1) The need to be someone:
What does it mean to be someone? It is to have an internal sense of standing. You have no outward need to show or to justify to others that you are someone. That is because the person who has made something of themself, knows themself, and is therefore secure within. Until this happens you are consigned to being restless and unfulfilled within.
Becoming someone is knowing how it feels to have a defined and strong identity. Essentially it’s about becoming an independent being. An independent person is a person who choose what it is that defines who they are. The ability to do this is a reflection of how well you know yourself and so can be true to your known self.
In pursuing a worldly challenge and dedicating yourself to it with commitment and perseverance you will overcome things. Through this you prove first to the world, and then most importantly to yourself, what you are made of. Meaningful challenges test us, they entail moments of tribulation and self-doubt; overcoming these obstacles brings many self-realisations. Unless one lives this, I don’t think one can really know oneself. I think it encapsulates much of the process of making yourself into someone.
2) The consequences of not becoming someone.
A failure to become someone, even if one isn’t explicitly and consciously aware of it, will be felt inside. You feel weak and ill-defined. You go through life lost and bereft. This is manifested in not knowing what to go for, and from here it means not knowing what is you are supposed to become. Being in such a place can lead onto self-loathing. It does so because you are frustrated at life. You have no sense of ever having developed at all. A recurring question you ask is, what the hell have I done with my life? The terror of this causes despair. When life feels hopeless then invariably you begin to give up on yourself. From here you let yourself slide into ruin. What better way of conveying your own ruin then to become homeless?
In an ideal world, where we all imbued with an inner sense of peace, I think that our sense of direction would come of itself. As corny as it may sound I do think the person whose connected to life will be at one with their heart. Since no person is an island our internal sense of direction is fed to us by life, and most particularly by family or those we are closest to. When you have been given adequate love and encouragement it’s far more straightforward to become someone. Others help in providing us with the foundations we need so that we, as adults, can freely set down to realising our own potential in life.
Life is about growth. We ourselves, as with every life, are someone. We all have unbounded potential within. To learn about life we have to develop ourselves. Through our own evolution and development we become someone. Only by challenging ourselves and facing our own vulnerabilities and fears can we do this. A failure to have done this with one’s life comes to feel like a repudiation of life. Therefore it is vital that we live life and we do things. It is through what we do that we become something more. This is how one becomes someone.
Finding a defining challenge to pursue and to dedicate yourself to really matters. What you do determines what you become. This process doesn’t always happen in life. Subservient to becoming someone are our basic survival needs and a basic emotional wellbeing. Without these components in place every other aspiration in life falls away. For a person who is alone in life and has lacked a sense of love and of encouragement then one will struggle to know how to take constructive actions for themselves. One may want to bother, but one lacks the inner will to do it. When riddled with emotional emptiness lives wider processes are inconsequential. And yet the frustration of not developing and becoming someone is regularly felt…….A point may come, when if you have not found your challenge and become someone, then you will let a challenge be imposed upon you. Unconsciously you will seek out something bleak, because in terror there are no end of challenges. Let hell become you, because whatever comes next is a guaranteed challenge. Being in a hellish place in life goes against all our better judgements. But so strong is that greater life need of challenging oneself and becoming someone, that an integral part of ourself doesn’t care about anything else but the need to live a challenge. And since every challenge contains the potential for a transformative experience, its experience can potentially be a teacher like no other. I maintain the view that one would rather put oneself in a worldly hell if, as it does, it guarantees a challenge, than to be in a paradise, where all basic needs are provided for, but which lacks all scope for a challenge. The need to challenge ourself is so great, that to live a life without challenges is to find oneself trapped living comfortably but anodynly. When life is artificially benign the world is malignly warped. From a position like this I think many individuals would banally destroy all that is benign because of the need to discover what life really means on their own terms: is joy not made meaningless without a notion of hardship? A life without challenges makes you doubt your existence. One who is stuck in such a state will in the end go looking for hell, against all rationality, because in hell you will at the very least be challenged. How, afterall, can we know what we are made of unless we are challenged? To be clear I do not think suffering for the sake of suffering is good. Definitely not. But I think gratuitous, self-inflicted suffering comes unless we find meaningful challenges for ourselves to live. Lives overarching developmental process is greater than us and our own issues. I think life requires us to live challenging journeys. In a good challenge there is suffering. If the challenge you set yourself has an authentic purpose then this suffering that comes in the journey is, ultimately to be valued, because it is through this that we overcome difficulties as we prove to ourselves that we are greater than the obstacles we face. I think we have know what the notion of suffering means to understand life more fully. This relationship is an arduous one, but far more dangerous is the attempt to airbrush suffering from life because it only leads to self-sabotage.
3) My own decent towards homelessness and the allure of its challenge.
Before I became homeless I had a materially comfortable life. I had a job and I had money. My basic needs were provided for. But, with time, these came to feel worthless when my internal world was one of emptiness. I was alone and never had I been able to envisage a genuine future for myself in life. I had tried to do things with my life, but my inner emptiness was so all pervading that it crippled me in my ability to find a sustained reason in why I was bothering with anything. I was so used to being alone that I was imbued with the sense of forever being stuck in the isolation of emotional turmoil. Worldly achievement didn’t really mean anything to me when I had no notion of having anyone to share anything with. I had passions, but I’d not found that worldly challenge to go for. This hurt. I felt my life to be one aimless drift. Without an overarching purpose to my life I felt stifled and condemned to never being able to develop and become someone. This saddened me. What a waste of life this was.
