The lifestyle bubble and the curse upon men
The lifestyle bubble and the curse upon men
Have you ever asked yourself as a man: who are you if you take away what you do, and what you have?
If you didn't have the lifestyle you have created for yourself – if it was suddenly swept from underneath your feet – how would you cope?
What if you no longer had a career in your chosen profession, or could no longer partake in your favourite hobby? Perhaps you could no longer surf, play the piano, or you suddenly ended up divorced from the relationship you'd been in for so many years. Perhaps you were even a famous athlete, and suddenly your career – your whole identity for being – came to an end.
How would you cope?
You don't need to look far for real-life examples of men whose lives have come crashing down around them when any of these examples have played out in real life. Famous swimmers struggle to reintegrate into everyday society once their career has come to an end. Every day men retire from their lifelong career of anonymity and struggle to find a hobby to give meaning to the endless days that abound.
The truth is; take away a man’s purpose for being – be that his work, his family, his hobby, his lifestyle – and he is often left feeling empty, purposeless and unsure of what to do with himself.
It is perhaps no coincidence that in the years when a man goes about most ardently making something of his life – in that middling period from the early twenties to late forties – that his biggest risk is from suicide. What if his life does not stack up to his ambitions or his dreams?What if he does not get the career he dreamed of?
Worse still, what if he did get the career he dreamed of and still found it did not fulfil him? Where does he turn to then? Better to never reach your goals, is it not, and still live in the fervent hope that there is yet gold to be had at the end of the rainbow?
In around 2012, Serge Benhayon first presented the concept of the lifestyle bubble to a small group of men from around the world, and they were intrigued. It was a concept that made sense of all the above. Here was someone talking about something that every man in the group had always known, but had never been able to communicate or talk about, lest they break the omerta that binds all men – the omerta that says, “Don’t let the world see who you truly are, lest you get hurt. Give them an image instead, so that at least if that gets rejected, you know they are not actually rejecting the real you.”
Of course, the problem with such a way of thinking is that eventually the man plays the game for long enough that he becomes the façade he presents to the world. It becomes his identity. It becomes who he thinks he is.
And so men go about building a wall to the world – a lifestyle bubble that advertises who they are and what they stand for. From that bubble, they then compete with other men – not necessarily by way of the obvious, but by lifestyle.
The successful man – the lawyer or famous athlete with his fast car, suit and model girlfriend – wears his success on his sleeve and holds the world at bay with it. And who can compete with that?
But do not worry – men do compete with that in the most subtle of ways, even when they cannot match such a bar. They simply change the rules of engagement – and so they compete by comparing lifestyles. The unemployed hippy looks at such a man and says – yes, but you don’t have my spiritual awareness. You are chained to the corporate wheel, whereas I am free to surf whenever I want. I am not owned by money.
Both men perchance pass in the street and both silently compete and compare. Of course, words expressing such a sentiment need never be spoken. But there is a silent communication between the two that allows both to compete, without either feeling as though they have come off less. One plays checkers whilst the other plays chess. One seemingly loses, but both end up winning.
Indeed, when pressed, both men will reach deeper into that identity they have chosen to get confirmation from both themselves and the world around them. It brings them comfort, even when it places an undeniable strain upon their hearts.
But take that away – suddenly strip a man of that identity (if you can) – and what have you got? What has he got?
He has himself, and a relationship with a person he has long buried deep beneath the façade. He is a stranger unto himself, and so he is naked, vulnerable, and alone. Depression awaits the desolate.
This is a tragedy, that a man robbed of the superfluous nature of something he constructed entirely outside of himself, no longer knows who he is: worse still, he thinks he knows exactly who he is… until it is gone.
It is a tragedy that a man in the silence of his own company feels alone, when the truth is in such company he should feel complete, alive, and part of the stars that forever shine down upon him. He should feel kingship. He should feel the immenseness of his own being – so much so that it is enough to rest in the beauty of his own emanating love. Life need not offer him a single bone. He is complete.
He knew it once – most likely as a small child – when a box was a world to explore, when nature was wondrous and the world was his oyster.
He knew it once – when a day was a year, and a sandpit was his castle – when his body was tender as the dew and the universe reached out to him across the ages. Never did he feel alone. In fact, he felt everything. Delicate, sensitive, acutely aware – that was the boy that would become the man.
The tragedy, of course, is not that he grows up. We are born to be adults, and rightly so the young boy cannot wait. The tragedy is what we leave behind in order to think we need to fulfil our destiny. Indeed the tragedy is that we are suckered into thinking we even need to fulfil a destiny, as though we must become more than what we already are. Our livingness should be enough, should it not?
Nay, we are robbed by selling out to a world that tells us we need to be that father, be that lawyer, be that family man, be that extrovert, that gay man, that heterosexual, that no-hoper, that working class man.
Yes, a man can make a lifestyle out of anything – even failure – and he can make it his whole identity.
“Do not give me a house or a job lest I can no longer identify with the struggle of my own creation”, cries the poor man. And so, despite the best attempts of those charitable philanthropists who stand upon their throne, and from the comfort of their own lifestyle bubble offer him their arm and more, he resists all attempts to assist him to arise out of his chosen state.
As Henry Thoreau once wrote, “Often the poor man is not so cold and hungry as he is dirty and ragged and gross. It is partly his taste, and not merely his misfortune. If you give him money, he will perhaps buy more rags with it.”
