In today’s social climate, the desire to be someone special is extremely strong. Whether one wants to be an Internet celebrity, or be a noteworthy entrepreneur, ambition to become someone might block who we truly are.
Suppose you wish to become a firefighter. You see depictions of daring firefighters in movies and television shows, and admire their acts of heroism. You wonder if being a firefighter could bring you happiness and satisfaction. You could be basing your decision on outward appearances and form. Maybe you believe that being a firefighter would bring you public acclaim and high social status.
The path of being a firefighter is a form just as being a portrait painter is a form; or being a monastic is a form; or being an auto mechanic is a form. There are happy portrait painters and unhappy portrait painters. There are joyful monastics and unfulfilled monastics. There are enthusiastic auto mechanics and auto mechanics who can barely get through a day of work. The same goes for devoted firefighters and firefighters who feel burnt out.
When we base a decision to be someone on this type of outward form we stand the risk of fooling ourselves and being wrong. Like all things in the Universe form is subject to change. You find out that being a firefighter does not necessarily bring about public acclaim and enviable social status. You soon discover that being a firefighter is grueling, dangerous, emotionally taxing work. Each day you encounter extreme hazards, suffering, and perhaps death of victims. You find out that being a firefighter is not about public acclaim and social status.
Successful firefighters remain in their field of work, not because they are attached to the concept and form of being a firefighter. They remain in their career because they have attained a profound understanding of human tragedy and compassion for their fellow citizens.
If we believe that we will be happy only if we can be a firefighter, or an artist, or a monastic, an Internet celebrity, or whomever, we could be on the wrong path. If we think that if we do not become this type of person then, we will be a failure in life and ruined. This is flawed, dangerous thinking. If we are committed to only one, narrow path to power and happiness we are stuck. Even if we are motivated by the desire to “help humanity”–to be someone special in that way, we are stuck in a narrow belief. This apparently positive desire can actually become an obligation and an obstacle to true fulfillment and joy.
In the case of the desire to “be someone” we should not be afraid to be skeptical and do some soul-searching. We should be cognizant that the strong, overarching desire to be someone special is significant and that our emotions can cloud our judgement. We may suffer despite laudable achievements. While thinking through the pros and cons of a certain life path, it is wise to consider whether or not such a path is authentic to who we are, deep inside.
There is a strong link between who we are and our potential to be. If we do not have the mettle to fight fires and encounter tragedy every day, we will not likely find fulfillment and success as firefighters. There are people who do find deep meaning and fulfillment doing such work. I know two acquaintances who have found their “calling” in our town’s fire department. They possess a strong inner drive and they have derived profound meaning from their work. We could say that each of them is someone special. However, they would pooh pooh such a notion.
Naturally, we must be aware of our intentions. We know of people who believe that they act with the best of intentions, but they end up causing more grief and trouble instead. It’s important to understand if we are busybodies or if we are providing a necessary, requested service.
Being someone in the truest sense, has everything to do with how one lives her or his life right now. Even if we have not yet done anything noteworthy or heroic we can feel fulfilled by accepting who we are in this moment. We can benefit others and ourselves by being happy with who we are in the present. So, if you are compassionate with yourself, this will flow over into your dealings with other people and living beings. This is one way to find out who you are.
Each of us has our own concept of what it means to “be someone”. It’s good to contemplate upon such a concept so as to discover yourself in what you say and practice.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 20th century band leader, composer, musician, and songwriter, Frank Zappa. “If you end up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your s**t, then you deserve it.”