AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a blogpost-ish draft ( i.e. with some photos tossed in to visually liven things up a bit) of the first chapter of a new book, with a working title of Life in a Nutshell. The idea is to create a thought-provoking, on occasion humorous guide to 21st century life. I invite you to take a few moments out of your busy day, pour yourself something appropriate, and have a read. Writing is a lonesome pursuit, one fraught with second-guessing and self-doubt, so any feedback from you would be both appreciated & terrifically useful. Feel free to post your comments here on the RG Morse website, or drop me an email, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may well end up on the book’s Acknowledgements page. Thanks!
You’re going to die
“A small fact: You are going to die….does this worry you?”
— Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
I LAY ON my back, surprised I wasn’t dead.
Strange, yet oh-so-human that we move through this existence giving so little thought to the essentially miraculous fact we’re alive.
This is crazy.
Seriously. We worry about bills. We obsess over our appearance. We burn hours watching cat videos online. But we have to break our backs and be told we’ll never walk again, or fall off a cliff and nearly die before we give half a thought to how ridiculously amazing it is to be able to breathe, to see, to smell, to touch, to feel, or some combination thereof.
At least that’s what did it for me.
It’s remarkable what a 40-foot fall onto a small, rocky ledge perched precipitously 1,000 feet above the deck does for you. One moment I was obsessing about how cold I was in the crack I was climbing. The next I was lying in a mangled, broken heap at my shocked partner’s feet, wondering if I was going to live.
Well, here I am, typing this, so you know the answer to that question. The details of how we managed to get down (Roland in one piece, me in several) aside, I want to tell you what I thought about as I sat there for a over 36 blood-splattered hours, shattered bones jutting out through torn flesh and skin, staring out over the Bow Valley at peaks of the main range of the Rockies, and down at the tiny Tonka Toy cars whooshing along the Trans-Canada Highway between Banff and Lake Louise, their drivers and passengers oblivious to the drama unfolding above them.
Of course I thought about my family and friends. But mainly I thought about life. Life generally, but my own in particular. Turns out this giant, cosmic slap on the side of my head had served to snap me out of the delusional state I had blithely occupied for decades. A not-so-gentle reminder that our time (at least this time around) is a strictly limited, time-sensitive deal. Blink (or fall) and it’s gone. For perhaps the first time ever, with this stark fact staring me in my bloodied face, I had both the time and inclination to consciously examine my existence. To ask the Big Questions that somehow never seem to pop up when we’re on the couch watching the Super Bowl or shopping for a new purse at Target.
The conversation I had with myself on that ledge revolved around a central theme: how I would change, how I would live my life differently if I managed to survive. I resolved I would be braver. More honest and loving. That my life would involve less talk and more action (well, at least as much action). These would be the traits that would mark my path as I wandered through the world, assuming I made it off the ledge. I vowed to become both more passionate and compassionate. I was determined to devour life like a happy kid on a sunny summer Sunday biting into his third slice of ripe watermelon, sweetly sticky juice dribbling down his chin.
Happy. Being happy. That’s what I’d spend the rest of my days striving for, I resolved, if I was lucky enough to survive.
It’s occurred to me since that falling off the cliff saved my life. Or at least it made my life better, in innumerable ways. I find myself pondering that more and more. Whether you live in Delhi or Dublin, Boston or Beijing, you’ve probably noticed a certain malaise that seems to pervade the human condition these days. It’s not easy to be enthusiastic, let alone optimistic in the face of what we seem hell-bent on doing to ourselves, to one another and our planet.
Maybe it’s time everyone took a fall.
I suspect Mina Guli would agree.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
— Nelson Mandela
NO, IT’S MINA Guli.
Back in 1992, when she was 22 years old, someone pushed Mina into a swimming pool. She hit her head, breaking her back. While told she might, if lucky, manage to haltingly walk again, her doctors assured her she’d never run. Up to that point in her life, Mina had been less than athletic. The combination of the psychological impact of her injury, its smoldering embers fanned into a feisty flame by her doctors’ negative news, changed that.