He was of course roundly criticised as being judgemental and arrogant, and completely ignorant of the causes of poverty, but the truth is, he was just astutely observant – not just of nature as he is revered for – but also of people. For what he was writing of here, was how deviously the lifestyle bubble can play out and incarcerate a man.
A man can truly find success in failure. In fact, he can make it an art form if it gives him an identity.
But what then of the so-called successful man? Is he not free? In his book Walden, Thoreau said, “I am wont to think that men are not so much the keepers of herds, as herds are the keepers of men, the former so much the freer.”
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” This was Thoreau at his most controversial. It was also Thoreau at his finest.
For he touched on a truth that few allow themselves to see – that even successful men, with their house and their car and their trophy wife, are often deeply discontent. It gnaws away at them in the quiet hours of the night, or in between tasks – that feeling that they have left something behind, untended to. And so they keep themselves busy.
If only we knew. Thoreau of course, for all his seemingly harsh words, did not leave us without a way forth, or without giving us a snippet of the true, incorruptible man.
“The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly."
As Serge Benhayon wrote recently, “It is much wiser for a man to live his tender beauty than it is to hold on to the petulant fortress that is full of false weaknesses that in turn parade as false strengths.”
But alas, men do not, and we are all the more insufferable for our stubbornness.
“Men develop a firm grip on their lifestyle bubble. They ought to let go of that tortuous hold and allow their innate tenderness to model their lives.”Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings and Revelations Volume II, p 477
So why the name 'lifestyle bubble?' Why is it not given a name more befitting of its nature? Why not call it a fence, or a shield, or indeed a lifestyle fortress? For surely that is what it is.
But to do so would be too untruthful, for it actually has no such strength. It is a façade, an illusion, a castle built upon false foundations, and for all its robust nature it requires constant re-shoring in order to hold it all together. It takes continuous effort, exhausting effort if truth be known. And like a bubble, it is ephemeral in nature, unable to be sustained for any true length of time. But a man can hold it his entire life, you say, to which I reply, who said the entirety of our life is contained between the points of transition we call birth and death? But that is a story for another time, perhaps, when in the delicateness of our being, we can share our true nature for all to see.
So the young boy says to the father, as I say to you, “Yours is the love to behold. It is your right as it is mine, as it belongs to the heavens that shine down upon us. Be not afraid to show it, for though by remaining stoic and strong you profess to protect us from being burgled, you are nonetheless robbing us of the grandness of a love not lived. Nay, I would rather lose all my earthly possessions to a thief in the night, if only for a glimpse of your beating heart. Then I would know what it is like to be held in the immensity of a father’s unending love. Then I would know there is nothing I need to protect myself from, even in this world as it is.”
The tragedy, of course, is that such advice is rarely expressed, and even more rarely heeded. So the boy either grows up in the image of his father or in reaction seeks another way. Either way, rarely does he allow himself to reconnect to the love within his own being. His sensitivity is crushed, and he, in turn, enjoins the mass of men by carving out his own lifestyle bubble. So society is robbed, whilst we accept, and even worse, celebrate the shell that is offered in turn.
And the end result of this culture? In Australia, suicide for men is the leading cause of death for young and middle-aged men. 1 in 8 will experience depression at some point, but only 1 in 4 men will look to seek help.[i] And as you read this article, a man somewhere in this country is making plans – not to go to work, or make dinner, but to end his life to put an end to the misery. He will most likely plan it meticulously and have been thinking about it for a while. He will not think to ask for help. Such thoughts will elude him. It is most likely he will choose to end his life by hanging.
During the next 24 hours after you have read this article, 5 men will follow in his footsteps – one every 6 hours somewhere in this blessed country – and another 6 men the day after that.[ii] Each and every day thereafter we will lose another 6 men so that by the year’s end, when we stop to reflect on the success of another year, and as Auld Lang Syne comes on the TV at the stroke of midnight amidst the explosion of celebratory fireworks, over 3,000 men will have ended their life voluntarily.
Many will, of course, have left behind family, children, friends, who must find a way forward. Very few who commit suicide will have truly been as isolated as they allowed themselves to think. But such is the illusion of depression. Such is the illusion that awaits those who have become disconnected from themselves.
I do not profess to know what causes every man to commit suicide. But I do note this. A man who does not know himself, short of the world he has created around him, greatly increases his chances of becoming a statistic.
Every man who refuses to reconnect to his innate sensitivity risks becoming a statistic, for every man who hides behind a wall of hardness no longer has the awareness to deal with depression or anxiety when it comes knocking on his doorstep.
Every man who identifies himself by what he does but does not know who he is beyond such narrow confines, ends up building his castles in the air and sets himself up for the day when his foundations are eroded from beneath him.
And then what? To what day does he then arise to when all is seemingly gone?
The stars are still alive, and the sun is still ablaze despite the onset of night. But if we are bereft of our true senses, then we are none the wiser. It is but mere darkness to us. So to every man I say, do not tarry to count the till from the day’s trade. Measure your success by a different barometer. Turn inward, and surrender to the delicateness of your being.
For although at first you will find it awkward, it is only within that you will find a seat at Heaven’s table – and as you will discover at long last, when you re-familiarise yourself with that which was always yours, it is engraved with your name upon it, as it always was, as it always will be.