Either everything is a miracle, or nothing is.
In the realm of possibilities and realities, everything that is and everything that happens can be thought of as miraculous, or as just happening because “that’s the way things are”, or “that’s the way the world works.”
But to think of everything as a miracle is to give everything a unique quality, to realize that all that is and all that we have is truly a gift freely given by the creative force of the Universe. That should inspire us to gratitude. Be grateful for miracles, large and small, because they are what compose the world.
It is a mostly cloudy day and a little cool. But am I content at this moment. I was sitting on a bench in the park across the street from my office and looking at the trees, the fountain, the people sitting on other benches and thought, “This is nice, this is fine, things are just the way they should be.” Then it dawned on me. I was content, and I reveled in it. I didn’t think dire thoughts, or really have any thoughts at all. I was just there, existing, being a living, breathing consciousness. The lesson that descended on me was that whatever the world is, it is doing its own thing, spinning, doing, creating and dying, rebuilding, rejuvenating, and that is OK. And I am OK despite pain I may occasionally have, despite worries about money, the future, and the daily roll of life that sometimes throws mud in our faces. It’s good to be one with the world, for perhaps, just perhaps, that’s what contentment is.
Happiness, and the pursuit of it, has plagued us since it became a hot topic, thanks to psychiatrists, self-help gurus, and anyone else who had an idea on what constitutes happiness and to attain it. Recent studies show that the best way to gain happiness is to connect and be with other people. Duh? Try being totally alone for over an hour, with no connection to another human being. How did that feel? If you enjoyed solitude, that’s fine. If you felt lonely, then sad, then any number of feelings in that downward spiral, welcome to the opposite of happiness. When you are with another person, or a group of people, and are actively engaged witih them, how do you feel then? As the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” Poor Jean-Paul. It may be he had lousy friends and every stranger he met was waste from the Creation. To be with other people is why we are here. And that brings us to what I call The Happiness List.
Making a list of what has made you happy in the past, as recently as half an hour ago, is a way to remember and reflect upon past happiness, a bank upon which you can always make perpetual withdrawals and deposits.
Helping my grandfather in his garden – digging potatoes, picking sweet corn, washing off scallions in the rain barrel and tasting their sweetness, seeing row upon row of blooming gladiolus.
Riding my bike down country roads in the summer.
Soft chocolate ice cream in the summer.
Building snow forts.
Petting a cat on my lap and listening to him purr.
Walking in the woods, seeing where paths would take me.
Walking the railroad tracks.
Drinking ice wine.
All the rivers and lakes of the place where I live.
Having a house to live in.
Having friends I care about..
And this is just for starters.
Start your own happiness list, draw on it whenever you feel down. Most importantly, seek out others, smile at strangers, embrace your friends, touch your loved ones every chance you get. Life IS other people.
The greatest gift that has been bestowed on us is the ability to choose, which is at the foundation of the Mountain of Life, our Hill. At the summit of our Hill, is decision, the result of choice. We may think of choice as Free Will. In Biblical terms, this is the gift God gave Adam and Eve, which led to their becoming truly human after eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and being forbidden to eat from the Tree of Life and attain immortality.
It is our ability to choose that makes life so interesting and enjoyable for most of us. Even those of us who suffer from bad feelings ranging all the way to clinical depression make choices, even though we may not believe we do, and believe instead that fate controls our lives.
We all make choices daily. Right now, I have chosen to write these words. Having an infinite variety of choices can be confusing – walk down the cereal aisle of your local supermarket.
What affects our ability to choose? Our biological and psychological makeup, our environment, our family and social networks, our desires, talents and occupations. Let’s look at some of these. Biologically, we have needs that must be met: food, shelter, clothing, to be protected and nurtured. We choose what we eat, where we eat, how we eat. We choose where to live and what we want our environment to contain. We choose what to wear or not wear. We choose whether to to fight or flee; we choose what environments, situations, or people offer us safety, comfort, and the opportunity for growth. There is a plethora of factors in each of these, but I believe in the final analysis, choice involves one important factor: what makes us feel good, safe, and comfortable. However, when we choose what is harmful to us, our psychological makeup and past experiences direct our choices.
So, what is the conclusion here? When confronted with as few as two, or with many options, let us choose what will be of benefit to us, and perhaps to others. What we choose now affects the rest of our lives, and by corollary, the lives of others. Think, analyze, choose and decide wisely.
Destinations make life worthwhile. We are always in motion, even when we are at rest. Our thoughts propel us to action.
