Life is a river, well hell, life is an awful lot of things. But as y’all know from my previous posts life is more than that, life is everything we choose to make it.
On a smaller scale life is a series of failures and successes. It’s learning, changing, and suffering. My PCVL -Peace Corps Volunteer Leader- (she’s returned home now) was well known for a very poignant quote. She said, “Embrace the suffering, because when it’s over it’s over.” Life it turns out, comes back to that tired old saying. It’s about the journey, the experience… The suffering is what makes the good times so good. That inherent duality discussed by philosophers in ancient times – Plato in his Symposium, Ovid in his Metamorphosis – and in present day. The black brings forth the white, the dark calls out the light. The fear of death summons us to action to live and enjoy. Carpe diem – Seize the day. Or, as Marcus Aurelius interpreted it, “It’s up to you.”
So if our lives are ours to control, if we work to master ourselves, if we try our whole lives to better understand our world and the events we witness, if we adapt and change constantly with every moment, if we relish the suffering for the lessons it teaches us and embrace the wonderful moments for their joy and bliss … what’s with this roller coaster business? Shouldn’t we be in a constant state of bliss knowing that every minute is a cherished moment of learning, adaptation, and life? That every breath is a breath we might not have tomorrow?
That would be awful nice. But that kind of perspective is what makes wise men wise and allows the elderly to face death unafraid, knowing it’s just the next step after a life of experiences and wonder.
Oh no, getting into some heady thoughts here. I’d better switch to the good old introspective lens. My brain knows these ideas, my heart knows them too. I’ve read and worked hard to teach myself to gain perspective. To attempt to internalize these things and grow. Harder done than said I’m afraid. I have great moments where I apply these ideas, where I listen to myself and reason, using both logic and emotion to find a healthy balance. And like everyone else I have those hard moments where I’m ruled by my emotions, overcome with tragedy, anger or despair. Aren’t we all? Darn. Back to that silly roller coaster idea. One hell of a ride
I guess what I’m getting at is this. We all know a lot of things. We all believe even more. We act on less than both … But that’s all right! That’s what makes our lives so cool!
When I fail, and it happens quite a bit, sometimes I get angry, sometimes I feel despair and say to myself, ugh what am I doing this for? … What’s the point? … And sometimes I say, damn, lets do it again until we get it right.
I guess this is the motivational section right? Where I say something life altering and it reminds you of all these things you already know. That’s the cool part! These are things we already know! – we have to take time to listen to ourselves, to process, to think and learn. We have to face our fears, work with it, grow and act. It’s hard. As a man I feel compelled to act. Don’t think! Do! Do Do Do! Now! There’s no time! What a load of fluff. We have our entire lives. That’s a short time, but it’s even shorter if you don’t pay attention to your experiences and repeat them. How much fun is a life spent repeating the same section of track? The same suffering, the same joy, just because there’s ‘no time’ to spend processing, learning and choosing to move on to the next ride?
I guess that’s the best thing I’ve learned from this poly-chronic African culture. You can always find time. It isn’t mono-chronic, you don’t spend time never to get it back. You give time and take time, you convert it into experiences, you learn and explore. If people could survive when it took 6 months for any news to travel across the ocean, they can take 5 minutes to think, clear their mind, process and experience.
Maybe that’s a weird example. I mean sans telephone it still takes about a month for me to get mail lol.
Life is about balance. About finding that sweet spot in the duality, that gray area. About sitting on the fence until your ready to get off it and choose a side, then finding another fence and doin’ it again. Life isn’t just one roller coaster, it’s a whole park full of them, and you’ve got an all-access pass! Time is yours! Take it, bend it to your will and let it bend you back.
It takes a lot of confidence, courage, and gusto to take your time. It’s easy to give in, make a quick choice and replay the same loop. It’s really hard to say no, we can wait. To say, in the face of people’s expectation, that I need to think about this, to take a step back, focus, gain perspective.
I’m not saying I can do it all the time. Hell I’m lucky if I can manage it half the time. But it’s that we try that is most important. That everyday we do it a little bit more, and everyday our lives are a little bit better because we do.