Spouting simple answers has always come natural to me. I am on a remedial path now.
Journalist and self-described, “Industrious Optimist,” Lara Setrakian used this cartoon illustration in her TedTalk about improving the “adult education” that comes from news reporting, away from fear and simplicity toward the wholeness (or integrity) of complex truths.
Following the road less traveled, entering the narrow gate, education of the heart, enlightenment, and truth all depend upon the gravitas of love not dogma; giving the benefit of the doubt and resisting fiery indictments, ethnocentrism, and condemnations long enough to grasp the deep kinship we share with fellow residents at this very temporary, planetary address.
We all must decide. Go with the herd on the easy path, eventually terminating at the cliff, or take the longer, lonelier path and brave the uphill climb?
If you want to find out where everything went wrong
If you want to figure out how all the chaos got started
If you want to discover when the loving stopped
Or the joy vanished
And the easy became hard
If you want to track down the villain in the story
And punish him
Then do it quickly
Track down the fear in your own heart and disown it now
Because it is faster than cancer
And more destructive than the impact and shrapnel from a thousand bombs
It has tutored your ego into malice
And baited your intellect into stupidity
It has sucked your blood until you were the real vampire, the real boogie, the scariest zombie
From the most gruesome nightmare ever dreamed
And it was you all along
You! who gave fear the key
Beware of the illusion on those days when…
- you feel too high or too low
- it seems like you’ve finally got it all together
- everything falls apart
- you feel just a tad superior or inferior
- it seems you never get a break
- you’ve decided life is too much or not challenging enough
You have just bought into the illusion that life is conquerable and understandable, instead of a confounding mystery that defies your explanations. You have been taken to the cleaners by a life that will bring you what you need and not necessarily what you want. You have been duped by the illusion that life is about what you do and have, instead of about what you will learn and become inside.
I was critical of The Thin Place by Kathryn Davis who writes in a difficult-to-follow, stream-of-consciousness style until I realized the book had casually exposed my own pattern of random patchwork thoughts; pin-balling around from topic to topic, past to future, pointless to profound, and noble to profane.
Afterwards, I was easier on Kathryn Davis, but harder on myself; shocked by the sheer absurdity of my…
- Re-runs (experts say that a very large percentage of our thoughts are the same every freakin’ day!)
- Petty gripes
- Overestimating my own understanding
- Limited awareness of others
But, shock precedes improvement, so I am better for the experience.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work I go…shocked into better thinking and a more productive future…thanks to a book that was difficult to read.
Nothing shakes me out of my self-centeredness, ethnocentrism, and poor-me problems more than reading biographies and fiction about the struggles of passionate men and women in other times and places. The first book that called me out on my bull#h*t was Les Miserables. When I read it many years ago, the plights of Jean Valjean, Fantine, and Cosette, representing the real problems of the time period, shook me hardily out of the illusion of my “difficult life.” Other books followed suit: Roots, Tale of Two Cities, A Good Earth, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Man’s Search for Meaning, The Hiding Place, etc. And, more currently, Jungle of Stone, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Endurance, Pillars of the Earth, Outlander, The Glass Castle, Same Kind of Different as Me, and countless others.
I hope you don’t have the same tendency that I have to become a small-minded cry-baby. But if you ever do, I hope you will let a book rescue you.
“The only ‘no’ in my vocabulary begins with k.” My friend, Joann, got this response when she asked for help. I loved it! The person she asked for help, went on to say, “Just let me know what you need.”
Okay, well, I admit it is not a good philosophy for those of us who have a problem setting boundaries, or for those of us who hang out with sociopaths, or, for those of us who are already in trouble with authorities for saying yes too much, but for those of us who tend to say “no” too quickly, or need to learn generosity, what a concept!
Men complain about their female exes, romantic interests, bosses, and co-workers being the b-word, manipulative, or impossible to please. Women complain about men being selfish, self-centered, and shallow.
If we want to stop repeating the madness and find movie-quality soulmates, partners, or heroes, here are the rules:
- Quit assessing people by their outward beauty or body type (when I meet a man whose primary measurement of a woman is how fit, pretty, or built she is, or a woman who obsesses about bald, overweight, or old, I know I am in the presence of the immature and lonely)
- Look at all people the same (don’t measure by what they are or do, $$, or possessions)
- Forgive everyone (bitter people are not attractive)
- Honor your suffering instead of complaining about it (the nicest people in the world are often those who have suffered most)
- Give generously (and forget about getting something back)
I have taken you for granted.
I am surrounded by you everywhere and have forgotten to notice you.
I have used you, haven’t I?
I have used you to complain, to sigh, and to curse
Instead of laugh.
And have ignored the refreshment you give to my one trillion cells.
Without you, I can’t go on living (and that is not a metaphor).
Please don’t leave me.
Give me another chance (or several) to show you the gratitude your deserve.
Right now, I apologize.
I breathe in a breath full of you and promise to thank you more often.
It’s a good place to start.
The early death of love poet John Keats was probably from his misguided medical treatments as much as from Tuberculosis. The tragedy and pain of his death (without significant success at the age of 25) was further complicated by his financial struggles, even though he had a substantial inheritance that could have greatly helped him, but was never made known to him.
Upon his deathbed, he asked that his epitaph be, “Here lies One/Whose Name was writ in water.”
This insight into the absurdity of taking our existence too seriously, his work, and the frustrations of his life and death, too many to recount, often rescue me from despair when I am confronted with senseless injustice or confounded by seemingly random or easily preventable pain and loss.
Life only makes sense in this context. Learning to love.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in fear and nature’s night
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray (what the heck?)
I woke. The dungeon flamed with light
My chains fell off and my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee
These are words to a powerful, ancient song by John Wesley. Many of us can relate to the imprisoned spirit and dungeon parts. But, this morning, I thought for the first time about the very strange “eye diffusing a quickening ray” line and (from personal experience) translated it as…You focused a laser of life-giving power directly upon me and, in a millisecond, I was free…
So, if today I need freedom (miracles, hope, direction, wisdom, forgiveness, power), can it be that the laser of life-giving power might focus on me, one more time?