First, we think. Then, we act. We think and act with a intent or purpose in mind. We may then think of a destination as akin to a purpose. The word “purpose” can be a bit murky. We like to think that each of us has a purpose, or that our lives or life itself has a singular purpose. Juxtaposing purpose with destination, we can clarify what purpose is. Each thought and action leads to another thought and action, and ultimately these lead to a conclusion, or if you will, a destination.
The title of this post is “Somewhere to Go.” Somewhere is the destination we define. Going somewhere is our purpose. Doing something is the same. Purposes require action and actions require thought. So, whenever you believe you are going nowhere and are stuck, you really are not so. Every thought will propel you forward to some action, even if that action is to rest.
Therefore, take heed of your thoughts, for they will create your actions, and your actions will take you to your destination. Your purpose will come to you as you think and act and will help you reach your destination.
Most of the world’s cultures, and Western culture especially, are linear in nature. That is, their events and activities have distinct beginnings and endings and go from point to point in one direction. The only exceptions to this linear culture are the Trobriand Islanders, who do not accept or use the concept of lineality. Books, as we know them, fit quite well into the concept of linear culture. Books have a two-fold definition: One, as collected knowledge or experiences; second, as the cover or container of that knowledge or experiences. Thus, books are our stories, as much as the hunting stories told around fires of humans from our earliest times. With our advanced technology, the question arises of what books are, are becoming, and should be. Our stories will always want to be told and shared. Technology has expanded access to our stories, and has also expanded the definition of books. Books in electronic format still retain a lineality, in that the stories contained there have a beginning and an end, going in one direction from point to point. Is there a Hill of Books? I say there is. One must follow a trail, either prescribed, or of one’s own making, when traversing the Hill of Books. The Hill of Books exists as the collection of knowledge or experience. So, books are part of the linear culture, and perhaps the reflection of the foundation of it. We will always have books, in one form or another, as long as we have linear culture.
Being able to choose is a wonderful gift. It seems as though humanity has developed choice to the point of over-development. We have a gazillion channels to watch on television, websites too numerous to count that we can peruse, and the cereal aisle in the grocery store rattles my brain. So what do we do when confronted with overwhelming choices? I propose to ratchet down choices down to only two: yes or no, black or white, up or down, in or out. It may take a lot of winnowing out other layers of choices to get down to this basic level, but isn’t an either/or a lot better than an Oriental buffet that goes three days beyond a full stomach?
This is how I envision coming down to choosing between two options: Use what I call the “What Would Happen If” model. It looks like an inverted pyramid. All your possible choices about something are at the top. Your final choice is at the bottom. At each level as you descend the pyramid, one possible choice is discarded. This requires analysis of what the finally discarded choice involves. When I am faced with discarding one choice from many, I ask myself “what would happen if…” (you can fill in the blank). Realize that no choice is too unreasonable or farfetched not to be analyzed and considered. For instance, let’s take that Oriental buffet for our example. If you have chosen your appetizers, main courses, vegetables, drink and dessert, but not been able to decide on your soup, this is where “what would happen if” comes into play. You can stretch this exercise into infinity, but for right now, let’s limit it a bit. For soup, you have three choices: wonton, egg drop, and birds nest. Each soup has its good and bad qualities, and you must evaluate each and then finally decide, or choose. Eventually, birds nest soup is found wanting and is discarded as a choice. Now it becomes difficult because wonton and egg drop seem to be equal to you in their good qualities. But one quality at last will win out and that will probably be the quality that is most important to you. (Gee, this sounds like choosing a girlfriend or wife!) At last, you have reached the bottom of your inverted pyramid of “What Would Happen If…”. You have analyzed and evaluated all your possible choices by asking one question.
As we journey through life, we have to ask ourselves when confronted with a choice, “What would happen if?” And even you choose not to choose, that is a choice in itself. So, be grateful for the great gift of choice. As the poet Edgar Guest said, “You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind.”
