The other night I couldn’t sleep. I had a conversation that left me pondering..
So the meaning of life is englightenment; considered by the Buddhists. It’s referred to time and time again in other cultures and belief and value systems – achieving a fully developed consciousness and self-awareness. It’s a drive toward knowing more and thinking critically. The theory of positive disintegration (TPD) calls it ‘The third factor,’ which expressed broadly is a motivation to become ones self.
I like this theory – I think it puts a lot into perspective about the things I set out (unknowingly) to learn when I packed my backpack, got rid of my laptop, threw out my phone and traveled one-way into Asia. If I can apply the TPD here – then this could be considered a fairly convicted level of disintegration. For so long we live by the ‘first’ and ‘second’ factors that we lose sight of what’s our own. Keeping in mind that each society has it’s own individual factors I was able to challenge, through the continual experience of culture shock and readjustment, what I carried because of my upbringing – peers and family – society and what I could truly call my own.
I also think this theory applies strongly to the story of Alexander Supertramp in Into the Wild. He describes it as a ‘quest to kill the false being’ – noting those characteristics of desire, envy and an attachment to ‘things’ as undesirable characteristics. While many admire the story because of his adventurous spirit – I empathise with his quest to find what lied at his core. People do this through different ways – for him, for me, I did this through travel and a parallel questioning of myself.
But the process is iterative. What may seem like the end of the road turns out to be a bend when you approach it. Sometimes I experience moments of pure calm – when I experience no conflict at all. I’m happy doing nothing, living for the moment and neglecting responsibilities – whether real or self actualized. But there’s always something which drives me forward. At some point I am always drawn back to see if I reflect differently from what I knew before. To bring my learnings and knowledge to a previously familiar context. I wonder how the story of Christopher McCandless would have continued?
Me? After a continual period of readjustment I found an immense calm during my travels. I found a place where I chose to settle for a little longer time. There I found people displaying what Dabrowski calls positive maladjustment. A bunch of misfits – travelers, cavedwellers, musicians and artisans - who conflicted with the status quo of ‘normal’ society. Their views could be categorized as ‘anti-sistema.’ Although here it was seen as a highly positive personality trait. Gaining respect couldn’t be bought and you certainly couldn’t fake it. I found myself surrounded by surprisingly like-minded individuals and comfortably at home. Positively maladjusted individuals congregate – they form communities, protest and work tirelessly to create the world they want to live in – to inspire action and social change.
Although I felt as though all this knowledge was lost unless I could take it with me wherever I went. And had a great feeling of responsibility - a recognition of the fortunate circumstance surrounding my birth and those of my parents - to consider those who weren’t born so lucky. I feel like coming back to Australia was my way of making sure those learnings were consolidated, continue to share what I know and throw myself way outside my comfort zone to continue the journey.
So in times when I’m feeling conflicted I try to make peace with the uncomfort knowing that it’s necessary to ‘disintegrate’ and gain further insights about myself. I know I’m not quite there yet because I’m often conflicted – but it also means I know I’m progressing.
As a favorite spoken word of mine says, ‘In the end the race is long. And it’s only against yourself.’