The Beast in the Jungle



Over the years I have to confess that I have been a bit of a worrier when it came to my financial situation. In fact, I guess I've been a worrier ever since I graduated college about seven years ago and got spat out into the "real world". To my misfortune, the economy seemed to get a little worse every year that went by and then in 2008 it completely tanked and, well, it hasn't gotten much better since then.

Needless to say, I felt very anxious about the uncertain times and my uncertain future. It also didn't help that I chose the life of an artist, writer, wedding videographer, freelancer and overall odd-jobber. With few exceptions, I rarely had a dependable income coming my way. Financial ruin always seemed to be imminent, lurking around the corner like a beast in the jungle. However, to this date, it has yet to come, and even though my financial situation today is probably more fragile than ever, I'm starting to wonder if it will ever come at all.

Looking back at the past seven years, I can't tell you how many months I went into not knowing how the hell I was going to pay my bills that were due by the month's end. Sometimes I wouldn't have the money until a week before or sometimes even a few days before the bills were actually due. At first, I'd spend most of the month worrying how the hell I was going to pay the bills, but, one way or another, the money would come and I'd realize that all my worrying was needless. Over time, I would worry less and less and, eventually, I hardly worried at all.

Anyway, the conclusion I've drawn from this entire seven-year experience (and see if you can follow me with this) is that the future is a beast, but it's a beast that only exists as an abstraction in our minds. After all, the future doesn't exist. It never exists. It is only a potential reality, but never an actual reality. So if we work ourselves up about something that may or may not happen in the future (like, in my case, financial ruin) then we are becoming a victim of something that doesn't even exist to begin with, which makes no sense whatsoever.

When people say they are in financial trouble, what they usually mean is that financial ruin seems imminent, but the fact of the matter is that - at the present point in time - they are living and breathing and they've been fed, clothed, sheltered etc., so, technically, they are in no financial trouble; the only trouble that they have is in the future, but the future doesn't exist, so there is no trouble.

Most people who actually do experience financial ruin in their present reality are experiencing it because they deserved it. They spent way more money than they have...on things like widescreen TVs, ridiculously large homes, nice cars, vacations etc. They basically got what was coming to them for being materialistic and living outside their means. I truly believe that as long as you're living as decent/modest/humble a life as you can, then you will never experience financial ruin in the present; and even if you do, it's not worth worrying about it for every day leading up to it. If you do this, then your worrying becomes the "beast" that ruins you, not the actual event of experiencing financial collapse. You end up panicking and doing something rash like getting a job you don't like, doing something unethical, screwing somebody over, stealing etc. You sacrifice happiness and maybe even morality for financial security.

If you haven't made the connection already, much of this blog was inspired by a short story by Henry James I recently re-read entitled THE BEAST IN THE JUNGLE. The story is about a man named John Marcher who is convinced that he's been singled out by God to experience some sort of catastrophic event in his life. He doesn't quite know when the "event" will take place, but he constantly feels that it's imminent and he hardly does anything with his life other than put all his time and energy into worrying about what the "event" will be.

Among other things, the moral of James' story is that worrying about an event that may or may not happen in the future is actually worse than any actual event that may or may not occur. The so-called "beast in the jungle" is, essentially, the uncertain future, but it's up to the person whether they want the uncertainty of the future to frighten the life out of them. If the beast ever strikes, then that's unfortunate, but worrying about the beast striking isn't going to make things any better. In other words, it's better to live life to the fullest - without worry - up until the beast strikes, instead of living a paralyzed life of fear.

Overall, James' story is a rather philosophical tale about ignoring the future and concentrating only on the present, which is the only true reality. This is a life philosophy that can not only be applied to things like financial fears, but to just about all of life's worries, whether it be in relationships, love, jobs, travel, school...yes, just about everything. The bottom line is that the future is a cunning little devil that tricks us into thinking it is real when it is only an illusion. If you remember that, then you will worry less and your life will be better.

Read the second installment of this blog (THE BEAST IN THE JUNGLE PART 2) by clicking HERE.

 


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