Because emotional pain was a constant in my life it blocked me from responding to the inner need for discovering a purpose for myself to live by. This led me to feel I was living to merely exist. I couldn’t stand this anymore. A slow slide towards homelessness had begun. I didn’t want to become homeless, but it was almost as if something was inexorably drawing me there. It was a kind of joke. Its encroaching reality was perversely exciting. And yet homelessness was incomprehensibly terrifying, I saw it in an abstract way as a hell. I had no idea what I would do if I became it, which in itself was enticing. The mystery inherent within it, no matter how bleak it was, was a challenge I wanted to face.
4) Developmental forces that propel one towards homelessness.
When you don’t know how to find a worldly challenge for yourself you will take anything that comes. Like societies that lapse into war, the individual will find ways to blindly slide into gruesome life places. It may seem senseless, but somewhere within its essence there’s a certain reason in it. It’s a tragic reasoning, but it will unconsciously be pursued while that need for a developmental, coming of age challenge remains an unfulfilled yearning within. If we are not organised or in control within then life will throw us into frightful places. If we were only more conscious then life would not do this.
Homelessness is a way of giving oneself that defining challenge you were searching for but were unable to find. You force upon yourself this ghastly life, because however bad it may be, there is the potential within it for great challenges. By plunging yourself into this place you are inevitably going to face great fears, and in this you have a serious challenge to live. It takes you for a while outside of yourself in the real world difficulties it causes you (the danger here is that the horror of being homeless will throw you into a deeper internal chaos than ever before). Because its challenges are many the potential for finding out things about yourself are equally great.
Firstly I will say its challenge is a lowest denominator, because it is about surviving. This is what it reduces you to. Life is turned into an unrelenting battle, where all you can do is survive. One of homelessness’s contradictions is that on one level it’s the most degrading and limiting of lives you can live, it rips you apart, you’re tired, cold, dirty, malnourished and unprotected. But in another sense it’s profound and nourishing because in all its abjectness it provides a life affirming challenge. It can turn a hitherto purposeless life into one with a constant purpose. However much about its life you wholeheartedly loathe, there’s something enticing in it too because in the constant challenges it throws up you feel alive, life has a great intensity. The contradiction is that physically for so much of the time you are a zombie who can barely function, and yet it provides a sense that you are living live because of the breadth of places it takes you psychologically. As I said earlier to make ourselves into someone the need to overcome challenges is an integral part of this process. Homelessness provides no shortage of challenges that somehow one has to find a way to overcome. It may destroy you, but there’s the sense it is within your control whether it does so or not. It’s important to be reminded in life that are every action and our every response matters. When life is anodyne it can be easy to forget this. In adversity is a reminder of how we possess the ultimate human freedom which comes in how we respond to what happens. The power of this to young, naive minds is made most real when in difficult situations. Homelessness is a great way of getting a measure of this freedom.
Another aspect in the potential within homelessness journey of self-discovery, is that homelessness can make you question who you are. This is useful since a route towards knowing ourself is about making conscious and then questioning ourselves and our prior self-notions. For instance a person who goes to the street may well do so because within one has an internal sense of worthlessness. What better way of making real this self-notion then by being homeless. By being as worthless in societal terms as you can be, you are now in a place where you can face this notion that has become you.
A natural reaction when one sees a homeless person if one doesn’t feel disgust or contempt is to feel pity. Isn’t it sad they’ve fallen into this place? What a waste of a life! Yes, for certain people who end up on the street a certain self-destructive implosion has brought them there. But for such people there is something more than simple self-destruction, there is a noble endeavour to find themselves by taking on a challenge that tests them. They are honouring their life seeking, child’s spirit that wants to know life. The paradox is that in allowing yourself to become homeless you are effectively saying to hell with life, I don’t care about anything. The intensity of this feeling reaffirms the contrary sensation, that in fact you really do care. When we seek out intense experiences we really do care about life. Life is known most fully through the intensity of what we live. Many people who go to the street have a yearning for great adventures and challenges. Rather than pity this spirit should be celebrated.
The problem here is that I am describing something that’s largely unconscious. Because it’s unconscious we blindly stumble into such places. Our ability to properly react, and not be turned insane, is affected. In the time I first became homeless I had some sense of this impulse. Therefore I was able to withstand many difficulties because I understood it was but a choice I had made and it was one I needed to live.
The great danger is in not being aware of our impulse to be challenged and our inner need to know life on the edge, that we become prey to be manipulated by unscrupulous people who care nothing for us or for life, they offer us the panacea of some great purpose we should live. Our destructive, tyrannical part of ourself does this to ourselves as well. How many unconscious young boys, for instance, have been sent to war and slaughtered because of this impulse? And the allure of war never stops enticing, we never seem to learn. However I think its impulse is natural and admirable, one is prepared to risk everything to live a true, life defining challenge. It’s reflective of the yearning need to know life and to prove ourselves, it shows how much in our heart one cares about life. The tragedy of life is that to honour this impulse for so many only ruinous outlets exist for this. Finding our own challenges to consciously live and having outlets to live these, which don’t as war does, inflict senseless devastation on others, should be possible.
Homelessness says many things about society, most obviously about the inequalities that exist. Another, less obvious thing it says about society, of which this piece was about, is my sense that for many young people there are a dearth of meaningful outlets available to them in helping them realise their purpose of becoming someone.