I was just so overwhelmed this morning, so thankful. It was a beautiful day filled with the iconic and endearing image of brilliant sunshine and singing birds imploring us to be awake and conscious. Being alive is quite an interesting phenomenon if we take the time to reflect, isn’t it? It is both freeing and enslaving: liberating in that in this entire universe with its rocks and planets and bugs and other life forms, I was given me, my consciousness — my life. It is conversely profoundly tyrannizing because I have free will. (1) For this reason, I can experience joy and elation, and yet also ache with pain and suffering – spiritually, philosophically, and physically.
The secret to a successful life, I believe, is to learn how to effectively deal with the vicissitudes that befall all of us. If we don’t, we experience a long and rather horrible existence. It is truly curious that nothing can shelter us from the self – no amount of money or power or fame allows us to escape our innermost demons and fears. The reason that the seemingly rich, famous, and powerful kill themselves — quickly as in suicide, or more slowly with drugs and alcohol – is because they have not or cannot achieve nirvana or a state of peace. It is not an esoteric achievement, however. All can go to this spiritual place. It only requires the will and the effort.
Much like the mistaken belief that great talents like Van Gogh (2) or Dylan Thomas (3) must die in pain and suffering, we want to accept that greatness must come with a great cost. It can, but we also have many examples of great religious figures – the Dalai Lama (4) is called to mind – who have experienced life with joy and abundance; that state is knowable also — but not without an effort and a commitment to understand God and the universe, and to be clear and lucid. We must therefore say to ourselves, “I want to know life – my life,” and go forward to grasp this knowledge.
If we do not, we know the consequences. I recently met a man who came to our public gathering in a “totally altered state.” He was intoxicated with some substance. What was most distressing was the fact that the man was very brilliant, but like all psychologically emasculated conditions, he was not sufficiently cogent to truly enunciate his points. Why do people allow themselves to get into this situation, I asked myself? The short answer is anxiety. What starts off as a mild protection from nervousness and the past eventually ends in the permanent malaise of addiction. (5) It was painful to experience and even more distressing to think that one more gifted human being was on a path to self-destruction. Modern society, perhaps all societies, “take no prisoners” – meaning the society is aggressive and relentless and has little time for the weak and fragile.
Can he be helped? This, unfortunately, is a solitary path. If he wants to ameliorate his life, he can. It all begins with gratitude and the understanding that, in my uniqueness, I have a life mission to be fulfilled. If not, the mind will slowly cloud over. The choice is up to each of us. I believe, for one, that the only real choice is clarity. The great Roman-Greek biographer, Plutarch, (6) leaves us with a thought: All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own.
A closing thought: It is important to appreciate “my piece of life.” After that realization comes the work to educate and mature its mission. We must not shirk from “the beauty of me,” meaning my distinctiveness. This is not an exercise in vanity, it is simply the truth. That said, I remain closed and undeveloped if I do not put some effort into my own evolution. Most people in my observation fail at this task. There are far too many bitter old people for me to believe that most lives are successful in a personal way. This does not have to be the case. But inner strength, like all muscle building, takes endless hours of effort and repetition. It is achievable, nonetheless, to all human beings if they so desire.
(Parts of this essay were first published in 2021)
To sum up: This week we spoke about gratitude and the deep appreciation that each of us must have for life. In this way, we should all grow our life into the beautiful rose that it honestly is.
To be noted: from Mahatma Gandhi (7) — Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.
Just for fun:
This week on your appreciative walk, please ponder the gift that is your life.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: Believe and strive – then all will be presented.