The Bystander

By Anne Vincent-Toumelin

A round Christmas time I look at all the dinners I had the joy to partake in and express gratitude to the people who have been there for me during the year.

We make it difficult, but it is easy to open up, let the defenses down and show some good will and warmth to the people around us. We can read books and understand the concepts, but to live them; that is something else entirely. Mindfulness can render us paralyzed as an observer. We can become analytical and lose all sense of connection with the world. There are two passages from two different books that talk about this subject which I find rather important to keep in mind when we delve into ourselves.

The first passage is from Erich Fromm, an astute observer of the roots and fruits of the Personality Ethic :

Today, we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton, who does not know or understand himself, and the only person that he knows is the person that he is supposed to be, whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech, whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter, and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain. Two statements may be said concerning this individual. One is that he suffers from defects of spontaneity and individuality which may seem to be incurable. At the same time it may be said of him he does not differ essentially from the millions of the rest of us who walk upon this earth.

The second passage is from a book called King Warrior Magican Lover written by Robert L Moore and Douglas Gillette:

The man under the power of the Manipulator not only hurts others with his cynical detachment from the world of human values and his subliminal technologies or manipulation, he also hurts himself. This is the man who thinks too much, who stands back from his life and never lives it. He is caught in a web of pros and cons about his decisions and lost in a labyrinth of reflective meanderings from which he cannot extricate himself. He is afraid to love, to “leap into battle.” He can only sit on his rock and think. The years pass. He wonders where the time has gone. And he ends by regretting a life of sterility.

This is especially tragic when it happens to someone who initially had good intentions, but lost his way. I can’t say for sure what is the best remedy for apathy. In some cases it is someones love, in other cases it is about acting in very different ways, which will produce very different results while Victor Frankl was proposing finding meaning in life. In the end, learn to know yourself, but try to keep an image of what it means to be human so you avoid falling into objectifying every experience.

And while I’m at it; Wishing a merry Christmas to everyone!

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