Beyond Success and Failure (book review)

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so
placid and self-contained;
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition.
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God.

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the
mania of owning things.
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived
thousands of years ago.
Not one is respectable or industrious over the whole earth.”

Walt Whitman in “Leaves of Grass”

To lean on others emotionally and physically is how children live. In order to mature into an adult, one must shed themselves of earlier dependencies. Humans have evolved with potentialities for growth. They can discover their own realities, architect their attitudes and beliefs, learn from their dreams.

When one compares, one activates an “infantile acquisitiveness.” They need what their neighbor has, what they don’t have. At the root of their comparison, there is a hollowness, impoverishment. When people allow others to lean on them, they lean back too. There is a mutual “admiration society,” one where one feels needed and needs. This exploitation to feel whole stems from a childish dependency, from the habit of attachment. To seek outside oneself for validation, for a life direction, is to degrade oneself.

A free person will not lean on another or have anyone lean on him/her. To be free is to confront the present moment and to deal with things as they are. Rather than pretending that reality is some idealized state, one must work with what they can control.

“The free mind manipulates impersonal circumstance — not people.”

The leaning, dependent mind doesn’t have an “inner direction.” What comes from the outside is the first authority, whether it’s the crowd, a popular song, the news, a political party, rather than what’s inside. People who are conformists are subordinate to authorities that are outside themselves. They follow what tells them how to live.

Then there is the negative conformist. They are contrary, contradicting others, as a reaction. They resist what’s outside (because it’s from the outside) and develop their own resentment. While the free person can let go of their attachments, those who resist only cling harder to their own suffering.

To be dependent is to be helpless, passive toward life. To be free is to be fully engaged. They will make mistakes, but will grow, learn, discover their own limitations. Rather than hiding from the ugly truth of reality, they will grapple with it. They will find joy in the game.

“Their transition from childhood to adult life is not a stormy series of defeats and struggles against outside authorities. It is a quiet growth in self-confidence in which they learn that there are few irremediable mistakes, and they regard a mistake as nothing more than a friendly invitation to keep trying — not a loss of love, approval and prestige, or as a humiliation to be avoided at any cost.”

The dependent mind will follow what’s outside of themselves, what has been programmed for them. As Bukowski said, “How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?” These people will not only automatically follow their routines at work, but in life. They will attend clubs, churches, parties, watch television, surf the internet, following predestined roles, until they reach the undertaker. They will be good, or act out, not for themselves, but for social rewards, admiration from others. Like a doggie who wants to be petted, they will do tricks for their owners.

People cannot enjoy their “inner resources,” and genuine relationships with others, until they liberate themselves from their childish attitudes. They must leave what has become enslaved habit, aware of themselves in the here-and-now.

When one is independently mature, one is free from a competitive attitude, from a need to one-up others. For the leaning person, he or she struggles for dominance, control, while resisting submission. For a person with self-reliance, there isn’t comparison, no looking to an outside authority: “like a good card player who does not care what cards are dealt him since his fun lies in the free play he improvises in the playing of each hand. Each game is its own reward and he seeks nothing outside of the unfolding of each hand as it is played into the hands of others. He enjoys the whole experience and all that his partners do as well.”

One becomes adaptable, inventive with what’s available in the moment. There is a new attitude of exploration, curiosity in not knowing. When work must be dealt with, one then moves with a quiet persistence, not complaining of what is presented to them.

While the dependent mind needs to please others, the free mind satisfies the needs of one’s own life — first! It is not one’s job to please other people. Sometimes the subservience to others masks one’s own fear of productivity, of inner work. Merely going along with the group leaves one unfulfilled, degrading real potential.

“Aloneness is freedom-from-dependence! Loneliness, on the other hand, is the dependent child crying as it searches for the parent or babysitter it has lost and cannot find.”

It doesn’t matter if one is alone or with company. Intimacy in the existing moment, discovering what feels new and meaningful, keeps one alive. The self-reliant person doesn’t feel an urge to compete, to dominate, to prove their worth to themselves or others. Their goal is to explore, to see what happens.

One doesn’t rely on outside authorities. If it’s necessary to be alone rather than manipulated, then so be it. Without wishful thinking or self-judgement, one accepts the “inner gleam.” In the true spirit of Agape, one doesn’t give or take, condemn or blame. There are no favorite people to choose from based on who gives and gets the most.

“The mature adult finds no need to beg. He is an explorer and a doer. He does not have to compete and aspire to be the favored one. Only the child or the infantile adult has to worry about his status in the eyes of those around him.”

Most importantly, one must be a doer. Actions should be consistent with words. Alfred Adler once said that one should watch only movement, in order to not be fooled by others. To learn who a person truly is, what they mean, do not focus on their pretty words, but on their deeds alone.

It is easy to blame, to criticize, and to grasp at grudges until death. To live-and-let-live, to find balance, to remove oneself from unrealistic expectations, is a far harder, but more worthwhile pursuit. When one is simply being and not trying to be, there is no expecting, idealizing, comparing, proving, or seeking. But when one is becoming, they’re on a treadmill of endless wishes for outside approval, still empty inside.

“If you want to understand yourself or another person, close your ears to anything that is said or what you think and watch only movement. What a person does is his real understanding and intention.”

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