Merry Fucking Christmas!
(Ooops, that just slipped out. If that offended you, my bad, I didn’t give any warning there. But fair warning now, in this post, shit’s about to get real. I mean dark, and serious as a heart attack. So if you’re easily offended, probably best to stop reading now.)
Have you ever noticed how this time of year can bring out the best in people, but also, the worst. I mean their darkness right? Low moods, low energy, sadness, loneliness, depression. It’s quite common and natural. The energy starts to shift. For some this is because they start to wind down, and have more time and space to reflect on what’s going on for them personally, and start to look out more broadly at what’s going on in the world around them. For me, it seems to have a lot to do with what this time of year meant growing up. After all, it’s Jesus’ birthday. Time to get our party hats on and celebrate! Right?
A friend took me on a secret day trip to visit “mum” on the weekend (i.e. 2 days ago). Turns out she was taking me to the Memorial Chapel where Saint Mary McKillop is buried. My friend is not and was never Catholic, however Mary had been an important symbol for her when she emigrated to Australia, a tough transition to be sure. What my friend hadn’t realised was I was raised Catholic (till I rejected all religion and spirituality at the age of 16) so I had some battle scars.
Now I figured I had made my peace with religion. In fact when I visited the Vatican in 2014 I was able to separate my distaste for the hypocrisy and facade from the spiritual nature of the sites and the relics and paintings and I had a really beautiful experience. My partner and I at the time managed to get in on the VIP breakfast tour, so we had about 15 minutes to ourselves standing in the Sistine Chapel before 600 tourists arrived en-masse and it suddenly started to feel like a cattle yard crossed with a rave party.
But for those precious 15 minutes, we stared in silence up at the absolutely stunning, recently restored frescos Michelangelo painted on the ceiling over 500 years ago. These moments were pure magic. And surprisingly, I felt this incredibly light but dense energy of such a deeply spiritual place.
I didn’t have long to reflect on this spiritual connection, we made a whirlwind tour of Europe, then back home, and this was the straw that broke my back. I burnt out completely not long after and couldn’t get out of bed. That’s a story for another day, but enough to say, the fatigue I managed over the coming years really knocked any faith, hope and optimism I could muster back out of me daily.
So back to present times. Here I was, dragged out by a friend. Surprise! It’s a chapel! But not just any chapel. See, as a child I went to St Joseph’s primary school and attended church at St Joseph’s church, every Sunday, for 16 years. A school and church with close connections to Mary McKillop because she founded Australia’s first order of nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart.
As we sat down in the pews to pay our respects, something triggered me at an unconscious level, and suddenly I was 5 years old again, back in church and being expected to focus on what was going on up front even though I couldn’t understand any of it.
The Chapel was a beautiful space, it felt cool and serene, and clearly had a powerful presence, a really lovely place to stop and reflect on things greater than I. But I was distracted, I couldn’t stop looking at the stained glass windows above the altar and feeling resentful. Why?? Then it hit me: Mary, Joseph and Jesus were Jewish from Nazareth, they would have looked Middle Eastern, and here they are depicted as white as Pee-wee Herman playing Ice Hockey. The hypocrisy was real, where’s the authenticity? All I could see was facade. All I could sense otherwise was serenity and connection. Emotionally, this was quite confusing!
Clearly I have some work still to do to resolve and cut off from my religious past so I can truly embrace a spiritual future!
But it’s not just me feeling the Christmas confusion. Over the past few days and weeks—triggered primarily by the bushfires that are ravaging Queensland and New South Wales where I spend most of my time—a few friends have expressed their deep sadness around the state of society and the world in general. But worse than that. They feel defeated. What’s the point? Why bother?
They point out that out there in the ‘real world’ (outside our groups of like-minded friends) things aren’t going well:
- Climate change and potentially irreversible environmental damage.
- Social injustices, from slave trading to domestic violence and other human rights abuses.
- Day-to-day garden-variety selfishness. Like people who litter or carelessly consume without thought to sustainability or the impact on others, animals and the environment.
They also point out the powers that be—like BigPharma, BigGrain, the military-industrial complex, and others—have huge amounts of money and influence invested in keeping things the way they are. Ie Working in their favour, but not ultimately in the best interest of people, society or the planet more broadly.
And to these friends I say… You’re right. Things are not as good as they could be. And you’re right, they might even be getting worse.
One friend even quoted Mark Manson’s book Everything is F*cked where he says “Everything being fucked doesn’t require hope. Hope requires everything being fucked”.
I realised I had to read this book, and admittedly, it’s actually brilliant. But it plays a game of semantics and meaning around the idea of hope that is not always easy to follow. And in reading it you could be forgiven for thinking that all hope is lost and using the book as a justification for negativity and feeling defeated.
I’m going to come clean. I’ve been there. Most of my life in fact. I’ve always wanted to make a difference, but it seemed too hard, too big, too scary.
I doubted myself. I doubted others. I doubted if it were even possible.
I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of what people might think of me. I was afraid of success and the loss of control and hard work it might require.
