text and photo © Jonathan Zap
But sometimes we feel the intensity as catastrophic, as a state of wrongness. We succumb to the illusion that to be normal and healthy means to be on an even keel, a feeling of upbeat and productive contentment, like a thirty-year-old yuppie in a TV ad who seems to be getting it all together thanks to his latest purchase.
But life isn’t like the world of TV commercials and glossy magazine ads. It is not always a Kodak moment. There are more feelings than the chipper euphoria of a good-looking TV-commercial yuppie who just got a promotion plus a five-dollar cup of Starbucks coffee, and who prances about in a hyper, upbeat, caffeinated universe of workaholic consumerism.
It is a gift to be one of the mutants able to feel the intensity of life, its tension and struggle, its unexpected meaningfulness, the swirling possibilities of love and tragedy. Feel the intensity, and recognize it as the feeling of aliveness. Even the fear of annihilation is a part of that aliveness. Feelings of loss and abandonment, of tragic depths, of stinging anxieties, are all part of the intensity of aliveness. Accept the intensity, embrace it, and though it can feel overwhelming, keep yourself together. Use the intensity to be a warrior, not a victim. You can feel the intensity and be all the more focused because of it, all the more precise and potent in word and deed because of it.
Or you can choose the path of diminishment, the path of medicating the intensity, the path of being comfortably and uncomfortably numb, the path of finding a cure for aliveness and swallowing that cure again and again. There are paths of cheap and shoddy all-encompassing truths, paths of seeking the golden ego identity, Mr. or Ms. Right plus the perfect circumstances, the sparkly carrot on the stick always just up ahead. There are so many false paths. One can take the path of billions who have surrendered their aliveness to fundamentalisms where daddies and rulebooks give all the answers to manage and govern aliveness and direct it toward the group aims. And then there is the path of “success” as defined by others. Advertisements are its stained-glass windows, the path of racing toward the flat, gold stars that are awarded for good behavior. So many paths lead toward the harvesting of your aliveness by others.
Feeling the intensity of being alive is a blessing and a gift. But sometimes divine gifts and blessings are hard to recognize because we forget that they don’t have to be warm and fuzzy, don’t have to look like gold stars, and aren’t usually wrapped in ribbons and bows. Blessings and divine gifts come woven, like all the tapestries of life, with threads of light and dark, threads of every color and texture.
It can be hard to feel the intensity of life and stay with it, to stay with the intensity of aliveness without escaping into the well-worn paths of diminishment, the allure of tragic magic and the darkling glamour of death energy. To stay with the intensity requires some of the great and infrequently recognized life skills — the ability to accept ambivalence and ambiguity, to accept uncontrolled and unknowable wild-card variables, the many vulnerabilities of mortality, the staggering range of feeling and experience.
Strengthen and enliven yourself by acceptance of the full spectrum, the complexities and uncertainties of this blooming, buzzing world, its ambivalence and ambiguity, its tragedies and blessings, its dark and light. Receiving this card means that this is a propitious time to accept the strange and various blessings of aliveness, a time of immersion and engagement and of no escape, a time of feeling the intensity.