VIII. The risk of the addiction

71.  The myth of Sísifo
72.  Inadvertent addictions
73.  The lion and the gazelle
74.  The avoidability of the disaster
75.  Addictions and love
76.  Love and liberty

71.  The myth of Sísifo

Sísifo is one of the most interesting personages of the Greek mythology.  Winner of the Death, unconditional lover of the life, Sísifo deceived to the Gods by escaping from hell and because of it he was condemned by Zeus to a cruel punishment lasting the whole eternity: he should raise by hand a great stone to a summit of the underworld.  But each time that the unfortunate arrived to the top, the rock escaped from his hands and rolled down for the slope.  He had not another remedy that to descend and restart his effort, knowing that he would never be crowned by the success. 

This indefinitely restarted fight, in an eternal rotation of nightmare, symbolizes the absurd of a search without hope.  The figure of Sísifo has been evoked always as paradigm of an exhausting and discouraging task.  Albert Camus devoted to him one of his works, in which he imagines the man as a happy Sísifo, that, in the middle of the aridity and the monotony of his everyday life, he glimpses that his existence is not neither more neither less absurd than other, but a quite normal life like any other.  Camus proposed the figure of a cold man that knows such supposed absurd of the life and searches every kind of pleasures that can give something of happiness to his existence.  That figure exercised a notable fascination for the generations that came after World War II, and still today, more than half century after it is an image that beats inside the heart of many that seek with anxiety in the pleasure a little of heat that make the temperature of their lives to rise. 

Frequently, the anxiety of the pleasure has been adorned with a romantic halo, as if it was a gallant that seeks in successive hugs a difficult encounter with the love.  I think that the reality is enough more prosaic.  The anxiety of the pleasure is, rather, a sad man that has understood the sterility of his search, but that he does not want to change of road.  Knowing that he cannot be satisfied for the "quality", devotes him to the "quantity", to a chain of epidermal and fast enjoyments.  They are affections and passions that lack of lyricism, and there are in them a nudist coldness that almost reduces their eagerness to the animal's instinct.  They recall the punishment of Sísifo.  They restart without truce a play that they know vain, destined to a constant failure.  They have intended to deceive the nature, like Sísifo tried with the Gods of the Olympus, and the punishment always arrives.  Who has permitted the anxious search of the pleasure be established in his interior, and permits the deterioration of the ethical demands of the nature, sooner or later finds himself as Sísifo, fighting with bravery in an exhausting task and driven to despair.  What at the beginning he had imagined as a paradise, as a constant happiness based on the free enjoyment of the pleasures, has finished in a painful deception.  The promised festival results a deceit, and appears implacable the stubborn reality, the evil that has been installed, that has become strong inside himself.  He thought himself lover of many things, and he discovers that to satisfy his selfishness has finished being his greater worry. 

The egotist founds himself a day, sooner or later, with the torment of knowing himself not capable to love and not capable to be loved.  The pleasure occupies too much his mind, his interests.  It carries him to act in a way that, then, being alone with him, shames him deeply.  He understands then the deceit that has been slip in his heart, hidden after the shadow of some pleasures that he had wanted to see as inoffensive and even as good.  Some seek then refuge in greater pleasures, or that contribute in some way to bring some novelty respect to the tedium in which they have fallen, but they fail again, because the selfishness is a voracious animal that cannot be left to grow in our heart because then it devours us inside.  Instead of the innocence, of the charming and delicious place that our eyes had seen and desired, a horizon appears like that of Sísifo, with lack of hope, sordid, in which never disappears a voice that says us that we have made a mistake. 

To all of us passes a little the same as to Sísifo, in greater or smaller measure, in some field of our life: with the eagerness to possess, or to figure or to be able; or with the refuge in the laziness, the lust, the alcohol, or whatever it be.  But there is, by fortune, a difference.  Sísifo could not abandon his absurd and inexhaustible repetition.  We, on the other hand, can open the eyes to the reality and decide to change.  Besides, we can ask for aid.  And aid to God, if we are believers. 

72. Inadvertent addictions

Who never has experienced the irresistible eagerness to do zapping during hours and hours, or to be hooked to the videogames during very long sessions, incapable to be subtracted from them, does not know still of the seductions and the sorceries of the screen.  There are always occurring many things, many more than in our own life, and such is the hypnosis that can produce to us that we finish burning us as insects around a light bulb.  It does not liberate of the burden neither of the routine, but at least converts them in a kind of lukewarm men and narcotizes us a little. 

With the multiplicity of television channels, the portable receivers, the pocket consoles and even the amazing services of the mobile telephones, all this can finish being each time more easily a full-day profession.  Its magic retains us, unfolds authentic displays of inventiveness to attract our attention, and it is like a permanent promise of diversion that replaces all the others, that makes all other things useless, troublesome, and annoying. 

