The Etymology of ‘Aliveness’

Or — How Can We Consistently Flow and Feel Invaded by The Gods?

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When I think of what it means to feel alive, and I recall the times in my life when I truly felt a sense of burning desire for life, the words that echo in my mind are those of Joseph Campbell: “Follow your bliss”.

To follow our bliss and to stay connected with what we really want is the surest way to achieve this thing we call aliveness.

But what does it really mean “to follow our bliss”? What is “aliveness” really?

Bliss is a word to describe a particular feeling of alignment with ourselves, which we all have experienced at least once in our life, but can’t quite put our finger on it.

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DIFFERENT WORDS FOR THE SAME IDEA

A useful thing to understand its meaning better could be to look back and around and see how the different sages of history described it.

The Confucianist scholar Mencio called it the Tao (the Way): this way of living fully and to follow our bliss.

Jesus preached that heaven is here on earth, and I cannot described the feeling of being aligned and burning with desire for life better than “living in paradise”.

The ancient Romans and Greeks saw it as a spirit, a demonic (but not necessarily evil) figure that possess you:

Socrates called it the daimònion: “Something divine and demonic manifests in me.”

Seneca called it the internal God: “God is near you, is with you, is inside you.”

Marcus Aurelius called it the daìmon: “Don’t stain nor upset the demon that resides in your chest.”

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THE GREEKS ALWAYS NAIL IT

What the Greek philosophers substantially hinted at is that there is some sort of higher sentient being in you. 

This spirit knows what is good for you and you can either go against it and ignore it—and pay the price by becoming anxious and depressed and feeling misaligned—or be obedient to it and get to feel alive, aligned and burning with passion.

I think that this Greek way of conceptualizing things is very useful for us to practice “following our bliss” and to really understand what aliveness is.

This is why I want to propose to you another term that expands on the Greek perspective, to substitute “bliss” in order to better explain it, since taken by itself “bliss” is quite an obscure concept.

Think of it as a different angle from which to tackle the same bodily experience of flow, alignment and aliveness.

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ENTHUSIASM

This term is enthusiasm. 

Follow your enthusiasm.

Here is why.

Enthusiasm comes from the Greek én-theos, which literally means “in God”, and as an adjective, “inspired, full of ardor”. 

So enthusiasm properly indicates being invaded by a divine force or a divine music.

The accomplishment of our spiritual lives should therefore be to live this “being invaded” without becoming possessed and acting like a mad man.

To experience a real communion with the Divine without it becoming an invasion, rather giving birth to a stillness that infuses the air around you with peace, tranquility, that “half smile” and that quiet light which is our real inner beauty.

By following our enthusiasm, by choosing what ignites us and makes us excited and hard everyday, we respect and welcome the gods in us, and we start to flow.

This is what aliveness means, what being aligned with our internal god is. This is our bliss—and what will make us a torch of fire, light and hope during the darkest of times.

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