“I have seen more than one case who got stuck in too much wisdom and was unable to live, and what is the use of wisdom when it stands in the way of life? The young want to learn whatever there is to learn, and then go out into life and experience more. People sometimes think that analysis will take the place of life, they protect themselves in that way against
much nonsense that might be lived. But mind you, if you don’t live your nonsense you will never have lived at all, and the meaning of life is surely that it is lived, not avoided.”
The above words are from Carl Jung in the early 1930s. As I read these words, I thought of Buddhism where the goal of awareness does not take a person to place of privilege such as we grant people who attain lofty goals of wisdom here in the western world. As soon as I read the above words, I went in search of a parable of a Zen Buddhist monk:
“Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”
Daryl Sharp quotes the above words of C.G. Jung in his book which found its title in the quotation – “Live Your Nonsense.” Jung’s words made me recall my own youth and the approach to midlife, a time when I sought as hard as I could, to become wise. I took class after class, degree after degree … and it left me holding a somewhat empty bag. What had I gained in the process, other than a higher pay scale? Nothing. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was still the outsider, a stranger in a strange land. I still made the same mistakes, perhaps even made bigger mistakes as I tried to fool myself and others that I had somehow obtained wisdom. I fooled most who knew me as they mistook my degrees for wisdom. But, those who were closest to me, saw the truth. I was slipping more and more into living an unconscious nonsense.
Struggling for too many years trying to rein in the nonsense, I gave up and went into analysis. I began to write, something I had abandoned as I entered a teaching career and raised a family. I needed a respectable job that paid respectable money so that I wouldn’t repeat my father’s nonsense. With the writing, I began to remember the unconscious responses to childhood trauma, acts of nonsense that likely saved me from the hopeless realities of my life. And after more than another decade of struggle, I began to wonder if perhaps I needed to trust my unconscious, to follow rather than attempt to rigidly control.
I don’t want to imply that I didn’t keep a critical eye open to keep me out of harm’s way as I am certain that not all in the unconscious is worth bringing out into the outer world. I was wary and took baby steps, pulling back to find out what nonsense had emerged and judge its worth in my life.
And now, well into my second half of life, I see what has been added to my life and what has been left on the sidelines. I can’t talk about gains or losses, because it isn’t about that. Rather, it is about self-discovery. I am the writer I once dreamed as a youth that I could be – well not quite that good a writer, or famous by any stretch of imagination. I am socially awkward, but in a way that others accept. I am a sun worshipper – not in a religious or cult sense, but in a body sense. I love being warm, and being clothing free – yes, foolish in our modern world, a strange way to live my nonsense. Yet, in doing so, I feel more balance in my life. I feel healthier than I have ever felt, both mentally and physically.
Still, it isn’t all champagne and roses for in living my nonsense, those closest to me have to struggle with that nonsense which often doesn’t jibe with their nonsense. So, where does that take me? Obviously, I can’t answer that question. So, I’ll go back to doing what I do best and see where that leads me.
Yes, I know. What about Daryl Sharp’s book? Sorry. I leave it to you to follow up on his book which is available as a free eBook download from Inner City Books.