In America, it seems fun is spelled F-U-N. If fun is a hill, it is often challenging to climb, occasionally climbers reach the summit, and rarely they stay there for any long period of time. Fun comes from intense enjoyment or mirth. Fun, as a noun, is rooted in deep-seated desires. It seems we crave a magic elixir that will transform us into happy, laughing, smiling beings with no cares or worries. But is fun the final solution? Let’s think about what constitutes fun, and then we can conclude whether it is a worthwhile goal to constantly pursue. Getting drunk or high can be fun. Sex can be fun. Shopping for different kinds of consumer items can be fun. Any activity that heightens your senses can be fun. These activities are usually temporary. So, what is better or yields most positive results that fun? I feel that “enjoying life” is the way to go. To me, enjoyment of life means being fully immersed in the present moment, from simply observing your breath, to shrieking on a roller coaster. If we visualize the word, enjoyment, we may see someone in a relaxed or comfortable state, stretched out, without cares or worries. This may be what we really seek instead of a high, or altered state of awareness that may be characterized as fun. Pleasure and enjoyment can pretty much be a constant if we live in the present moment. And fun can happen with a small “f” without much effort when pleasure and enjoyment become our modus operandi. So, have a life with fun, and have fun with your life.
You’ve probably heard or read the maxim about an irresistible force and an immovable object. I will use this, in part, to describe Motion and The Hill. When you think about it, nothing in the universe is motionless. The Oxford English Dictionary gives motion this general definition: the action or process of moving or being moved, with respect to place or position, or in terms of mathematics, the condition of a body or a mathematical object such as a point, line, etc., when at each successive point in time it occupies a different position or orientation in space. Thus, we can know that atomic particles are always moving. This may be difficult to understand when looking at a large object that seems to occupy a permanent place. But consider how the elements and the object interact: wind, rain, and snow all act upon the object, and are affected by the object. In thinking about The Hill, we have an object that may seem motionless, but really is living and moving. Inside The Hill are parts so small as to be unseen by the naked eye, but they move ever so slightly. As a corollary, consider your own body. Under the layers of your skin, there is movement of bone, muscle and blood. Things do not have to be readily visible to prove that they move. It is an article of belief.
How does this idea of motion fit in with The Hill? We interact with our hills every day. We can simply view them, confront and abandon them, ascend them, be on them, descend them, ignore and avoid them, or go around them.
In practical terms. we awaken, prepare ourselves for the a period of wakefulness, perform tasks, take sustenance, relax, and rest. The Hills, if broken down into gentle rises in the plane of existence, may be simplified into snippets of time. Nothing will seem gargantuan if we reduce The Hills in size. They are still Hills, but not as daunting as they may first appear. In this way, motions are themselves simplified. Our motions, too, can become baby steps instead of giant leaps. Consider a task facing you. It may appear insurmountable, requiring much effort. But if we take one first small step, then another, and another, we are in the process of climbing The Hill. We may not reach the top of The Hill when we intended, but motion is what propels and sustains us until the time we finish our task, or reach our destination on The Hill.
Is our goal to reach the top of The Hill at all? Or is our goal to simply climb to a certain point? That would depend on where on The Hill your goal is located.
In all your motions, simply move in relation to your Hill and when the time is right, you will know you have reached your goal.
The Hill stands still, in a fixed position. Most of us are in some kind of constant motion, or at least some part of us is. For instance, my arms and hands are creating these words, my eyes are checking what I write, my mind is formulating these words. Yet, I am sitting still.
We can be our own hills. Sometimes, it is best to be still and simply be in the present moment, observing something as simple as our own breath.
It is in stillness that we regain our stability and sense of purpose. Purpose will be the subject of another post, so stay tuned. But for now, take a moment or two to be still, visualizing The Hill, visualizing yourself as a hill, unmovable, unshakable, silent amid nature and amid all that has been created by all sentient beings.
When we are still, we are strong.
Ah, the prime organ of life! Our hearts, real and idealized, are full of vitality, passion, purpose, love, and the essence of life itself. But, our hearts are imperfect. They were made to eventually give out, to broken in love, to let us down in myriad ways that are imcomprehensible.
Still, we must follow our hearts, imperfect as they are, because our lives, and all that composes our lives, is imperfect. By following our hearts, I mean that we must listen to our feelings, thoughts, and ideas. If passion begins in the heart, let us follow it, wherever it might lead. If we truly want passion in our lives, we must invest heavily in imperfection, mistakes and failures. Passion is not all success in whatever endeavor you pursue, be it love or that pinnicle of the professional ladder. Passion, rising from and living in our hearts, is full of wrong turns and detours, but eventually reaching a final destination, which may be entirely different that what you thought it would be when you began your journey.
Ignore logic, despise perfection, and follow the passion in your imperfect heart. The heart is a marvelous organ, in either its real or idealistic state. It constantly beats, can survive many challenges to it, and will propel you, and your passions, as long as you live.