Most of us are not mavericks by nature. We will not be caught sporting purple hair — nattily attired wearing a kilt. This is true for both men and for women, though I feel that ladies are far more adventurous when it comes to sartorial elegance. We like conformity. This extends to our private time, as well. After a few years of personal liberty and exotic travel, we settle into a life of quiet acquiescence and perplexing surrender. The result is an existence filled with regret and bitterness, in many cases. Where does the grumpy-old-man syndrome (1) come from? This does not have to be the case, but it is for most human beings. Why I ask? I attribute this, en masse, to a lack of reflective thought — to a dearth of critical thinking. This seems absurd, however. No one wants to squander their life in a state of perpetual drudgery and, modern-day, economic slavery.
We are often told to “slow down.” This begins from early childhood. Many older individuals — certainly well-intentioned — exhort us to take more time doing a task. We all grow up with the aphorism “Haste makes waste!” (1) But, the question remains, does it? I am not so sure. Can I not be extremely busy and yet still productive? The answer is to remain slow and peaceful in your heart while the world swirls around you in a madcap frenzy.
This world is incessantly harsh with its creative folks. They are increasingly assailed and browbeaten into surrender (getting a job) or, even worse, acquiescing into mediocrity. The artist is becoming irrelevant. The brave few, however, do soldier on. And, our society needs them. At their best, their most sublime, they represent who we are. They are a mirror to our brightest hopes, our greatest dreams and, even, our deepest frustrations. The technology (and its speed) has altered how we see ourselves and how we contemplate art. This creative métier, in my estimation, is about focus and concentration. It allows us to “stand back” and reflect on our place in the cosmos. This is changing, unfortunately. Many would consider a mindless phone screen to be more important than The Starry Night. (1) As world citizens, we must gather our shields and be prepared to sail forth to protect our artistic legacy. If we fail to do so, our future human development – culturally and spiritually – will become bland to a breaking point.
We soon realize that most of life is filled with nonsense between fleeting moments of joy, and I, potentially, control that gibberish. On an intellectual level, we know this is the truth, I am 100% responsible for me: I am totally alone. Not the abandonment of the psyche to the forces that will influence who I am and what I will become, but liberty – pure liberty – to develop the being that I want to be. Sadly, this realization is the first part of my personal travail. Now comes the more difficult effort. I must overcome and tame my givens (1): my birth situation, my race, my personality, my family and friends, my education, my intellect, my financial situation, etc. The list (and excuses) goes on and on. The “launch” into consciousness for most of us, I am sure, is like an Apollo rocket (2) lifting off from Earth. We shake, we pulse, our skin feels like it is alive, and our heart races. Yes, the fear of the total unknown: we are born, we think – we are alive!
But, so what — my little piece of life is insignificant, is it not? It is here that my powers of personal understanding must be nurtured and allowed to blossom. This is the point. The opposite is true. I am not inconsequential: I exist. There is no one like me. There never has been and there never will be. But, and it is a big but, if I do not spend the reflective time to discover my gifts and ponder a path to their uncovering, they remain closed. This is the curse of cognition. “The offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet; that I haven’t understood enough; that I can’t know enough; that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (3)
Welcome to life: you are, however, growing up in a world that is devoid of the values that you need to produce the integrated you. Life is made to look easy, even glib. It is simplified for us in school. Study hard and get good grades. The magical job, loving relationship and financial future will suddenly appear upon its completion. No they won’t. Now you must be willing to take all the aforementioned personal resources and bring them to bear: hard work and more hard work will usually produce results. “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” (4) This is actually quite a wonderful thought. I have no need to feel regrets. They are but lessons along the path of life. The secret is to not repeat them more than twice and to reduce the nonsense by increasing the time spent gathering knowledge as you proceed in life: an education + experience = expertise (wisdom). Albert Einstein (1879-1955) leaves us with a thought: Never regard study as a duty but as an enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later works belong.
A closing thought: To be fair, we hear this story repeated time and time again: just work hard and all will eventually be realized. Life teaches us that this is also not completely true. We are also exposed to the fickleness of life. Someone wins the proverbial lottery while the other dies in pain and squalor. Yes, there is an element of luck associated with life. The major point here is that if you do not fully engage in your life, commit all to it, you will never know the result – most certainly – “Nothing ventured, nothing gained!” (5)
To sum up: This week, we spoke about gaining more focus in life and reducing the amount of wasted time.
To be noted: Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a consuming group of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.
Just for fun: Pianist in tears!
For reflection: Apollo 11 Launch Countdown
This week on your spritely walk, please reflect on your own procrastination: simply reducing the time spent this way will yield fabulous results.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful
Quote: I should be an example of the person I want to be.
You may ask yourself. “How am I actually going to get my message out into the world?” This is a very interesting and clever question. First and foremost, you are going to have to be “just a touch brave.” To paraphrase Osho: “There are no heroes and no cowards: there is only action.” (1) Public speaking is not a natural process for most people. You will become nervous: your palms will perspire and your heart rate will increase. You must accept this as natural. There are many techniques that you can use to calm yourself.