I was afraid I might become a target. First of those close to me who felt threatened. Then if successful in anyway perhaps I might become a target of the larger powers that be.
I felt defeated.
Ever watched Rick and Morty? It really is a great TV show, probably my favourite, ever. But it didn’t help. It posed big, dark philosophical questions that I wasn’t equipped to deal with. By the end of Season 3 I started to question the meaning of everything, and anything. What’s the point? Why bother?
So by Christmas 2017 (coincidence?), I hit rock bottom. Complete existential crisis. I had collapsed under the weight of philosophical uncertainty. Nihilism to be specific: A belief that life has no meaning, and we’re essentially just insignificant specks of space dust amongst a cold, uncaring and random universe.
It’s heavy stuff. No really. You might read that and brush it aside. But there’s a difference between understanding something at a conscious level and BELIEVING IT at the deepest level of your being, in your unconscious mind, your body, your soul even. And when you BELIEVE in Nihilism in your core, it’s life-ending, at least temporarily, and for some, permanently.
It was for me. I fell into depression. I contemplated suicide. But I couldn’t go there. Something deep inside was telling me there had to be a better way to live. You could call it hope, a glimmer at least. So I went searching…
I read more philosophy, those who had a counter to Nihilism. I discovered Albert Camus’ The Absurd Hero. The idea being that life is meaningless, but you can choose suicide, or choose to enjoy it and get the most from it anyway.
That worked! I would allow myself to not have a purpose, to just selfishly enjoy what life could offer me and focus on enjoying it.
At least it worked for a little while, and ultimately it helped me face the world and start enjoying the things I loved to do: Rock climbing, music, spending time with family and friends. But life still didn’t feel satisfying to me. And my connections with people just weren’t very deep. My energy was still limited. When people asked about my life and what was going on for me, I told them in a monotone voice, there was no passion there for my work, my business, or anything in my life really, other than the pursuit of short-term stimulation and fun.
I had lost my fire.
I figured there must be more to life than this. So my search continued. I spoke about it with transformational coaches, clinical psychologists, kinesiologists, chiropractors, energy workers, spiritual guides, the list conntinued.
Believe it or not it was actually the book “Everything is F*cked” that held the answer.
It outlined Emmanuel Kant’s philosophy that (paraphrased) the only thing that makes us special and different from every other speck of space dust in the universe, is consciousness.
And I realised that yes, I believed that. Not just intellectually, but it resonated for me deep down. I had always believed that. It’s my interactions with others, and helping others that carried the most fire and meaning for me. I couldn’t live a life dedicated to only my pursuit of happiness. I must live a life dedicated to consciousness, connecting with it, being with it, collaborating to elevate it. Consciousness was special and meaningful.
After rejecting the church at age 16, here began my spiritual journey anew. A journey I’m still on, and will likely never end.
But more to the point… I had found my fire!!
Now when I speak to people about what’s going on for me, I’m filled with passion and enthusiasm. I know my purpose, why I’m here and how I can contribute to a larger vision. Sure I created this meaning for myself, but I don’t believe there’s any other way. It came from deep within, and it felt right at that unconscious level, in my body and my soul. So it’s something I BELIEVE at the core of my being.
If you’re on this journey I’d be interested to hear how you’re doing, because everyone’s path around this will be different.
So where does that leave us when it comes to hope and making a difference?
I believe in hope. Sure hope alone can be detrimental. But no one said we should only have hope and hope alone. Who thinks in that kind of one-dimensional way? I have hope. It’s useful, it means I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, to continue to try to make a difference, a reason to contemplate bringing children into this world. But I’m not stopping there at hope, I’m taking action.
The truth is, the book “Everything is F*cked” (as bleak as the title and premise sound) is actually a testament to how we as a society can improve, move forwards and build a better future together.
“Don’t hope for better. Just be better”, the book champions action!
And be better together. We won’t fix these very real and very serious problems as lone warriors in the night. We must come together, as an army, united under a shared vision of a better world.
How? I believe the first step is to empower people, so they live from a place of love, passion, and purpose, not fear, obligation and survival. Then, once we reach a critical mass of empowered people, we will be able to affect huge positive change as a society. And I believe coaches, therapists and healers have the gifts to empower people at the deepest level. And if you doubt you have this gift, go and learn from someone who does, it’s possible, and it can be taught. Back yourself. We need you.
Because together we’re going to heal and transform the world. And if that feel’s right, then that’s my gift to you, you’re welcome and Merry Christmas!
PS If you are at a low point this Christmas and anywhere near the Sunshine Coast, do get along to Cameron Agg’s event Beating Stress and Anxiety Over Christmas
Cameron is a clinical psychologist and client and friend of mine, and does really excellent work in this space, and I know this is a brilliant program.
PPS I want to know: How are you feeling this Christmas? Is it a low time for you? A time of hope? Or a time of action? Where are you at on your spiritual journey (if that even resonates for you). FYI There are no right or wrong answers here, authenticity is where it’s at.