Mina was determined to show them wrong. Through will and determination she turned what at first blush appeared to be a life-altering event of the worst kind into the opposite.
Mina went on to become — of course — a runner. And not just your everyday, garden variety jogger, someone who might occasionally trot her way through a 10-K fun run. She began competing in Ironman triathlons and 250-km self-supporting endurance races. She ran the Marathon Des Sables across the Sahara Desert.
And then something clicked. Just like that vertebrae when she was a young woman. She turned her formidable will and determination toward something even bigger than proving a couple of pessimistic doctors wrong. Alarmed by an ever-deepening global water crisis, she formed a non-profit and set out to focus attention on what is probably the greatest single threat facing humanity. How, you might ask, did she do this? By organizing something called The Seven Deserts Run.
The idea was simple: she would run the equivalent of 40 marathons across seven deserts on all seven continents (yes, including Antarctica)… in seven weeks. I have run one marathon. It took me a week after finishing to be able to stop walking down stairs backwards — every time I tried to walk down normally my mangled quads would protest, and down I’d go. The thought of running 40 in less than 50 days, across some of the most rugged, unforgiving terrain on the planet boggles the imagination. The idea may have been simple. But the execution was anything but.
Sort of like life itself.
Dance like nobody’s watching
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
— e e cummings
THE ODDS ARE you haven’t fallen off a cliff or broken your neck when someone pushed you into a pool lately. So you haven’t experienced the cosmic slap on the side of the head that provides those of us who have, with the perspective and motivation to see life as an opportunity rather than a threat.
If that’s the case, then you’ll have to take my word for it — if your goal is to be happy (and it should be), if you’d like to lead a fuller, more satisfying life, then my first piece of advice for you, straight from the ledge, is this: stop being a chicken shit. Stop being so timid, so tame. Stop living your life as if your prime directive is to avoid making a mistake. Down with the dower, up with the daring. Less cowardice, more courage, that’s the ticket. Guy Clark was right when he sang, “You gotta sing like you don’t need the money, you gotta love like you’ll never get hurt — you gotta dance, dance, dance like nobody’s watchin’ — it’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.”
Obviously not enough people on this peculiar planet are Guy Clark fans. I mean is it just me, or are there fewer brave women and men around these days, ready to stand up to bullies, speak their mind, run 40 marathons in 50 days to raise public awareness of the fact we’re all likely to die of thirst soon, or sing out loud in a public place? Maybe they’re out there (maybe you’re one of them). Perhaps it’s simply that the web, social media, and the 24-hour news cycle have all served to ensure we’re engulfed by endless examples of people behaving badly on a scale and ubiquity impossible in the days of carrier pigeons, telegraph, newspapers, and even television.
You know the sort of thing I’m talking about.
A huge crowd of men mill around in front of the Cologne train station on a New Year’s Eve and proceed to grope, fondle, and otherwise sexually assault dozens of perfectly innocent women with apparent impunity.
A group of paunchy, intellectually challenged, heavily armed middle aged guys and similarly deluded women take over an unmanned ranger station in the middle of the eastern Oregon high desert, claiming they’ve struck a blow for freedom. The local sheriff receives death threats online, posted by geniuses who can’t spell misspelled. The sheriff’s spouse is followed by threatening strangers at night and has her tires slit, forcing her to flee town with the couple’s children. And don’t get me going about the benighted husband-wife team that gunned down 14 innocent people in San Bernardino.
And then there’s ISIS.
Mao once suggested power comes from the barrel of a gun. And power, it would seem, has become the new bravery. That smoke we see curling from the business ends of overheated AR-15s or AK-47s is what now passes for courage. No one is immune from the collective cowardice that hangs like a pall over the planet these days. Politicians whine, lie, and generally refuse to take any responsibility for their actions with depressing regularity. Maniacal leaders enlist children to do their murderous bidding. Used car salesmen are not the only assholes out there. And suicide vests, it turns out, fit under a burka as well as they do a business suit.
