"Stop trying to control things and just let go....!"
--from Fight Club
This line from Fight Club is my new mantra. Its a very strange thing.. the way culture and environment effect us. Since returning to America Ive felt a surge of anxiety. The rules of the culture awaken... start chatting in my head. I find that Im criticizing myself all the time (for my "irresponsible") hobopoet lifestyle. I feel more timid... and doubts plague me.
After a month of doubt and stress, I began to question my sanity... just what the hell was going on? Where was the confidence Id had prior to coming here? Where was the audacity? The trust in my self...?
As I thought of this, one phrase came to mind: "Anxiety Culture". I followed the link to the website of that same name and found my mental state mapped out in great detail: guilt, worry, distraction, doubt.
Culture is powerful. In truth, we are not domesticated by violent methods. We are domesticated by belief systems... systems of thought that work to undermine our independence, our defiance, our natural ease. I rarely felt these systems in Thailand... a blessing of being a foreigner who did not speak the language. But as soon as I landed in my home country, they kicked in with a ferocity I didnt expect.
And they are still with me... now requiring great mental effort and discipline to root out. Though Im employed and have food and shelter and basic needs met... powerful anxiety lingers. "What if I lose my job?" (always a risk for me). "What if I can't make new friends... can I be successful socially in such a materialistic culture"? "How can I save more money and have more financial security?", "How much should I conform... or pretend to conform?", "Do I dare reveal my true feelings, thoughts, and actions to anyone here?"..... on and on and on. Some based on rational risk assessments... some completely irrational (yet very powerful).
Im sure most people have had these thoughts and feelings... and Im sure most people attribute them to personal psychology. That was my first instinct... but now Im not so sure. Why was I so much more relaxed in Thailand.... with dwindling cash? Why did these insecurities kick in so powerfully the instant I landed in the US? And why do they persist so stubbornly despite my relatively safe situation now?
Media and culture are my prime suspects. Uncharacteristically, I have watched a bit of TV since landing here... (a huge mistake I have since corrected). I also have no connection to like-minded hobopoets here. Not only do I feel foreign and alien... I feel "wrong".
Which brings me back to Fight Club. There is tremendous wisdom and power in that line. Just Let Go. I may indeed lose my job. I may indeed be forced out of my apt. as a result. I may indeed fail to connect with people here. I may go completely broke.
And so what? These are not things I normally worry about.... (being blessed with a family that would never let me starve... and two degrees that allow me to find income quickly... almost anywhere).
External enemies are easy to blame. So easy to rant about "George Bush", or "Iraq", or even "work". But its our minds that give them power. Its the guilt, insecurity, doubt, and distraction that ultimately ensure our alienation... and our obedience.
And so it is the mind that is truly the battle ground... where the root of this work-consume-die sickness begins.