Saturday, June 12, 2010

Amazing May 1



As I promised I wish to distill the insights of Rollo May from his book The Discovery of Being (Norton & Co., New York, 1983) which I am reading and reflecting upon right now.  The beauty of any book on psychotherapy or on any related discipline - and especially poetry as I recently illustrated - is that in the areas of self-discovery and personal development much reflection is called for.  Hence, one needs to be relaxed and "chilling" as the moderns say these days to allow the wisdoms proferred by experts like May to sink home.

More Knowledge Less Certainty

May calls our attention to what he calls a "strange paradox" (Op.cit., p.  9), namely that the more our objective truth grows with the flood of modern information - and how much more are we bombarded with information overload in 2010 now that we all have easy access to the internet - the less we are sure or certain about our own inner world (May's term), or about our real self (Carl  R. Rogers) or about our soul (this author and many contemporary scholars and writers).

This lack of certainty is worrying, and remember May was writing this wee book way back in 1983.  Such an inner lack of certainty, our author argues, leads to much inner confusion, even nihilism.  May's words were stark and still are.  Let's listen to them:

Sensing this [lack of certainty], and despairing of ever finding meaning in life, people these days seize on the many ways of dulling their awareness of being by apathy, by psychic numbing, or by hedonism.  Others, especially young people, elect in alarming and increasing numbers to escape their own being by suicide. (Ibid., p. 9)
May's book is essentially about embracing our "being," accepting the probability and inevitability of its contrary "nonbeing," and in so doing learning to accept our very own nature as mortal but creativbe beings.  This in a nutshell is what this great book is about.  It is a book which argues that being is as important, if not more important, than doing.  Once we begin, May argues, and it's hard to argue with him on this point, to discover and affirm our own inner being in its existential reality here and now in our lives, our inner certainty will grow and be strengthened.  Only out of such inner certainty can we all get the strength to carry on, and indeed to grow through the pain of whatever suffering or "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" that life throws at us.

Also, it is worth stressing here, and May adverts to it, that a sense of wonder at the very mystery of life that is both inside us and outside us, in the macrocosm of the universe and in the microcosm of the very cells of our very own life, will be ours to inspire us as we become more aware and more conscious of our very own being.  Our author offers us nothing less than such deep awareness and consciousness of what to exist really can mean in this often sad and at times painful world.  One expects nothing less frm such a fine writer and such a beautiful human being.  One is tempted with Shakespeare to sing the praises of being as it exists in all humans, and indeed in all sentient creatures, in the words of Miranda: "O brave new world that has such people in it!"

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