These are, of course, examples of highly public cowardly behavior. Big ticket items made possible by all the small, personal, fear-based acts that ultimately allow the depressingly steady stream of bad news that ruins so many of our days to keep on flowing.
It’s interesting how often we’re asked to believe lying politicians are truthful, or zealots who butcher and rape are admirable. Ultimately, confusing cowardice with courage, or power with bravery, is a fatal flaw. Societies or movements based on such confusion eventually fade, destroyed either as a result of internal dissatisfaction or the inevitable backlash when a critical mass of individuals who do know the difference wake up, shake their heads, and act… bravely.
Our challenge is to hasten that process — the sooner a critical mass of us shrug off the universal tendency to take the easy way out, to not rock the boat, to “not get involved,” the mindset that causes most of us to slow down and stare as we drive by an accident scene, but God forbid that we should stop, run over and try to help — the better.
Suck it up, Princess
“I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
— Woody Allen
IT’S STRANGE, IN a way, that courage has disappeared from most people’s moral radar screens. It’s not as if it’s all that difficult to figure out, unlike, for example, learning to fly fish, or doing your own taxes. It’s really quite simple All you have to do is identify whatever it is that frightens you, face up to it, consciously stare it down, and voíla, instant courage.
Simple, like Mina’s marathon brainwave, yes. But easy? Like her runs, no.
The irony is that fear and courage are actually flip sides of the same coin — perhaps that’s part of the problem. Mark Twain once noted, “Courage is resistance to fear – not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say it is brave.”
That’s it in a nutshell. The fact is, we’re all afraid of something — terrorism, losing our job, spiders, the fear of falling off cliffs. Our terror of everything from the bogeyman to change allows travesties ranging from the slaughter of millions to the sly slights we whisper behind the backs of flawed, fallible folks just like us to happen with depressing regularity. Progress — more happiness and contentment, less anger and resentment — happens when we somehow manage to shake off the fears that fetter us, and behave bravely.
As Twain pointed out, if you know no fear, you can show no courage, since courage is simply the facing up to and managing of fear. Which is great news, when you think about it. This means we all have the capacity to be courageous, seeing as how all of us are afraid of something. Fair enough. But, to the extent we’re not behaving courageously right now, what can we do to change things up, to stop leading a fear-based life and start striding toward that braver, happier tomorrow?
Do or die
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
— William Faulkner
LET’S START WITH physical fear. In my experience, physical fear isn’t really that hard to overcome. More often than not we do so out of necessity, because if we don’t, our butts get kicked, one way or another. Since I started this book with a climbing anecdote (well, a falling anecdote, actually), I’ll stick with that theme. On more than one occasion on a climb I’ve made moves and completed routes that scared the shit out of me. The sorts of moves and routes I’d look back on and wonder how the hell I’d managed that.
Were these acts of courage? Probably not, since I really had no choice but to make the move, to suck it up and complete the route. I had little interest in falling (whoops) or remaining stuck. The only way out was up.
True courage boils down to choice – that moment when we either cave in to fear, wet our pants and run for the hills, or face up to whatever scares us – that is the measure of real bravery (or, far too often, the lack thereof).
For example, Lauren Prezioso was lounging on the beach with her husband and young son at Coffs Harbour Creek in New South Wales, Australia one afternoon when she heard a mother’s cries for help — the woman’s two boys were being swept out to sea, they couldn’t swim, and were being pulled beneath the surface by a powerful undertow. Prezioso stood up, alarmed, and watch the scene unfold as she waited for someone to do something.
No one did.
When it became obvious help was not on the way, Prezioso found herself with — wait for it — a choice. She could either remain right there, perfectly safe, on the beach and wait and see what might happen, or she could do something. She chose, quite literally, to dive in.
