My usual routine for when I walk to class alone is to listen to music to get me pumped about being awake at eight o’clock in the morning (which is difficult for me since I have developed a religious habit of liking more than enough sleep). So, I try my best to take advantage of the cool morning walk to class with the sun rising behind me. The most appropriate music I listen to, therefore, is music that reminds me of happy memories or just perks me up in general. Today, it was “Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons. Besides the obvious musical qualities of the song, I am a keen observer of lyrics (go figure). I love Mumford & Sons because not only can they blow you away with their instrumental qualities, but they know how to put substantial lyrics behind it as well. And I do not know about you, but when I am that engrossed in a song I tend to start thinking about a lot of stuff- deep stuff. Saying that, this blog describes the “deep stuff” this song inspired today.
For some reason, after listening to it my thought process went to a social psychology lecture that was really poignant to me a couple of weeks ago. The lecture was about the concept of ourselves and how we have these conflicting ideals of the “ought self”- the self with think we are supposed to be according to others (society, people close to us) and the “ideal self”- the kind of person WE want to be. Then I related this to myself and how true that was for me. Sometimes things I want to do for myself don’t necessarily line up with what I think others expect of me, and it tends to warrant a great deal of stressing out.
Then, this afternoon I read this passage by Mark Nepo in his book “The Book of Awakening”. (Just a heads up I learned about this book from Oprah, it is on her list… haha). Anyways, I am going to write out word for word what it says because I don’t think anyone could put it any better and I didn’t want my interpretation to ruin the simple truth it holds.
When Akiba was on his deathbed, he bemoaned to his rabbi that he felt he was a failure. His rabbi moved closer and asked why, and Akiba confessed that he had not lived a life like Moses. The poor man began to cry, admitting that he feared God’s judgement. At this, his rabbi leaned into his ear and whispered gently, “God will not judge Akiba for not being like Moses. God will judge Akiba for not being Akiba. – From the Talmud
We are born with only one obligation to be completely who we are. Yet how much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, dead and alive? This is encouraged as necessary in the pursuit of excellence. Yet a flower in its excellence does not yearn to be a fish, and a fish in its unmanaged elegance does not long to be a tiger. But we humans find ourselves always falling into the dream of another life. Or we secretly aspire to the fortune or fame of people we don’t really know. When feeling badly about ourselves, we often try on other skins rather than understand and care for our own.
(skipping the 2nd paragraph, a lot of allegories)
Being human, though, we are often troubled and blocked by insecurity, that windedness of heart that makes us feel unworthy. And when winded and troubled, we sometimes feel compelled to puff ourselves up. For in our pain, it seems to make sense that if we were larger, we would be harder to miss. If we were larger, we’d have a better chance of being loved. Then, not surprisingly, others need to be made smaller so we can maintain our illusion of seeming bigger than our pain.
Of course, history is the humbling story of our misbegotten inflations, and truth is the corrective story of how we return to exactly who we are. And compassion, sweet compassion, is the never-ending story of how we embrace each other and forgive ourselves for not accepting our beautifully particular place in the fabric of all there is. -Mark Nepo
To conclude this post, I want to leave you with a link to youtube that has the song Awake My Soul by Mumford & Sons if you haven’t heard it yet. I think it would be worth your time. Plus I am just obsessed with them.
And I am putting a link to the left of the home page for the Mark Nepo book if your interested in that.