When one has expended many hours in front of the screen, the mind floats from an object to another, seduced by thousand of occurrences that grasp it without retaining it, in a delicious inconsistency that transforms us into vagabonds, of a program to another, of a channel to another, of a play to another.  Thus is this pathology: we hook us because we are there with it, so available and attractive, and, once we are hooked, we are capable of swallowing any thing with an indulgence without limits.  And when we awake of that slow hemorrhage of oneself by the eyes, with the head saturated of images, music, special effects and dazzling impressions, one experiences a curious sensation of solitude and devastation, besides a serious difficulty to accept the reality of which we have managed to evade for a time. 

Nevertheless, even the most addicted man knows well that later the real life is waiting him, and that is his great drama.  Therefore, to this consumerism we do not reproach only its naivety or its superficiality, but above all the breach of his promises, to not take care totally of us, to leave us in the lurch in the last moment. 

But even being very erroneous and disappointing so many times, perhaps we return to this hypnosis as to the easiest slope.  In spite of the final distaste, well known of other times, the addict falls again, incapable to be unhooked.  Therefore, for some, the major act of value -at times superhuman- is to put out the screen that absorbs completely his mind. 

Perhaps this is a good example of the disappointing consequences of the excess of comfort or of the eagerness to consume, of the lack of control over oneself.  Perhaps it is that we intend the quadrature of the circle: to be accommodated people, drowsy by the comforts and, at the same time, active people, implied, awake.  There is no doubt that the material relief is a great progress of the history, but it has its evil effects against which it is precise to be alerted.  And it seems that to be prevented against the excess of comfort is like a taboo that very few dare to touch.  The excess of comfort tends to ignore the ideals and to reduce considerably the environment of our worries. 

The danger of the consumerism is not so much the waste as the voracity with which it seizes the individual and reduces him to its will.  Its gluttony tends to devour ideals, beliefs, ethics, culture, story, and even its own criticism: and that is the supreme irony of the consumerism, to cause to believe that it has disappeared when there is not any environment that can resist to its contamination. 

The solution?  To maintain that avidity under control, to protect the spaces that we see that it tries to hoard in our life.  And, in those other in which it has already gained us, to think that our proximity to the abyss of the addiction -be it serious or not- can at least to have helped us to note its risks and thus to understand the need to finish that career. 

73.  The lion and the gazelle

"You can imagine the scene…" said carefully Fred Smith, at the start of a conference in Tennessee (US) some years ago. 

"Place yourselves in the African savannah, on the Victoria's Lake banks, for example. 

"A gazelle awakes in the morning, with the exit of the sun, and thinks:  "Today I have to run more than the fastest of the lions, if I do not want to finish devoured by one of them." 

"Few kilometers from there, a lion awakes also, and initiates his day thinking:  "If I do not want to die of hunger, today I have to run at least a little more than the slowest of the gazelles". 

Smith makes a longer pause, and, addressing himself to the auditory, concludes: 

"I do not know if the role of each one of you in your life is now that of the lion or that of the gazelle.  But, in any case, please, ¡run!" 

Even when at that time Smith was referring to the phenomenon of the competence in the financial markets, we can apply that image to the effort for the personal improvement of the character.  In the life of any person happens something similar.  It can seem to us that the circumstances in which we live are hard, even cruel, as those of the African savannah in which it is necessary always to be running if we want to eat and not to be eaten. 

In front of that situation, as real as the real life, we can devote us to think about the reason of our situation, or in the cause of everything that happens to us, or in other things.  And surely they will be positive reflections.  But what we cannot do, while, is to stop running. 

It is precise to seek synergies, and to surpass the unnecessarily competitive approaches, certainly, but that does not remove the fact that the life supposes a permanent challenge, that demands an effort and a constant demand.  In fact, most of the human failures are caused by a hasty cancellation of the effort; because one admits too soon that he is not capable of resolving a problem or that the problem does not have any solution. 

It is convenient to think with depth on the important things. It is something truly decisive.  But what we cannot do is to dedicate placidly to think about them and to stop running.  We can not stop putting effort in the things.  One must try hard, wake up, run.  We must do this, both if we think to be in the role of the lion (fighting for reaching an objective), as if we see us, rather, in the position of the gazelle (trying to avoid a disaster).  The life is thus, we have to accept it. 

It would neither be exact to say that the life is a simple and exhausting race, since what imports is not, simply, to go faster or to gain more time.  What imports is our capacity to succeed in the target.  But there are moments of long races, in which all the things seems very difficult, and we can become very tired and we can become discouraged.  There are occasions in which we note the wear of a continued effort in determined direction, and the temptation that awaits us is very simple: to stop running.  When this happens, we should think that, like the lion or as the gazelle, it is precise to continue running if we want to survive.  In that, the life is not going to change.  All right, better said: it will change if we stop, because that will be the principle of the end. 