Even though she was eight months pregnant.
A strong swimmer with lifeguard training, she reached the boys and held their heads above water, one in each arm, as long as she could. It soon dawned on her she would be unable to keep her own head up while towing the two boys to shore. Just as she was about to go under, a passerby on the beach made the same choice she had made, jumped in, swam out, and helped them to shore and safety.
23 days later, Prezioso gave birth to a daughter, Mila.
Lauren Prezioso’s action was clearly brave, not simply because of what she did, but because of the process that led to her action. She thought about it. She consciously considered her options. She hesitated before leaping into the waves — I mean, she was eight months pregnant, for God’s sake. But in she went.
That’s physical courage.
“It is curious — curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.”
— Mark Twain
LEAPING INTO THE pounding surf to save someone is all well and good. But what about internal courage? What about moral courage? What about our ability — or inability — to tackle all those subtle, internal, in-your-head, in-your-gut fears we have to deal with (or ignore) that vex virtually all of us, on a daily basis. Things that scare us that aren’t immediately life-threatening, worries that don’t involve nausea-inducing sheer drops or rip tides and shark-infested waters. Ironically perhaps, it’s our response to these “small fears” that structures much of our lives, that molds us into the sort of person we’ve become. That determines whether the world sees us as bold or bashful. As dominant or a doormat. Joyful or joyless. These are often the toughest things to respond courageously to. There’s no adrenaline rush to help us meet these worries. No sense of duty or honor or obligation to push us to do the extraordinary.
Most of us are woefully ill-equipped to deal courageously with the daily issues that crop up in our lives, any one of which with the potential to ruin an otherwise perfectly acceptable day. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about, those nagging concerns, the ones that prevent us from making “that call,” the ones that cause us to clam up because (sharp intake of breath), we might be wrong.
So we stifle ourselves. We step back from doing the small, brave thing, taking what we assume to be the easy way out, the way that allows us to avoid the uncomfortable, to circumvent the scarey.
Unfortunately, the toll this takes on us is terrible. We trudge around with a knot in our stomachs. Our failure to bite the bullet and do the brave thing chips away at our sense of self-worth and shapes us as surely as the steady blows from a sculptor’s hammer chisels away bits of stone. And the result, in our case, is seldom what you might refer to as great art.” Among other things, it ensures we’ll never know what we might be capable of. It stands between us and greatness, or at the very least, between us and that warm, quietly confident sense we’re in the game, that we’re doing our best, that we’re worthy.
If you never shoot, you’ll never score
“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
SO WHAT THE hell? Why don’t we suck it up more often, face the music, come clean, fess up, and take a swing for the fences?
Because we’re afraid we might sing off-key. Get in trouble. Strike out.
It may not surprise you to hear that most of these fears flow from a sense of inadequacy. And I’m here to tell you our collective, depressing embrace of inadequacy, with all its nasty spin-offs and implications, is a global epidemic at least as dangerous to the fate of our planet as global warming or bad country music.
Why an epidemic? I’m sure there are all kinds of fancy psychological explanations, but I chalk it up to a single, simple fact: almost all of us have learned, have become convinced, that we’re not good enough.
We worry we don’t measure up. That most everyone else is smarter, better looking, more charming, wittier, more athletic, and certainly sexier than us. Since we are , then – by self-definition – none of those things, we conveniently, if unhappily, condemn ourselves to living out our lives as victims of circumstance.
This is a certifiably crazy position to take, one that that constantly gets in the way of our happiness. And it’s felt by almost all of us, pretty much all the time.
Seriously. Movie stars who need bodyguards and secret addresses to protect themselves from adoring fans, are convinced they look like orangutans (some of them in fact do look like orangutans, but certainly not all of them. A few of them are at least as attractive as you or me). Acclaimed artists and composers burn canvasses and scores before anyone can see or hear them, convinced they’re utter dreck (all right, some of them may be utter dreck, but hey, have you seen what Warhols are selling for these days?).
