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Day 21: Living Daily in Reality: The Effects of our Environment

by Ernest O'Neill

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Living in reality is totally different from the life that most of us live each day. But living in unreality has deadly consequences and effects that spoil and shorten your life. Your life is probably like everyone else's - at least eight hours each day is taken up by work - which you need in order to get the money required to keep body and soul together. If you don't work you can't get the food, shelter and clothing and you need these things to stay alive. But somehow you never get enough of these things to make you feel really secure. Even billionaires will often say they'd be content if they had just another million ! We find ourselves thinking the same way about our home or our car or our job or our food or our clothes. Moreover, even when we have all those just right, we still find ourselves anxious about tomorrow or the market or old age. Real security inside still seems impossible.

It's the same with our self-esteem or - rather - others' esteem of us. We are never completely at ease with our place in society or the world. We still have feelings of insignificance or inferiority that stir up those old dragons of envy, jealousy, and pride. We are still driven in our conversations and actions by a desire to look good in other people's eyes. At times we are driven almost to despair by the thought that we are merely a little bit of nothing floating in the vast reaches of a limitless eternity - a feeling that we mean nothing to anybody and will be forgotten forever once we die !

The search for happiness becomes wearisome as the years go by. The old excitements we used to find in adventure or sex or money seem to have lost their thrill. And we think it's harder to feel utter peace and contentment than it was years ago. Besides -- the sheer instability of the world is constantly breaking in upon your own inner experience so that it's difficult to separate yourself from the outside noise and chaos.

All of these disappointing experiences affect our own selves. We find the drive to acquire enough things verges on greed and anxious fear that keep us awake at night; the drive for some sense of significance fills us with a restless desire for more success, more approval, more recognition, more envy of others and their success; and our hunger for happiness drives many of us to excess in alcohol, drugs, or sexual experience so that we're no longer in charge of our own bodies.

But the most unbearable part for many is the overwhelming sense of loneliness and futility when we face the question - is this all there is? What's this wild race for, anyway? What's the point of it all? As Housman wrote:

Yonder see the morning blink,
The sun is up and up must I,
To wash and dress and eat and drink,
To look at things and talk and think,
And work - and God knows why !

Let's talk about this again.

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