To forge with success the own character is not an easy neither a fast task.  Nevertheless, it is possible and accessible to anyone, and, above all, it is decisive for the result of our existence.  It is precise to center our life in principles and wise values, but later one must cultivate with patience that good seed, without fainting.  One must enter with decision in those dark and comfortable zones of our life, where our errors and weaknesses seek protection, to pull up from there the weeds and to achieve that they do not gain power in our life.  If we attack that task with pledge, constancy and sportsmanship, in little time we will be surprised of the result. 

74. The avoidability of the disaster

George, as almost all the ones that have passed through that torture, began for curiosity, to know what would the drug was, in what consisted, what he was able to feel.  Also because it seemed to him necessary to be affirmed in the group of friends in which he was and because it was fashionable in the environment in which he moved.  He came from a badly structured family, he felt frustrated by many things.  He was longing for new experiences that caused him to feel free, to forget so much pain. 

The case is that George did not have lack of information on the destruction that the drugs cause in a person.  "But how is it possible for you to fall in the drug if you knew that it was going to promote your ruin?" his old friends asked him now.  He had a lot of time to think about it, during those eternal months of rehabilitation, and he explains it with a lot of clarity:  "It is very simple.  With the drug you can evade.  You don't like the society and you want to leave it, or to create a different one that does not be like that or, simply, to escape from it in a fantastic way". 

"The passage through the drugs is, besides, a rite, a mystery, something that allows you to put away the suffering and the pain, to banish momentarily the feelings of failure and of frustration that have sunken you".  

"You know it, you know that it is your ruin, but you close the eyes, you look to another side.  Although in another level, it seems what passes to all those that want to stop smoking and they do not obtain it, or that they are not capable of follow a diet and they fail with it time and again, even when they know that their weakness goes ruining their health". 

"The drug is like an artificial paradise.  When you take drugs, you think: there is nothing that interests me, all is the same to me, and all leaves me indifferent.  In a normal state I see the things just as they are; once doped, I see them as I wanted them to be.  To fall in the drugs is not a question, normally, of lack of information, because the main problem are not properly the drugs, but the environment that introduces you in the drug, the frustration that carries you to take refuge in them.  And it seems that the persons that have the power in the society, who impose the fashions and the ways of life, who control the main mass media, do not have just understood it" 

Fortunately, now George seems already a serene person and without interior deterioration, but inside he passes for some tremendous fights.  It is very hard to see how, inside one same, the drug has become an owner fanatic and devouring, in a dictator that resists losing its control. It resists returning the liberty that it has stolen, it does not want to renounce to the unconditional submission that it had achieved over you.  The impulse to continue consuming is no longer as irresistible as it was before, but still it maintains enough power.  It appears always, seductive, each time those unexpectedly difficult moments, complex situations or adverse events come. 

George is a great conversationalist, and a person to which these years of forging in his exit of the drug have made him someone admirable.  The pity is that the great majority fail to leave from it.  He is a fortunate man, although a great part of that fortune is, as always, daughter of his effort and his tenacity.  George is an example of the avoidability of the disaster, independent of how low one already can be found or can be considered.  If the human decadence were unavoidable, it would not be worthwhile neither to speak of it, but what interests us is precisely to speak about its avoidability, of the possibility to be saved from those imminent threats but that they have not yet been fulfilled. To speak about the self demand, of doing what one should do, although it would be with modest resources.  I have an unlimited faith in the modest people that do everything that they are able to do. 

75. Addictions and love

George is a person to which four years of combat in his purpose to abandon the drug have made someone admirable.  One of those fortunate men that have managed to avoid the disaster that seemed unavoidable.  Now is a reflexive, profound man.  Always, when he is explaining his painful experience, he says how a moment arrives, very quickly, in which the addict to drugs seeks the drug with anxiety, at the same time that he hates it, by the addiction that the drug has created in him. 

George has meditated a lot on the love, on the desire, on the addictions.  He says that from the phenomenon of the drug addiction many useful ideas for the emotional life of the people may be extracted.  It has seemed to me very interesting.  I am going to try to explain it. 

From love can grow up many things: desires, thoughts, and acts.  But all this that is born of the love is not the love itself.  What we love is really what is desired by us, it is true.  But also we desire many things that we do not love, things that really turn out to be indifferent to us.  It is very dangerous to identify desire and love.  To desire a good wine is not to love it.  To desire the drug is not to love it.  To desire sexually a person is not to love her. 