Even apparently successful people often consider themselves victims of circumstance. But as you may have noticed, success doesn’t always equate with happiness. Rich or poor, young or old, brave people are never victims. And victims are never brave.
George Bernard Shaw once observed that, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
What if Shaw was right? What if there are no “circumstances” in our lives? What if there are only situations, a few good and bad ones, and many apparently indifferent or “normal” ones, situations we create ourselves, for ourselves, every day we’re alive?
If that’s the case — and I’m going out on a limb here when I tell you it is — then that leads us to one of life’s most important truths, just as surely as the seductive smell of burning trans-fat beckons us to a Burger King takeout window: you can shape, and re-shape, your own life. That’s how you become a person who “gets on in this life,” as Shaw put it. Think of the implications. If we start behaving as if we actually understand we’re in charge of ourselves, that we’re not circumstantial victims, we become our very own personal situation shapers.
Here today, gone… ?
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
— Maria Robinson
I RUN INTO people all the time who don’t get this. People who behave as though what’s happened will continue to happen, that what is will continue to be. People who are “risk averse,” people who want to avoid change. As if change can be avoided!
I live in a tiny village (Kaslo, British Columbia, population 1,023), situated on the shores of a beautiful, fjord-like lake, surrounded by majestic mountains. It’s quaint, friendly, a place I feel lucky to call home, on a planet increasingly prone to endless urbanization, ugliness, pollution, stress, and violence. But it’s also a place where it’s tough, especially for young people, to find a decently-paying job.
I was having a conversation about our community’s economic situation the other day with a neighbour. I bounced an idea off him that would see us hosting small “summits” and conferences here in Kaslo, featuring global thought and action leaders on provocative, interesting topics, events that would bring in folks attracted by the heady combination of compelling content and a spectacular setting.
My neighbour’s hackles immediately rose.
“I like things just the way they are,” he said. “I like this place just the way it is. That’s what pulled me here in the first place. I don’t want a bunch of well-heeled outsiders running around here, changing things. I like this place just as it is.”
Now I’m not sure what, exactly, he was referring to when he said, “just the way it is.” Because no sooner had he said those words, than something had changed. The deer standing behind us ate Chris and Anna’s tulips. Manon and Andy closed the deal on the old knitting shop, hoping to turn it into a new business. A wealthy refugee from Alberta handed over a cheque and purchased a friend’s lovely waterfront home in Mirror Lake. A kid in Grade 12 learned he hadn’t received that scholarship after all. Brad and Dianne split up. Karen’s cancer numbers improved.
Nothing stays the same. Not time. Not space (Einstein was right, as usual). Not our communities. Not our relationships. Not us. Everything changes.
So we really have only one decision to make when we wake up in the morning: am I going to let whatever happens, happen (then most likely bitch and moan about it — like the never-completed, ugly condos in Kaslo Bay, a festering eyesore squatting above one of the most gorgeous pieces of real estate in North America)? Or am I going to make some sort of contribution, no matter how small, to what’s going to happen next? And next. And next.
This is an important question, one each of us needs to answer. It’s especially important for anyone concerned about the world generally. I mean seriously, whining and complaining about depressing political choices or the state of the environment is only a tiny step up from silently stewing. If you really want to make a difference in the world, you have to be willing to make a difference in you, first. If you can’t face up to your own challenges and attempt to deal with them, good luck changing the political landscape or solving global warming.
The trick is to be aware of this. To be conscious of the fact change is absolutely, 100% guaranteed, for you and everyone and everything around you. Your only option is whether you want to be surprised (and usually disappointed) by it, or help massage and shape it. You’re in charge of you. Not your boss. Not your partner. Not your mayor or the Secretary General of the United Nations. You.
A busload of faith
“You need a busload of faith to get by.”
