Oxygen

Mark J. Janssen
4 min readApr 13, 2023

A lot of human behavior these days is pretty silly. It always has been. Reality becomes too difficult to accept. Rather than deal with the facts of life as they are, we look for escapes. We ascribe blame to others for actions taken and not taken. For not creating the alternate reality we desire instead of the one that exists.

We behave childishly. Our selfishness reigns. Emotionally and spiritually immature as we decide to be, we refuse to accept that maybe we don’t need what we don’t have.

We don’t let children have that extra piece of candy right before dinner because it would spoil their appetite. Their bodies require the nutrients in the healthy food more than they need sugar. All too often we behave like a child throwing a tantrum. We don’t want to accept the fact that there are just some things in this life that we need more than the things we want.

We become afraid that if we don’t get our way, we will lose control of our lives. Our lives will spiral out of our control. We are afraid that our lives will not be what we want them to be. We do not want to deal with life as it is. To accept the facts of our lives as they are.

There was a young man who could not accept the chasm that had grown between him and his wife. She was becoming ever more popular on her concert circuit and on the radio. In the midst of getting a divorce, he pulled out his gun and murdered her. I remember her because her life was taken from her so suddenly that she was not prepared to leave this earth. A few days after her death I went to the place where she died. Her soul remained behind on this earth. I sent her through the Tunnel of Light.

Oxygen had literally been taken from her, but she was so caught off guard that she was not ready for the next step in her existence. She was not ready for Home. If ever there is a place overflowing with spiritual oxygen, it is heaven.

Taking into ourselves and acknowledging that life will never be what we think we want is a huge part of spirituality. Dealing with reality is central to mysticism. Accepting the fact that we are not God, that we can’t always maintain ultimate control over everything in our lives, releases us from fear.

Unless we choose fear over freedom.

Long ago someone brilliantly told me that beneath all fear is sadness. I sat on that concept for months. It’s very simple and very true. That can make it painful to hear and even more painful to accept.

Fear becomes our oxygen. Until the day we deal with what is beneath it. The sadness. The knowledge that we have become separated from who we want to be. Who we could be. And from so many people and so much in our lives.

We see other people fill their lungs with oxygen. With life. We breathe in fear and its companions: hatred, sadness, confusion, terror and dread.

Why be happy when we can make ourselves utterly miserable? And try to make everybody around us miserable, too?

Some people find it easier to invite darkness and fear into their souls than to invite in the anarchy of simple contentedness. To be content, to roll with the punches and maybe even find a reason to smile, is good enough for many people. The people willing to take the lemons life gives them and turn them into lemonade.

Then we have to make the decision whether or not to be overwhelmed by this knowledge. Whether or not to make our own lemonade.

I knew a remarkable man when I lived in the South. He had retired there a few years before I arrived. He bought a house near the beach. In his yard grew two key lime trees. Normally they grow further South than South Carolina, but the moderating temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean kept them warm. The man thought nothing of picking the limes and turning them into key lime pie.

He turned tart into sweet.

We can do the same with our lives. We can allow ourselves surprising moments of great clarity. We can decide to breathe. To let the air of love — love of ourselves, love from others — dissipate our sadness. Dissolve our fear. Move our lives into new, unexpected and ever more exciting places.

It’s a horrible thing is to be brought to the line and told to make a choice. To choose between being a slave to our fears and sadness, to be choked off from light, or to breathe the oxygen of being truly alive.

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Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a Catholic Druid, mystic visionary and author who writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online.