Recently on my way to prayer, I was reminded that I am here by chance — by luck if you will — and will depart under similar, somewhat bizarre, circumstances. This is the same for all of us, I am sure. A small story: On my route, there is a dual traffic light situated at a major intersection. The first allows the buses to proceed and the second, when illuminated green, the rest of the general traffic. This, rather inattentive, motorcyclist duly waited for the second light to change. He then, inexplicably, strayed into the bus lane.
As he did, an enormous elongated bus screamed through the junction. The rapidly accelerating bus, obviously somewhat behind in his timetable, missed colliding with this individual by “a hair’s’ breath.” (1) Most assuredly his heart took more than a moment to return to its normal pattern. Why did he allow himself to be almost annihilated? I attribute it to a lack of perception. The Internet and the cell phone, to name but a few distractions, have removed our powers of sight – the ability to be cognizant of the bigger world around us.
This would appear to be true: try this experiment. This was suggested to me by a physician friend of mine. Whatever you are doing in your harried day – virtually everyone has a busy and harried day in modern society – stop and gaze at the world around you. Find some particular object to thrust your powers of concentration upon — this can be an ant, a bee, a flower, another person, whatever your heart desires – then, truly focus on their “essence.” What is this entity, either animate or inanimate, all about?
The purpose of this assessment is to see the wider picture, the larger world. You quickly realize that you are just not that important. The universe can, and will, function very well without you. This is a humbling realization. But, more importantly, it puts life into perspective. I can control only the reality that I occupy. I can influence others. My words can soothe the cries of a child. But, it is the infant himself or herself that must stop their wailing.
I can decide whether I want it to be a good day or a bad day. As the poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014) tells us, “This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.” And this is so very, very true. I decide the way I want to see things. This is, however, far easier to say than to practice. This requires effort and more effort. In truth, the more slothful path is the one we mostly find ourselves upon. This is alright, nonetheless. Each and every day can be a new and positive beginning to my life. All change must have a starting point. This commences with my attentiveness. I must train myself to pay attention to my life and how I control it. This is particularly true when I am operating some piece of machinery.
This week, I watched a very troubling documentary (2) on the trial of Adolph Eichmann (1906-1962). He was the Nazi (3) bureaucrat responsible for the transportation of the Jewish people to their deaths during the Third Reich. (4) His defense at his trial was that he was just “following orders.” Now, aside from the fact that he was a very depraved and evil man, I was troubled by the fact that he attempted to evade responsibility for his actions in life. On my deathbed if given the opportunity, I want to note that I have lived or at least tried to live the life that I wanted to live – not all good and not all bad — but, 100% my responsibly. Yes, I am lucky to be alive and to be me. But, what I do with this piece of life is within my purview. The great motivational speaker, Earl Nightingale (5), leaves us with a thought: Control your thoughts. Decide about that which you will think and concentrate upon. You are in charge of your life to the degree you take charge of your thoughts.
A closing thought: We often hear that it is my life and I am in control of it. This is patently not true for the vast amount of human beings: why not? It is because we begin anything new — a relationship, a job, a new activity – with passion, with determination. Over a very short period, the passion “peters out.” What must replace it is routine. This is the promise to myself that I will continue to do it – day in and day out. Hopefully, then, the passion will return and the whole process will repeat itself. To sum up: This week we spoke about how lucky I am to be alive. This, however, comes with a responsibility to develop myself and my life.
To be noted: This from Sydney Smith (6) — We know nothing of tomorrow; our business is to be good and happy today.