— Lou Reed
SIMPLY PUT, YOU need to learn to have faith in yourself. You can no more get through life without faith than you can drive a Tesla with an uncharged battery. Once you figure this out, that noblest of all the human virtues, courage, will be there for the taking. Which brings me to another very important point. To have the courage to be you, and the ability to live your life courageously, you have to know the difference between believing something to be so, and having the faith that something is so. This, it turns out, is a Very Big Deal.
“Faith,” Deepak Chopra once said, “you’re born with. Belief you learn.” That’s exactly right. Beliefs are nothing more than chronic patterns of thought. Think about it.
We believe we’re losers because our parents or some half-witted bully twice our size in Grade 5 told us so. We believe our colleagues don’t value our opinions, we don’t make decisions because we believe we’ll be wrong, we don’t take actions because we believe we’ll fail. Believe, believe, believe. We’ve learned to think like this. And thoughts of course lead to actions (or inactions). Our belief in our inadequacy leads us to behave accordingly. It becomes a closed loop, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Baaad ju-ju. This definitely makes it tough to live life courageously.
Happily the less-than-spectacular human being this sadly turns us into isn’t really us. We are not what we (usually) believe ourselves to be — never mind what others think of us. Not in our very core, not in the center of our being, and in the end, that’s the part of us that truly counts. We need to replace our reliance on silly, wrong-headed, erroneous, negative beliefs, with something every one of us is equipped with from the moment we draw our first blessed breath:
The difference between belief and faith is startling. Unlike beliefs, we don’t learn faith, it just is. It exists. It’s sitting there inside each of us, usually on idle, waiting for us to put it in gear and take it for a spin. You think faith is for religious fanatics and Toronto Maple Leafs fans, but not for you? Wrong. Even the most cynical and world-weary among us employs some level of faith on a regular basis.
For example, we drive down roads with 4,000-lb. SUVs swishing past us at incredible speeds on a regular basis, separated from certain, grisly death by a few inches and a dotted yellow line. That’s faith in action.
In the end, faith is an admission there is more to life than meets the eye. And that, when it comes to us and the world around us, we are more than we appear. That we are more than our jobs. More than our bank accounts or number of Facebook friends. More than our ability to look good on the dance floor. Everything changes when we consciously begin to replace our beliefs about ourselves and our daily lives with faith.
Beliefs are based on the assumptions of permanence (“the World Trade Center towers are enormous, I believe they will always be there”), or certainty (“of course that’s Donald Trump’s real hair”). Faith, on the other hand, is inextricably intertwined with the notion of uncertainty. We have faith in something, not necessarily because the evidence at our disposal leads us to do so, but in spite of a lack of such evidence.
Ah, but as with pretty much everything in this life, there’s a hitch. Learning to have faith in ourselves presupposes we’re aware of the fact we need to have faith in ourselves. In other words, we have to become conscious of the need for self-faith — and of course for personal bravery — before we can wield it. It’s like the old saying, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” We have to wake up and smell the cosmic coffee, we have to be aware it’s there in the pot before we can drink it.
Most of us don’t live our lives consciously. Instead, we stagger through our days as though we’re in a dream. And not just any dream. I’m talking about the ones that feature us incapable of doing the things we clearly can see need doing. We’re helpless in these dream states to get out of the way of the oncoming train or catch the bus with all our friends on it that’s leaving the station without us. This is how we lead our waking lives as we move through the “real world.” Think about it – we don’t speak up at work because we believe our colleagues think we’re hopeless lightweights. We don’t dare to make decisions, because we believe we’re (highly) likely to be wrong. We don’t act forcefully because we believe we’re almost certain to fail.
So we don’t do or say the things we know need doing or saying.
Just like in our dreams.
Wake it & shake it
“Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”
We need to wake up. I mean really wake up. We need to snap out of it and realize we are in the end nothing more – or less – than pure energy, exactly like every other person, plant, animal, and object around us (yes, including that dog toy surrounded by dust bunnies near the stove). With one very important catch. The wonderful, amazing, blissful thing that sets us apart from the plants, animals (well, actually the jury’s out when it comes to animals — there’s mounting evidence many of them share this ability with homo sapien, but as there are few dolphins likely to read this book anytime soon, I’ll leave this category in place for the time being) and dog toys is that we have been granted the gift of having the ability to be aware or conscious of this. I’m not saying we all are. In fact I’ve already pointed out most of us aren’t. I’m saying we all have the built-in, customized, factory installed capability of being conscious.
We have the ability to realize in a flash of insight that we are part of something larger than ourselves, and it is this “something larger” that gives our lives true meaning.
I’m talking about an internal phenomenon here, a moment when we experience an inner jolt that leaves us feeling suddenly, truly, buzzingly awake. When this happens, the world around us becomes slightly hazy and essentially unreal (note: this is not the same feeling as the one that usually accompanies a fourth shot of cheap tequila at a tourist bar in Cancun during Spring Break). You’ll know it when it happens.
I’m here to tell you, waking up like this is the single most amazing, most life-altering thing that can happen to you.
One small gesture or act at a time is all it takes, until your view of life and your place in it begins to shift — and shift it will. You’ll begin to engage with the world on your terms, not its terms. Because you’ll have begun to understand you have the ability to shape your existence yourself – no more slogging away under the painful illusion that it’s the world that forms and folds and moulds you.
Follow the leader… (you)
“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
THIS IS A profound insight. It takes some getting used to, and more than a little courage to embrace. In the face of the continual negative onslaught thrown at us every day — the avalanche of nonsense that would have us believe it’s not just important, it’s absolutely vital we fall into line, that we square our shoulders and march to the same beat as everyone around us — the constant reminders we don’t measure up, we don’t cut it, that we’re better off hunkering down and shutting up — it’s not something that’s especially easy to embrace.
This matters when it comes to courage. It matters because most of us have learned, over the years, to be cowards. We’ve come to believe we are incapable of living bravely. So we don’t. Ah, but the the Rolling Stones got it right when they sang, “yesterday don’t matter, when it’s gone.” When it comes to courage, it’s what’s now, it’s what’s next that counts.
As soon as you’re prepared to behave as you, not as a learned version of you based on past experiences or current situations; not according to someone else’s vision of who you are; certainly not your perception of what others think of you — everything changes. Now you’re able to go after and find the real, authentic, 100% you-you. And then act accordingly. Bravely. Courageously. Because you have faith in you. And when you have faith in you, in yourself, you have faith in the universe.
The kind of faith I’m talking about is the opposite of blind. It’s conscious, it’s full and rich, it’s juicy and tasty, it feels good like you knew it would — when you’re feeling it, it literally does a 360 – from you, out to others, and back to you again. This is true faith, not the blind faith of true believers and religious snake oil salesmen — faith that fails to recognize the spirit within each of us, faith that assumes a gap, a distance between us and the infinite, between us and God or the Universe or Larry or Life Itself, whatever you want to call it, when in reality there is no gap. Whatever it is that links us directly with everything else is already there, inside each of us, just waiting to be allowed to strut its stuff, through us. We are it.
This is where that old saying, “have a little faith in yourself” comes in. In a nutshell this simply means you need to stop looking outside yourself for direction, meaning, and support. You have the 100% guaranteed capacity to provide all that for yourself.
The Mina Gulis and Lauren Preziosos of this world serve to remind us of this. They’ve taken the hit so you don’t have to. You don’t need to survive a near-death experience to understand it takes only a small, soulful nudge to realize you’re in charge of you. To shake your head, smile to yourself, and realize just a bit of bravery can go a very long way toward granting you a richer, more fulfilling life.
I had to fall off a cliff to get the message. All you have to do is pay attention.