[Read the first letter here.]
So it seems to you that either you win over the gatekeepers or you fall flat. You win or you lose. I offered to you that there's a third possibility: surrender. Leave the game.
What does this leaving entail? First, it requires a clear recognition that you cannot "win" the gatekeeper's game.
How is this true? It's true because even if you bluffed incredibly well for many years, even if you got through the initial hurdles and mastered the whole act, the prize that you would ultimately earn would be this: a life of quiet desperation, hiding your great light, becoming a gatekeeper yourself-- becoming someone so personally invested in the system that he defends it vigilantly, even in the face of its evident wrongs. Is this what you really want? Is this outcome made fully palatable because it comes with a garnish of social respectability and prestige?
Second, leaving the game entails recognizing the fact that any failures you've had thus far in the gatekeeper's game do not mean that you are valueless or a "loser." In fact, they signify that your value exceeds the ordinary. You have something to offer that exceeds calculable commodities and quantities. This excess of your being is sacred; it is precious-- it's also incredibly disturbing to people and to institutions who have built themselves up on a foundation of measurement and control. Why? Because what is sacred about you can't be measured; can't be controlled; can't be quantified; can't be commodified. It isn't predictable or mechanical. It's disruptive and potent and beautiful.
In other words, if you have a powerful soul, gatekeepers won't like you because they can sense that there's something about you which puts their methods and their smallness to shame.
At this moment, monetary wealth is concentrated in the hands of these people and institutions who value control, measurement, security, debt. You're not wrong in the recognition that you might have to do without monetary wealth for a time if you choose not to pursue the acceptance and approval of the gatekeepers. You're not wrong to see that you might have to live very frugally and without the comforts and safety nets of someone who's playing by the rulebook. This thought might frighten you; this thought might frighten your family and your friends. But let's think through it in earnest; let's think about what it means to risk living a life of truth rather than a life of begging for approval.
We mistakenly tend to imagine that our work in this life is to fulfill our ego's goals and demands: become important, secure, powerful, insulated from possible harm. But this is a way of spiritual stagnation and death. It's a fear-driven and control-obsessed path. Follow it and you'll find yourself one day depressed, sick, filled with anxiety and loneliness. It's the modern dilemma and the modern mistake.
In truth, our real work in this life is to fulfill the aims of our soul, not our ego. The soul asks that we become humble, vulnerable, intimate and connected-- it asks that we always be open and available to express love, that we give our gifts freely and receive freely from others.
In my own exit from the game (which has been a slow process), I decided that I would never again insult my soul by pretending to believe something I did not or by doing work that did not resonate with me as deeply important. I decided I would stop lying, even if it meant losing all respectability and support from the people who had previously respected and supported me as long as I went along with their game. I decided that I would devote my energy to creating stuff which would give to others something that I truly wanted to give. And then I started giving it away. And since then I've been enriched immeasurably with friendship; with gratitude; with community; with love.
So that, Dear X, is my suggestion to you. Don't ask yourself, "What can I do to be respectable and secure?" because in a world where the reigning institutions and people are corrupt and petty, respectability and security are for souls too timid to tell the truth loudly. Ask instead, "What would it most thrill me to give?" and then get to work on giving that.
If you are fully honest with yourself about the answer to this question you'll find that gates will fly open in front of you. The universe will stop at nothing to help you bring forth the gift it most truly delights you to give.
Many of us get so confused about this because we've been hypnotized by the myths of specialization and professionalization. For instance, I always knew that it most thrilled me to give to others the gifts of knowledge and empowerment through writing and teaching. For years, though, I was gravely confused-- I thought I needed a very specialized degree and approval from hard-to-please gatekeepers in order to give this gift. What I finally realized was that I needed no authority to make me a writer and a teacher apart from the authority of my own soul; I didn't need to appeal to gatekeepers, I needed to appeal to other people who hungered for beauty and truth as I did. As soon as I took full responsibility for my inner authority, the opportunity to publish on a wide scale came to me.
As you do the labor of readying your gift; as you give forth your gift; as you do it day after day with great love-- you may find that all your needs are being met, but that you receive this need-meeting indirectly. In other words, people may not pay you directly for the gift you're offering, but support comes to you in other ways. This happens because our society only knows how to pay directly for quantifiable commodities, and the gifts of the soul can't be quantified. Still, as you give support comes to you-- in ways you can't control or predict-- in ways that are more perfect than you could arrange for.
The support comes because by choosing to give your deep gift loudly and fearlessly without asking for permission or approval, you're living in the gift, you're living in grace. You've surrendered. You're no longer living by the sensible and measurable but by the magical and synchronistic.
Perhaps this answer raises more questions for you. Let me know what they are and I'll endeavor to meet them.
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