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?
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.
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.
I may not be happy with numerous things in the world…but, I am happy with a gazillion other things (like clean water and internet access).
I may have aged a lot in the last few years…but, my face has fewer bumps (because I have a dermatologist who took them off).
I may have a larger waist…but, I have a larger purpose too (because being attractive was never a sustainable project).
I may have fewer admirers…but, I have learned to do the admiring (because, after all these years, I have finally accepted myself, which, by the way, gives me more time to admire others).
Because, it is so important to give myself a broader perspective (on issues both large and small), I have made a pact with myself to always balance the info I allow in my head. If I am fed bad news, I feed myself good news. It’s that simple. It’s not being Pollyanna positive, it’s being productively practical; just opening my eyes a little wider.
I am in charge of the feed.
Thank you Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield for your example: http://www.interestingshit.com/nature/good-news-stories/
The other night I marveled at the almost-full moon. The next morning, it was full…and on the other side of the sky. I was asleep when it all happened. No one asked for my help or my expertise to keep the earth and moon in their orbits.
When I am trapped in my own dramas, it certainly helps to remember this…and that…
- I am a very small puzzle piece in a very big picture
- the only rational explanation for me being here is to learn awe, gratitude, and usefulness
- my stress, angst, jealousy, anger, or bitterness may be utterly ridiculous
- history, science, and astronomy are great perspective enhancers
Some leaders define Vision simply as imagination plus courage. This definition reminds me that any remarkable accomplishment happens because someone had the courage to stand for what could be. And that…
- My imagination has a purpose.
- I have ideas that can make a difference.
- Many brave people before me have tenaciously fought against unbelievable odds for ideas that mattered.
- Their imagination and courage made a difference for me.
If I have imagined anything that can benefit others and if my dream makes me feel alive, chances are…this is what I was born to do.
And, if I want to accomplish anything, I must remember this on the days my efforts appear useless.
“To be angry at people means that one considers their acts to be important. It is imperative to cease to feel that way. The acts of humans cannot be important enough to offset our unchangeable encounter with infinity.” – Carlos Castaneda
Okay, I know these are radical statements, especially for those who suffer unspeakable injustices. Yet, Castaneda’s point warrants consideration in this political climate of hatred and fear, and in our personal lives where certain people drive us mad.
Even if you don’t agree with Castaneda, no one in their right mind can deny…
- it is difficult to take ourselves so seriously when we consider how temporary it all is
- inevitable death puts everything in perspective
- arguing with what is is useless
Save your energy. Be a change agent not a victim.
When I do not focus my intention on self-improvement and contribution, I move into a getting-by-with-the-least-amount-of-pain mode. When I allow my life to become all about survival, or vacations and parties, eating and drinking, comfort and rest, I set myself up for big-time disappointment and frustration. Life often refuses to cooperate with these objectives, throwing stuff at us like sickness, financial struggles, uncooperative people, weather, unplanned events, and…ultimately, death.
Even focusing on accolades and achievements is a dead end if not connected to self-improvement and contribution (see cheating to get ahead, narcissism, or any other type of ends-justifies-the-means rational).
For me, the intent of radical self-improvement and contribution is about valuing every other being no less or no more than I value my self. Waking up every day with this intent changes everything.
When the first thought finds me
Let it be the weight of light
When consciousness comes
Let it be a tiny whisper of surprise
That I have survived the night
Helpless and adrift in those dark hours
And have somehow landed safely
On the sun-soaked shore of another day
When the first thought finds me
Let it not be an anchor of dread
Or a tangled net of worry
Tugging me to the bottom of myself
Away from the light playing purposefully
Above my head
I wrote this poem for a personal reminder to purposely choose a first thought in the morning: a thought that doesn’t call for a sigh or a groan.
When things don’t go right, go left is good advice but I must do it quickly; move to plan B before I have time to fret, fear, or flounder. Otherwise, I will bog down from the weight of all the disappointment and frustration.
Like this morning, when things started to crumble around me, I couldn’t even get a foothold to change my direction in the onslaught of minutia and miscommunication; redoing my work, spending twice as much time and effort with nothing to show for it in the end. So, I just had to stop, quit taking myself so seriously, and trust that who I was in the moment would be more important in the long run than anything I might accomplish.
It was an anxiety-erasing, temper-soothing directional change. Thanks Lemony Snicket.