George thinks also in the primary origin of his problem: a broken family.  He asks himself about the reason of the alarming growth of the conjugal breaks, of the large crisis of so many families that, at the same time, they use to produce so much damage in the people that suffer them.  Because the advances of the present society are marvelous, it is certain.  But what kind of contradiction is this, that, after to have reached so a notable standard of living, the man has remained so deprived of resources at the moment of tacking a serene and ordinate life, without bloody breaks in the daily contact.  Why so many situations of failure and so many scars?  What happens in the western world that two of each three marriages fail? 

It is interesting to think on the nature of the love.  If the love were simply a feeling, that goes and comes like it wants, that begins and finishes independently of our liberty, it would be as a simple blind emotion that seizes us and in front of which we can do nothing.  But, according to that criterion, the love would be like a momentary exaltation that simply carries us to satisfy our desires, as a pleasant hobby, centered and governed primarily by the sexual desire and the pleasure, and that sooner or later decays. 

The love, more than a feeling, is also and above all an act of the will, that is the faculty qualified to elect, to reject, to modulate the own activity, to be governed by oneself, to be directed toward something determined, to love with some lasting roots.  The love is commitment, not a simple desire neither a simple natural inclination, although both things are included in the love.  In the wine cellars of our personality, as if it were a matter of a good wine, it uses to take shape that noble feeling of delivery and of donation of oneself that is the love.  But a donation that has to be total, because the union of the love requires sharing the entire project of the life.  The love cannot be a purely epidermal traffic, centered on feelings that, in their root, are rather egotistical.  The key to enter and to persevere in the conjugal love is the pleasant sacrifice towards the beloved person.  When the difficulty arrives, the test, that always appears sooner or later. The love, if it is true and faithful, unites more, aids to surpass those reefs and becomes reinforced.  The fidelity belongs to the real condition of the love.  Without it, the love would be a simple sentimental act, submitted to the wobble of the emotionality and that lasts only until the capacity to support each other is reached. This way to understand it has brought many conjugal failures. 

76.  Love and liberty

"When I knew her, she was 16 years old.  We were presented in a party, by someone that said to be my friend.  It was a love at first sight.  She drove me crazy. 

"Our love arrived to a point in which I couldn't manage to live without her.  But it was a prohibited love.  My parents did not accept her.  I was expelled out of the school and we begin to find us secretly.  But then I was not capable to endure the situation any more. I went crazy.  I wanted her, but I didn't have her.  I could not endure that they set me apart of her.  I loved her: I destroyed the car, I broke all inside my house and almost I killed my sister.  I was mad, I needed her. 

"Today I am 39 years old; I am interned in a hospital, I am useless and I am going to die abandoned by my parents, by my friends and by her. 

"Its name?: cocaine.  To her I owe my love, my life, my destruction and my death." 

This narration, attributed to Freddie Mercury a short time before dying of AIDS, speaks with quickness on the risks of the addiction to the drugs.  And the addictions remit us to the loss of interior liberty, one of the big themes of our time that encloses innumerable paradoxes. 

The desire of liberty that there is inside the heart of the man prompts him to transfer the limits inside which he feels as enclosed.  We want to enlarge our capability to transform the reality.  But that anxiety of liberty does not always find the way to be carried out.  There are occasions in which objective external circumstances are presented that press us, and that we want and we should try to change, but there are other occasions in which we feel deceived and we blame on what surrounds us when the problem (and the solution) are inside us.  It is our heart who is prisoner of its selfishness and its fears, the one that should change, the one that should confront the hardness of the life, the one that should conquer its interior liberty and not to consent to flee the reality and to take refuge in the fantasy or in the victimism. 

One of the paradoxes of the interior liberty is -in expression of Jacques Philippe- that to be free is also to accept what has not been elected.  The man declares the greatness of his liberty when he transforms the reality, but also when he accepts the reality that day after day comes given to him.  To accept the personal limitations, the own fragility, the situations and frustrations that the life imposes to us, are ways of growing our own interior liberty, because in that personal environment we can come to be a lot more owners of our reactions and, therefore, more free. 

The more we depend on being as intelligent or powerful or attractive, as that great genius of the television, or as that fashionable multimillionaire, or like the last top-model of the moment, more difficult will result to us to find the necessary relaxed acceptance of our reality, that should go united to a firm decision of improving it.  The true interior liberty has a lot of relation with surpassing the numerous "limitative beliefs" that could have been installed in our mind (never I will leave this …, I will not be capable of …, always I will be thus …, I am incapable of doing such thing…), that are not acceptance of our limitations but, rather, fruit of our injuries, of our fears and of our lack of confidence in ourselves. 

The drugs are a problem, but they are, before and above all, a bad solution to a prior problem.  And something similar happens with other lighter forms of escapism.  When we hide in virtual refuges to elude the reality that costs us so much to confront, we are deceiving us.  The liberty is unfailingly connected with the truth.  Therefore one must lose the fear to be put face to face set against the truth and to accept its messages and its raises, always perceptible in the heart of the man that desires them and search them.