Posted by: Millard J. Melnyk | February 16, 2015

Follow the Blessing

Six years ago I began an experiment with Joseph Campbell’s “follow your bliss.” I recently expanded that into “follow the blessing” so as to be more inclusive and less narcissistic, although there’s no way around the fact that our interest in other people’s bliss or blessing is inextricably entwined with our own. I also want to recognize that a wonderful life isn’t one long flow of the euphoria that “bliss” can imply. Sometimes bliss feels like deep satisfaction or contented peace. It can also feel ecstatic. It can also feel like victory after serious struggle or relief after intense pain. “Blessing” covers all the above.

Following the blessing means doing what feels blessed. It might bless you, or it might bless others — usually both. But what does doing that mean practically?

At any point in time, faced with a choice between something that you feel must be done (duty) and something you want or love to do (blessing), fuck the first and do the second.

Don’t worry, (since that probably sounds foolhardy,) we have built-in failsafes…

There will always be some shit that we can’t avoid or don’t know how to avoid or can’t bear to leave be. At some point when necessity becomes dire enough, we feel compelled to deal with that shit. This isn’t rocket science and, unless we’re total dimwits, we know how to successfully deal with most shit when need be. So, following the blessing isn’t a recipe for failure by any means. What’s more, we learn. If we do something that seemed like a blessing but proves otherwise, it doesn’t feel so blessed the next time around. In this way our feelings get attuned to what good sense tells us really works. This all happens quite naturally, and it really isn’t hard to get into a groove. 🙂

The difference between following the blessing and how we normally operate is both simple and profound: when we follow the blessing but are occasionally forced to give into the compulsion of duty, necessity, or force, the shit we deal with then is more likely worth dealing with. In other words, the compulsion is genuine. So, by following the blessing, we avoid the mistake of getting mired in apparently compulsory shit that’s really not worth dealing with.

Even more important, and this might be the crux, the core point: by following the blessing we reverse our customary priorities. Instead of taking care of shit first and enjoying life afterwards — and we all know how enjoyable life is under that prioritization, haha — we enjoy life first and take care of shit only as needed. This not only has practical advantages that result in better outcomes, it has immediate cognitive advantages that amplify our competence in achieving better outcomes as well as improving our experience along the way. What’s more, it makes enjoying life the umpire of our decision-making. Duty to deal with shit is at best an unsavory taskmaster.

Which prioritization do you think is a better recipe for happy, fulfilling, productive, and beneficial life experience?

Deciding to follow the blessing raises a couple of questions that we rarely ask when deliberating what we’re going to do.

First, if it’s not a blessing, why would we feel compelled to do it? What good reason could there possibly be to let duty force us into something that we really don’t want and doesn’t feel good?

The usual answers to that question boil down to some kind of survivalist thinking revolving around avoidance — avoiding loss, suffering, pain, or death — often coupled with believing that life in this world is more of a curse than a blessing. But this just raises another question that we rarely ask: Why do we accept and submit to situations where welfare or survival is threatened, believing that living a threatened or cursed life is better than no life at all? In other words, why let ourselves be forced to compromise and at best settle for avoiding what we don’t want instead of living and doing what we want? The answers to that question typically turn out to be some form of victim’s thinking. We have no choice. We’re powerless. There are no alternatives. There isn’t enough to go around. The people who threaten us are too many, too smart, and too strong. The universe is too indifferent or too hostile. It’s just the way life in this world is — and so shall it ever be.

Poppycock.

Second, if the reasons to do it are good enough to warrant feeling compelled or duty-bound, why wouldn’t we want to do it? In other words, why would we wait or resist until we’re forced to act? Why instead aren’t we jumping at the chance? And why doesn’t it feel like blessing — or even bliss — instead of obligation or duty? Are we so twisted that doing what’s right feels wrong, or that doing good things makes us feel like crap? Don’t we want to do what’s right, smart, beneficial, and genuinely necessary? Or, if we happen to be as crazy as that, don’t we want to be healed and restored to sanity? If it’s worthy, what’s not to want, what’s not to love, and how isn’t it blessed?

Those questions can be condensed into this one: why do we see any difference at all between following the blessing (the blessed) and doing right, smart, beneficial, and necessary things (the worthy)? Is there truly any difference?

I’ve been intentionally following the blessing for almost six years now, (I have six sons whom I dearly love, so “following my bliss” never adequately captured it,) and I did so a bit less deliberately for almost two mildly hedonistic decades before that. I still feel like I’m just getting warmed up. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far, my considered, sincere assessment after a quarter century of experimentation:

The difference between following the blessing vs. doing right, smart, and necessary things is the result of distorted perception — an apparent but bogus distinction that, if you actually investigate it, often proves to be delusory bullshit. The blessed and the worthy are the same.

When I actually dare to challenge the supposed “facts” involved in the illusion that the blessed is different than the worthy — and I’m frankly amazed at how staunchly we resist this dare — over and over I find no appreciable difference between the blessed and the worthy. When my eyes are cleared and my mind is right and I consider the whole instead of just parts, they prove indistinguishable and feel like blessing, not duty. Judeo-Christian-Islamic “piety” and “holiness” and Hindu-Buddhist-Sikh-Jain-New Age “dharma” and “karma” can all go suck rocks and spit.

Love can incur obligation and sacrifice, even a sense of duty, but they don’t feel compulsory when we’re focused on the blessing/bliss of those we love — which includes ourselves too! We might not be happy that circumstances left us no better choice, but we do the best we can gladly. We feel grateful that we could — we feel blessed. The reverse is not true, though. Obligation and sacrifice and duty are not necessarily proofs of love. More often, they are just substitutes that we use to hide deficiencies of love and blessing.

I’ll let you know if my opinion changes as I continue on this path, but I don’t see any big turns or walls or cliffs coming up — only more and more room to move.

Maybe the decision to follow the blessing is the “narrow gate” that Jesus mentioned?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Funny how most Christians think that he was talking about precisely the opposite of anything we would regard as bliss or blessing that we feel.

What I can say for certain is this: I never, ever want to go back.

😀

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