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Maybe Seal said it best when he said, 'We're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy'.

The other day I made the following proclamation on Facebook:

"The religious mind cheapens poetry by insisting that it also be literally true; the mountains do not actually hear your cries. Your heart does not tell you who to love. The Sand Man doesn't seduce you to sleep, there are no Gods in heaven, and there is no heaven. Poetry is beautiful because it points to things we cannot describe. It allows us to characterize that which cannot be adequately characterized by plain language. Poetry points to something higher (or lower) without being that higher or lower thing. The lord is truly with us, but that is because the lord is something we have invented."

I believe this statement to be true, but stream of consciousness thinking following the ensuing conversation led me to consider another topic I've been mulling over lately: is a certain degree of delusion necessary for any big success?

Recently my wife and I watched a brief A & E biography on Lenin. According to the narrative it established, no one could have expected him to emerge from the overthrow of the Czar as the leader of a socialist Russia. No one, that is, except for himself. He was regarded as a tool by the Germans, who gleefully shipped him into Russia to help destabilize the new government. He was viewed as an incindiary nut case by the majority of his own marxist party, as well as the opposing marxist party. It was only his own internal, unwavering faith in his own inevitable role as leader of the inevitable revolution that kept him moving.

Another image has been floating around in my mind: a meme that popped up on my tumblr dashboard that I initially saw as only humorous, but began to apply a deeper significance to as time went on. The image shows Kanye West walking past an outdoor diner with his entourage, when someone yells 'No talent!' at him. Kanye responds, 'That doesn't make any sense! I'm Kanye West!'. His response isn't jesting, or self deprecating: it's delivered as a pure, matter-of-fact correction, and it's wonderful. People either love Kanye or hate him, but he has succeeded, and the secret of his success can probably be extracted from that moment.

So, religion cheapens poetry, but is it necessary for some folks on some level? I can tell you, detaching myself from my religious delusions was a painful process, that could have easily ruined me. I believe I am the type of person who has the predisposition for faith; even as an atheist, my first instinct is to instill a lot of significance into dreams, patterns, and coincidences. I still have a strong prayer instinct. There are all kinds of problems with faith-based recovery programs, but many people benefit from them. In these programs, surrender to some kind of higher power is key.

It has been stated by Richard Dawkins and his other horsemen that it is condescending to suggest that oneself may be capable of shedding the vice of faith, but others--presumably 'simpler' folk--may need it. First, many of the religious people I know are far from 'simple'. Many are fare more erudite than myself. But maybe, like me, they are inclined towards faith. Some of them are investing themselves heavily into it, by training to become pastors. The more a person builds on a certain foundation, the less likely they are to abandon it, and the more difficult such an abandonment would be. While another religious characteristic I still possess is the evangelical impulse, I am hesitant to challenge such foundations too thoroughly; partially because it's not really any of my business, and partially because I am beginning to notice the connection between a certain amount of delusion and success.

The world seems to tell those of us with ambition that our ambitions are unrealistic. Foreign looking things scare our essentially conservative nature. We have much more friends and supporters* after we have succeeded than we do before we have succeeded. Therefore to succeed, we need tenacity. We need to believe in ourselves, even if the odds are against us. This kind of faith takes many different forms, but I'm coming to believe it is essential for success.

UPDATE:

As soon as I posted this, an alternate thought occurred to me: Maybe I'm wrong. All kinds of examples flowed into my mind supporting the notion that people generally end up doing what they really want to do (I mean really want to do). Maybe it's not delusional at all to expect success that you are willing and possessed to work towards. Maybe the real delusion is to give up on your goals because you internalize the belief that you won't succeed if you work towards them.

*and enemies and detractors...before we succeed, the world gives us something worse than enemies: indifferent and apathetic parties who only naysay and condescend.

CROSS POSTED AT EVERYTHING IN THE MEDICINE CABINET HAS EXPIRED.

Originally posted to Spencer Troxell on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:22 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (14+ / 0-)

    "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." ~ Samuel Johnson

    by Spencer Troxell on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 07:22:40 AM PST

  •  That was deep. (4+ / 0-)

    I have an uncle by marriage who deluded himself he was a millionaire before he declared bancruptsy.  Turns out he was a "paper millionaire."  And I know people I have envied because they had so many loving friends and, say, cooking & baking talents, but they thought themselves "failures" because they weren't rich or well known.  As a nurse, I have a lot of respect for the Higher Power, whatever you call it, God, Cosmic Consciousness, All That Is.  Take your pick!  Perhaps we need to define "success" 1st.  Or admit it applies to more than monetary success.  I also agree people mostly end up doing what they want to do, even when they protest they do not.  "Do your thing and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

     Most of the time, if I make 1 person's day better than it would have been without me being there somewhere, I count it a "successful" day.  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 11:41:57 AM PST

    •  Definition(s) of success: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NancyWH, chantedor, ZedMont

      In business:

      Happily doing what you love with people you like (or love), knowing that your work is important

      In relationships:

      Enjoying and appreciating the people in your life, disagreeing occasionally in a civil way over things of some importance (i.e., not getting involved in petty interpersonal power struggles)

      In sports and games:

      Winning fair and square or even losing a good game played well by both sides

      In general:

      Being a happy person, secure with who you are, what you have, and what you do

      I know people with money whom I would not regard as successful.

  •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fairlithe, chantedor

    ...to the extent that deciding to pursue, and ultimately achieving, a really big goal (whether winning a championship in pro sports, or founding a movement, or writing a book, or accomplishing some huge engineering feat, or limitless others) usually requires that the person disregard obstacles.  "Focusing on the positive", "being single-minded", "proving the naysayers wrong" all involve an element of dismissing the possibility of failure.  And since failure is always a possibility, in anything, then there's always a bit of delusion in accomplishing any difficult goal.

    If you're talking solely about acts of imagination, and what kind of mental or emotional state a person must be in in order to conceive of an idea, then again, yes, because sometimes hyperinflated pride is a requisite part of a significant effort of emotion, mind or will.  Even something as simple as the statement attributed to the Buddha, that he sat down beneath his tree having resolved, then and there, never to move until he had saved the universe.

    What a magnificent delusion!

  •  Lenin, an example of success and its achievement? (0+ / 0-)

    That's a little too much terminology distortion for me.

  •  With respect, I think you miss much. (0+ / 0-)
    "The religious mind cheapens poetry by insisting that it also be literally true; the mountains do not actually hear your cries. Your heart does not tell you who to love. The Sand Man doesn't seduce you to sleep, there are no Gods in heaven, and there is no heaven. Poetry is beautiful because it points to things we cannot describe. It allows us to characterize that which cannot be adequately characterized by plain language. Poetry points to something higher (or lower) without being that higher or lower thing. The lord is truly with us, but that is because the lord is something we have invented."
    You have confused religion with its subset, fundamentalism.

    From my non-fundamentalist religious perspective, the mistake of fundamentalism is to insist that metaphors should be taken as literal truth. I believe there is much that humans can understand only dimly, incompletely, and that intuition and metaphor are indispensable to understanding even that little bit.

    In other words, some religious minds see all religion as a kind of poetry--pointing to things that we cannot describe.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 03:30:25 PM PST

  •  I too (0+ / 0-)

    am still inclined to prayer or at least talking to a indiscernable deity. I have never gotten anything I wanted when I have prayed and that's why I maintain that faith is a form of mental illness. As an agnostic I feel open to possibilities, but my success or complete lack thereof merely upholds my own opinion of myself: I am a nobody, liked by few, loved by none and pretty much a failure as a human being.

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