I used to be an angry man. I used to take things personally. Almost everything. For the most part, the circumstances either had nothing to do with me or were at least partly (if not entirely) my own creation. Although I felt justified and in a few cases might well have been, it never served me. No matter how hard I fought and even in the instances where I actually “won,” I always emerged just as miserable or more than before. In my myopic version of the world, it was always me against it… I never stood a chance.
This is not to say I will no longer fight for what I believe to be right. My last entry in this journal is evidence that even when the payoff is nothing more than a moral victory, the fight is sometimes still worth it. But the personal element no longer exists. It is not me against the world or, in this case some faceless institution. Indeed, one cannot win when the opponent has no soul; it can feel no shame; it knows no right or wrong; it possesses no morals; it does not care. Although comprised of people, there is no person accountable - the buck just gets passed into obscurity. The collective conscious leads to no conscience, it can never be personal.
If I am vested emotionally then I can only lose, even if I win. The institution expends no emotional energy, it will not remember. The fight today does not involve the sort of emotional investment it used to have. I have learned that this is not personal and though the fight still needs to be fought, there is no scorecard. The institution does not care, and now, I don’t either. For the most part I am not angry, my pulse does not race, and I do not raise my voice. None of that serves me, yet I still must pick my way through the bureaucratic morasses from time to time. Victory, however satisfying, is always temporary. The institution cannot lose. It doesn’t care.
When it comes to personal relationships, where no institution exists, it might appear as though a conflict is necessarily personal. I guess that, by definition, this must be so, but that does not mean that I need to take personal affronts personally. It is not necessary, often counterproductive and, like the fight against an institution, does not serve me. In both cases, this is far easier said than done, however, after more than 40 years of battle scars I have found it essential not only to my peace and serenity, but survival itself. And let me be clear, I am not by any means perfect – I still lose it, albeit very rarely. I am not some Gandhian image of peace – in a sense perhaps, but not with anything remotely resembling consistency.
But I try to remain detached as much as possible. Not because it makes the world a better place but because it makes my world a better place. The fight, when engaged on a personal level, never ends when it ends. There are always scars left behind… always “the past.” Forgiving is one thing, forgetting another entirely. As long as I know who I am, as long as I know the truth about what I’m all about, nothing needs to be taken personally. If I can stay with the issue at hand (personal or institutional), know when to step away and remember that it is only personal if I allow it to be, then I get to come out the other side with peace in my heart.
Win, lose or draw.