is there a link here with the Libor inter-bank lending rate and Barclays? What next will fall apart?
There is some good news. Richard Rohr, writing in Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass, 2011) offers a helpful paradigm for our present condition. He argues that our failings can be the foundation for our on-going spiritual growth. Not rocket science perhaps, for what Rohr shows is that those who have fallen, failed or gone down, and who have wrestled with the causes are better placed to understand up. And therein is the clue: those who recognise the failure and have wrestled with “why”. If only we can learn this. For according to Rohr, we grow spiritually more by doing it wrong than by doing it right! There is hope, but we need to own up!
© jagessar June 30 2012