September 25

Is Life Just a Test?

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Blog | 2 Comments

Photo by Alexi Berry

Photo by Alexi Berry

Some people get through life while living the saying “ignorance is bliss”, often without even knowing they are doing it. If you are reading this, I’m assuming you are not one of those people. Quite a few years ago a young man residing in the treatment center where I was working as a tech commented how great it was my mind worked as it did. This came after many a long discussion on the overnight shift. I replied that my mind working like it does is also a curse. That is how I feel right now: although I love psychology and self-analysis, I am acutely aware it is both a blessing and a curse. Perhaps this blog should have been subtitled: The Yin and Yang of It All-continued.

With insight comes more control over your thoughts and behavior. This just simply stands to reason. But with it also comes doubt and uncertainty. This is especially true when you have knowledge of psychology (and as many family members of undergraduate psychology majors will tell you, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing). Personally I think the more knowledge, the more potential for danger in self-analysis, as well as to personal serenity.

This brings me to the title of this blog. Do you ever wonder if life is a test? Or perhaps it is as Conor Oberst sings “Wisdom is fickle, and change is God’s retort.” It seems just when I sure up my knowledge of something, life throws me a curve ball, and I’m whiffing. I am often much more sure of others motives for behavior than my own. Let me provide a benign example:
Imagine you are content in your work, enjoy your coworkers, and are finally getting noticed and appreciated. You actually like your job, and aren’t hoping for something better. Then another company offers you a better position, more money, and a chance for advancement. There are certainly drawbacks; it might not work out, you might work with people less to your liking, the workload may increase, so forth. The point is, as soon as you were comfortable somewhere, life stepped in and provided a quandary. As John Lennon once wrote and sang, “Life is what happens while you are making plans.”

Certainly this has happened once or twice for many of my readers. It happens fairly regularly to me. So there we are, facing our dilemmas, making value calls, and hoping for the best.

For me the answer is really simple, but difficult to apply: don’t make any decision, and let the Tao guide you. The decision will become evident. Unfortunately when you have insight and a fair amount of knowledge of psychology, the desire to know the outcome before you decide, the desire to know the right path for you, the desire not to make another mistake, (and the belief you have this power) interferes with it all. For someone who has knowledge of psychology this it is difficult at times to ascertain if their thinking is rational, or a rationalization and intellectualizing (defense mechanisms to avoid emotion). Or maybe there is some other defense mechanism at work. Or maybe you just have a fear of the unknown. Or maybe….. Ohhmm.

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This entry was posted on Friday, September 25th, 2009 at 8:10 PM and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Is Life Just a Test?”

  1. Ursula? on September 27th, 2009 at 3:49 AM

    ditto. knowledge of psychology is a dangerous thing; however, when it comes to self analysis it is not so scary because you know you can always change something you do not like about yourself, or if you choose not too, obviously you have come to accept this about yourself and it is not so scary. (at least this is my experience). …and not to mention one has to constantly remind one’s self that psychology is ALL THEORY whose reasoning is only relevant within the theoretical scheme one is subscribing to.

    one thing that helps me overcome things (in this case, theories and ideas) that seem to be unchanging comes from evolutionary theory actually. The upshot basically is that nothing is ever set in stone: everything is constantly changing so therefore nothing is really ‘correct’ or the ‘ideal’ because everything is adapting to it’s ever changing environment; it would be a fallacy to state that something should be this way or that way. Recourse to the following theory is comforting, especially in relation to one’s own self. …or like you say, i might be just intellectually ‘reframing’ so called shortcomings within one ‘dime a dozen’ theories in defense. hahahha. …though if one does think everything is in a constant state of flux then rationalization and understanding are rendered to the status of brain teasers in sunday’s paper: not to be taken seriously because the answers will be different next week anyways.

    one point you mention that i do not understand however, is your example of being content where you work, then offered something ‘better.’ I guess, retrospectively, you would have to conclude that you were not unequivocally content in the first place. :::shrugs:::

    i personally think contentment outside the cloister of a monastery is a dangerous thing. you should blog about that concept!

  2. William Berry on September 27th, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    Very nice Ursula. I like how you bring everything back to the constant flux of change, which is the underlying truth in everything.
    I also like your argument that if one considers the better job, then were they truly content in the first place? And it seems you are able to answer that with the thought any contentment outside of a monastery may not be unequivocal contentment. This is an excellent point, and in this culture stands to reason, which I seem to have inadvertently pointed out. No matter how happy you might be, in this culture we seem to fall victim to always being on the lookout for something more.
    Excellent comments as always. Thank you.

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