In one of my favourite tv shows, Stargate SG1, a new enemy is introduced in series 9-10. They are a group of ascended beings, former human mortals who have evolved and reached enlightenment, but who believe that those on a lower plane of existence should worship them as gods and be handed enlightenment (for all you SG1 fans out there, lets ignore the “technically they don’t enlighten anyone and just zap away their spiritual energy” part for the moment). Not all enlightened beings take this view – the enlightened beings of the Milky Way, know to ‘us’ as Ancients and to themselves as Alterans, believe you must achieve it for yourself, that enlightenment is earned, it must be understood and grasped by the individual in question, and enlightenment is not truly achieved if it is handed out willy-nilly.
The concept of being given something vs working it out for yourself is a battle for many of us. At school, do you cheat on a test when you were really smart enough to get the A but just ran out of time to study, or do you cop the lower grade and work harder later? And as an adult – Can you ever ‘make’ someone eat healthier, exercise more, get out of a toxic relationship? And if you do, has it really helped them? Its the old philosopher and moralist’s quandary – do the ends justify the means, or are the means more important than the end?
If you’re watching someone go through a difficult situation, like a health challenge or a toxic relationship, it can be so difficult to not to try and “fix” their problem. If the person is a close friend, a family member or your partner, all you want to do is jump in and wipe away the problem so they can be safe, happy and healthy. My wonderful weekend workshop with Mel touched on this point – Melissa mentioned wanting to guide her family into the new healthy habits she’d picked up early on in her journey. These ‘big’ issues can be difficult for people to discuss, though, so even if the advice is solicited, some times people can react badly to it, suspect you’re trying to convert them, or live their life for them. This is a problem I’m struggling with at the moment too (which might surprise you given what I’ll write below) – I have to consciously remind myself whenever I’m having chats with people that veer into the area of health that I can share what I do and what works for me, but aside from the fact that what works for me might not work for everyone, I have to strongly focus on the fact that not everyone is ready to confront their demons and make significant changes in their lives. I know that I have to be open and ready to make big changes, whether its in food or exercise or relationships, sometimes needing multiple triggers/reminders from the universe/direct suggestions before I really get it. Yet the desire to help and pull people out of the funk they’re in sometimes overwhelms. Despite getting Melissa’s guidance on Saturday, yesterday I almost bit my father-in-law’s head off for a comment he made. (I’m blaming it on the mind/body altering experience of loosing blood, sleep and nutrients last week that I like to call a ‘period’. Might sound like a cop out, but it really effects my ability to use my brain properly. Very annoying stuff for an INTJ.) If I’d sat and reflected instead of reacting, I would have realised that he’s not ready to make a huge life altering change. And that’s ok.
There are consequences for trying to but in and take over – you might destroy a relationship or put someone in more danger than they were before because you’ve done the heavy lifting, not them. If a friend consistently chooses boyfriends/girlfriends who treat them badly, you could encourage them to get out of the relationship and set them up with nice potential partners you know. But what would they learn? Well, all they’d learn is that you’ll bale them out of bad situations, not what to look for in a potential partner, and which qualities they need and want in a person to make a relationship work. Which ultimately, is going to leader to more stable happiness, not just in their private relationships.
Despite sometimes needing reminders of this lesson, from a first hand perspective, that learning things for my self, experiencing new ideas, places and even movies in my own way is so important to me and the way I learn and process information. As stubbornly independent child I grew into a solitary student. I think part of my dislike for group work is that I don’t get to learn the topic, area or even work presentation fully for myself, that other people get part of that experience. Even one of my favourite experiences in my life, a 6 month exchange to Canada during my degree was done without influence. I saved for the trip myself, applied for a scholarship without taking outside advice, and when I recalled a friend’s father had grown up in the same province I was heading to, I purposefully didn’t seek his advice and rejected anything he wanted to share. I wanted to do it myself, I wanted to fully ‘earn’ my exchange and all the wonderful experiences that came with it, and I recognised the worth of that time with being my own leader, despite never having been out of Australia previously. Simply completing a new and unknown task is a huge achievement in itself, irrespective of the relative difficulty of the thing you’re doing. I’ve done this repeatedly – when R and I had a few weeks lapse between leases a few years ago and we stayed with my mother during that time, I insisted on paying rent, just like I would have anywhere else. I had to force this on my mother, she didn’t want anything from me, but it was what I felt was the right thing to do, it was my way of approaching the problem. Sometimes I’ve even chosen a course of action knowing objectively its probably not going to work, because I need to do it to understand why, and what doesn’t work for me, and what options are better. That can’t always be done just by thinking about the options – doing, acting is a huge part of learning, knowing, understanding. How many children could understand tying their shoes for the first time merely on theory? Doing it, messing it up, and trying again are important steps in mastering the new skill.
And what if, like the Ori, the potential assistance isn’t actually benevolent? What if the promise of fixing the problem is a cover for a more sinister aim, even one less scary than death by religious fanaticism or sucking out all your spiritual energy to preserve the other’s existence? A mind which understands the importance of learning for yourself is instantly protected from the ill-intentions of anyone or anything else. Take a weightloss shake that might be advertised on tv. You could order it and use it for a few months to achieve your goals, or you could take a good look at your life and your attitudes (because there’s usually more to it than a plain ol’ impulse to eat the wrong things), work out what is going to fully nourish your body and mind, and slowly work on changing your habits, your relationship with your body, and the foods you eat. A slower option, for sure, but one that is addressing the real issues, and has a higher chance of working. I think the Hilltop Hoods said it best: “And I could have gone the wrong way, the easy option but I chose to go the long way, the streets are watching”. Choosing the harder, longer option can be really tough, it can feel like you’re making a world-ending, life-breaking decision, and risking finances or relationships or any kind of pre-established security an induce a peeing in your pants fear in the best of us. But its really the best way to go, because the harder fought victories, the things we change and learn ourselves produce the firmer resolves, the longest lasting change, the best lessons learned.
So I’m with Dr Jackson on this one – the Alterans, despite their stubbornness and harsh resolve, are truly enlightened, and I will continue to learn my own lessons without assistance, and remind myself to give pointers, not directives to others. Oh, and if there are any Ori out there monitoring the internet, you should check out how a Time Lord uses the power of belief for good, not evil. The Doctor kicks your erethral spiritual arses on this one: