Carpe Diem

the glass half-full, half-empty debacle

 

The glass may be half full, but it sure as hell ain’t half empty!

Reading the Ben and Rosamund Zander incredible book, the Art of Possibility, I realized recently that this seemingly age-old example, that so clearly divides the pessimists from the optimists, is nothing more than a distraction from the real, meaningful questions.

There is a glass.

It’s half full. 

Why?  I don’t know.

You are asked to decide if the glass that you see, or metaphysically behold within your mind’s grasp, is half full or half empty.

If it is half full you are an optimist, if half empty, you are a dejected pessimist.

But let’s hold on for a moment.

Clearly there is some water in the glass and there is the glass, but how to you behold, measure, evaluate and embrace nothingness?

If you believe the glass to be half empty, you draw a line in the sand, and disappear into futility and absurdity. You place yourself on the side of something that doesn’t exist.

The same holds true for the word nothing.  The word is an illusion because it is a placemat for everything that doesn’t exist. But if it doesn’t exist, then certainly it doesn’t need a placemat, because we never need mention or think about it again.

Welcome to the linguistic cluster stank.

I think we need a better question. A better analogy and a fresh metaphor.

What if we were asked if we would bring a fish finder on our boat, while we angle our way to some Large Mouth Bass or a Muskie?

How would we answer?

If you would bring a fish finder on your boat, you are concerned with catching a big fish. You want to measure your experience.

As a sense of pride, investment, or just because you’re hungry, you will judge and evaluate your day based on what is in your belly or in your fridge.

Catch nothing, and it was a wasted trip. Catch a lot, and you will return over and over again.

If you don’t bring a fish finder, or even leave the boat at home, and simply cast your fishing rod into the lake or river, you are going to measure your experience by something else.

You are probably with someone, or are seeking peace and solitude on your own.

There is nothing to measure and judge.

Being surrounded by nature, being close to the water, enjoying your home-made sandwich, and your thermos tea, gives you validation why it is wonderful to be alive. How great it is to be human.

The same can be said of swimming.

If you are Malcolm Phelps, your goal is to swim the fastest from one end of the pool to another. You chase gold medals. You are satisfied with silver and bronze. You feel dejected if you don’t make the podium.

If you are a competitive swimmer, you judge your day by the strides you have made or lost. You base your happiness on a measureable outcome.

If you put on your board shorts on the other hand and go surfing, or you dawn a polka dot bikini, and head to the ocean for a swim, you involve yourself with something completely different.

There is nothing to accomplish by swimming in the ocean. There is nothing to do. Nothing to find. Nothing to conquer. Nothing to regret and push towards.

It’s just you and the ocean. United at last. Happy and glorious.

So, drink your glass of water because hydration is good for you.

Grab a snack and head to some water.

Stop judging your day, begin to imagine the possibilities!

 


the summit and the climb

 

You cannot get to the summit without the climb, and there is no reason to climb without the summit. Both are important. Both draw their breath from the other. But your life will be only be shaped by submitting to one of them.

Reaching the summit is an achievement. A measurable, bankable, and an undeniably great achievement. Making your climb on the other hand, is long, at times tedious, forgettable and wholeheartedly rests in the realm of possibilities.

No one can fully measure the significance of each your steps, and you will make countless steps along the way. There is no journey and no summit without any one of them. All of them matter.  They are all extremely significant.

We can’t reach the peak without the steps.  Without the ones that made us stumble.  Without the ones, we made in hesitation and later in sorrow.  The ones we were forced to take.  The ones that made us slip and fall, but we cannot forget about the ones that made us skip and jump.  The ones that made us laugh and scream in excitement.

We can’t reach the summit without any of the steps that made us embrace the journey we are on in the first place.

At the closing ceremonies of the third annual Invictus Games, hosted in Toronto recently, Prince Harry made a heartfelt address to the many wounded warriors that sat in front of him.

He told them, and I am paraphrasing, that today they reached the top of the mountain.  They have persevered, overcome, and have reached their glorious summit. They should enjoy the view. They should soak up the feeling of victory and never forget that dreams come true.

He also told them to remember that tomorrow will inevitably come. The extraordinary will once again slide back into ordinary.  Saturday night, will turn to Monday morning. Summer will become Winter.

He told them to make a plan. To decide to be great. To start a business or start a ruckus. He told them that their acts can be simple like calling a friend they haven’t seen in a while, or doing homework with their kids. He told them to support one another. To dream out loud. To work towards the next summit.

I learned much that evening.

I learned the meaning of the old cliché that life is a journey and not a destination.

I heard it so often but I never understood the meaning.

It’s the process.  The journey.  The climb.

So, enjoy all the little, seemingly unconnected moments. Embrace the insignificant little things, and quickly forget your missteps.

You have a choice to make.  You are free to either be infatuated with the mountain peak and spend your life chasing the high of another brilliant performance, or you can fall in love and cherish the friendship of the rigorous climb. 

Quite frankly, we will spend the majority of our lives walking and climbing.  We will spend most of our days, which will quickly turn into years, moving forward, marching towards the next horizon. When we get there, and we will get there, we will see a new horizon. A more glorious sunrise that we could have imagined, and we will once again continue our journey. We will take a new step.

I hope you decide to be a person of the climb and not the summit.  I hope you decide to participate and share your gifts with the rest of us because there is never a good reason why you should hide.

Don’t hide.

Fall in love with the climb. Embrace your bruises and scars. Take a step upward. Climb with confidence. Climb with meaning.

You will get to the peak of the mountain. 

I believe in you.

You will get there and for a moment, you will bask in the glory of it all.  You will feel great, but all of your memories and all of your stories that you will begin to tell, will not be about what you saw, but rather who you were with, what you overcame, and what you had to sacrifice to get there.

Learn from Prince Harry and the Wounded Warriors.

Keep climbing and encourage others along the way.

 


a small fuss about the in between

 

Our experience of living is like water, cupped in palm of our hand.  The more you try in desperation to hold onto it, the more it slips between your fingers.  Luckily, there is plenty more just below your waist.  It will never be the water you once held in your hand, but all you have to do, is dip your hand back in the ocean, and draw out some more.

To be happy, you need to come to terms with the fact that you are not in control. 

Everything is borrowed and transitory.  Short term.  A tent, not a pyramid.

And that’s a good thing. 

I’m not sure how many more heartbreaks, shootings, senseless slaps across the face, disease, or people’s brokenness, numbness, and hatred I can see and hear about.

Thankfully, we are only tiny part of the universe, and thank God, for the infinite majesty of space.  Thank God for the courage not to take ourselves too seriously. 

Thank God for rule number 6.

Our very lives depend on our heart and its health, but we have so very little to do with it.  We owe a debt of gratitude to our parents for giving us a heart, and one day in the distant or not so distant future, that heart will decide to stop.  It will all end.  But in the meantime, you and I are given the task to speed it up, or to slow it down.

I think that is what life is all about.

It’s not about being born.  It’s not about dying.  It’s what you do in between.

It’s about the speeding up and the slowing down. 

Your entire life is a collection of events and memories enthroned with a continuous wave of ups and downs.  Just like a heart monitor, monitoring your pulse and blood pressure. 

Up.  Down.  Up.  Down. 

We are unhappy on either end of the monitor.  We get uncomfortable on the down swing, and we get oh so nervous on the upswing.  We dream of things getting better, and we fear things getting worse.  It seems we love the middle.  We are most comfortable and happy, right in the very middle. 

It doesn’t matter where we are, or how long we have been there; how old we are, how smart, what race, sex, orientation, or religious affiliation. 

It doesn’t seem to matter in the least. 

We all carry with us, the blinding illusion of control.  Of mine and yours.  Of right and wrong.  Of this and that.

We are stubborn and audacious.  We demand much of life, and we speak to her like a servant.  We ask her for things, like a spoiled child, and we demand quick answers.  We stomp our feet, clap our hands, and place unyielding demands on our life.

In truth, it is life that gets to ask us questions.

How do you like the changing of the seasons?  Can you change and adapt?  How do you like the people I have placed in your path?  Can you learn and grow? 

What will you do with an irregular heart beat?  With a monarch butterfly?  The discovery of new planets?  The extinction of another species?  With a disease that strips you of your immune system? 

What will you do with a drunk and violent husband?  A cold uncaring wife?  With beautifully autistic children?  An angry sister in law?  Childish presidents?  And the sudden death of beloved celebrities?

What will you do?

What will you think, when you know you are not in control.

You weren’t here once and you won’t be here, one day.

But you are here right now.

Carpe Diem.

What do you want to do?

When you get cancer, do you want to go for a run across the country?  When you are thrown in prison for twenty-seven years, do you want to become a world leader?  When your wife leaves you, do you still want to remain in a good relationship with the mother of your children?

Stop and listen.

Y our life is not a test.  Don’t believe the false illusion of dwarf minds.

Life is not a test. 

But she asks and demands answers to many questions.

Many magnificent but often painful questions.

It all leads towards something. 

It seems to point in some benevolent direction.

Take courage that you are not in control.

Let go.  Leap forward.

You get to decide.

Decide to be live.  To answer her questions, and be ready and grateful for some more.

 


don't lose heart

 

Don’t lose heart.

Don’t give up, because you just can’t feel forward.

The mistakes or the mess that you find yourself in will feel different in the future.  Some of it you’ll forget.  Some you’ll laugh at.  Some, is probably destined to become a turning point, an opportunity, a real difference.  But right now, right here, while you’re on the verge of tears, remember that you can’t feel any of it in the distant future.  You can’t feel forward. 

You can’t see your triumphs.  You can’t glance at your regrets.  You cannot take comfort in your accomplishments.  You need something real to keep going.

But, don’t lose heart.

Perhaps you need a day to do nothing.  To think about nothing.  To feel nothing.  To accomplish absolutely nothing. 

Nothing.

Sometimes the things we plug into, the work we get involved with, multiply and wrap themselves around us, choking us, like the messy electrical cords hiding beneath our desk.  After some time, it becomes very difficult to distinguish which snake belongs to which head, and so sometimes, it is warranted, just to unplug everything.  To slow down.  To take a series of deep breaths, so the world stops spinning.  To figure out the next few steps.  A moment of clarity before we continue our journey.

So, don’t lose heart.

Perhaps you don’t need to stop, you just need a little pause.  A deep breath.  A moment to meditate on the possibility of everything that you’re doing.  A moment to think back and embrace the meaning of everything you’ve been through.

Take some time and breathe.

But don’t lose heart.

Perhaps you need to make a list that are yet undone, but call to you like a wolf in the darkness. 

You have good intentions, your tank is full of untapped motivation, but you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in the complicated mud of life. 

You feel stuck.  Going nowhere.  Working too hard, with no results. 

Make a plan.  Write it all down.  Be grateful and believe in abundance.  Break it into manageable and countable pieces.  Get up and do them.  Don’t ask why.

And don’t lose heart.

Perhaps you need a little bit of KITA.  A stern and firm kick in the ass. 

You find yourself here despite yourself.  You dream.  You plan.  You execute.  You taste success, but then something happens.  You slow down, for no good reason.  You get distracted by life.  You get derailed by various human tragedies seem to encircle your life.  You get complacent.  You get lazy.  You get tired.  You get disoriented.

So, steady your ass for an generous ass kicking, but whatever you do, don’t lose heart.

Don’t quit.

Don’t give up.

Don’t beat yourself up.

It serves no purpose.  It does very little.  It doesn’t make life any easier.

Life is tough and all those billions of commercials we have heard throughout our lives, that make promises to make things easier for us, are nothing more than a desperate lie. 

Trust yourself.

Love yourself.

Embrace those close to you.

Go make new friends.

Tell your dreams to strangers, so in their eyes you will see them for the very first time.

You’ll get your mojo back. 

You’ll inspire them. 

In turn, they’ll inspire you. 

You’ll inspire each other.

Tell them not to lose heart, and don’t lose heart yourself.

Remember, that the greatest shortcut, is the long road.  The road you decide never to leave until your reach your destination.

 


green grass and gas

 

Sometimes the grass looks a bit lusher and has a somewhat stronger hint of green, but it is always hiding on the other side.

It doesn’t matter where we are, where we go, or where we look; someone else, something else, somewhere else, seems so much better as a place to happen.

This morning I needed some gas. 

The price at the pump at my local gas station, conveniently located right outside the gym, read 115.9 cents per liter.  I have lived here for a very long time now, and I know, without question, I know, that gas prices are always cheaper here.

I looked at the gas light. 

I looked at the price. 

I thought to myself, what if today, what if I’m lucky, what if the price of gas was actually cheaper there than it is here.  I have enough fuel to get there.  I’m going to take a chance.  I am going wait and absorbed in looking at the seductive hint of lusher pastures somewhere else.

As I sit here I can see the gas pump price and its neon glow.  The price of gas is 124.9 cents per liter.  What makes me laugh though, is that, not only will I pay .09 cents more, because I deemed to know better, but because I drove, I actually need a little more gas.  Wasting it, in pursuit of a few cents of savings.

I know better, but I can’t help to laugh at myself.

I am sharing this somewhat insignificant piece of Monday trivia with you, not because I wish to complain about price of fuel, or the refining costs, or the disproportionate taxes attached to every single liter.  My intention is simple. 

You and I look for cheaper gas all the time.

When we want to call our friend on his birthday, we somehow hesitate, or get too busy.  A few days later we can’t call, because we would be embarrassed if he asked why we didn’t call him on his birthday, in the first play.  So, we play a little game, and wait for some time to go by.  We create a bit of distance, so we can save face, so we can finally call.  So, we can finally do what we should have done.  Should have done, when we should have done it.

How dreadfully complicated.

While we wait, we also often forget.  We’re not mean, we’re just a touch weak. 

Life trucks on.  New tasks present themselves.  Life gets complicated and time continues to lose those tiny little grains of sand, which we imagine we can find later.

You may do the same with your art or music.  You sit down to write a song, and by next week you are writing another, and another song.  Pretty soon, all you have, are pieces of melodies and half written ideas, that lead you back to absolutely nowhere. 

That’s what you get when you need gas but seek greener grass.

I can give you countless examples, about writing, about the perfect moment to take your wife or boyfriend on a date, to spend time with your kids, to quit your job, to retire, to see a doctor, to lose weight, to stop eating after midnight, to quit smoking, to quit drinking…

On and on it goes.

We perpetually wait for greener grass.  We get distracted by greener grass.  We spend our time looking and hoping to find a lush green field to rest out mind.

But in the end, we end up lowering our heads, cracking our wallets, and paying a little more.

We end up paying with our lives.

I am about to finish up here, and head to the gas pump.  I will pay extra.  I will consider it a tip.  An investment.  A lesson to look and find those parts of my life that require more work, more digging, and a little less navel gazing.

Do what needs to be done today.

Take comfort in staying the course.

Sometimes the best square of dirt, is the one you don’t move away from.