Freedom

the futile whimper of I can't

 

I know you can’t.

You must have said it a thousand times, and then you whispered it a thousand more.

You can’t. I get it. I know.

But now what?

Do you feel better?

Does your futile little whimper change anything?

Perhaps.

But you’ll remain the same.

You’ll remain in the same place. The same valley you can’t get out of and you have no choice to face down the same challenges. Your fruitless moan won’t change a single thing.

But you can.

You can change your mind.

Not the circumstances or the challenges you face, but the course of action you take.

You can and you should.

In the Second World War, when Hitler invaded Poland from the West, the battle was over before it began. Sadly, the hope of a reborn Polish nation rested in its allies, but the allies never came.

Left alone, against the grinding power of the Nazi machine, they stood no chance.

There was one battle in particular that early September, that my father and mother were most auspiciously proud of. It was a battle between a platoon of German tanks, and a small garrison of Polish Calvary riders on their horses.

There was only possible way that the battle could end.

Those brave men faced down the German tanks and knew they couldn’t win, but they couldn’t live with I can’t either, so they chose to die.

They fought to their death. A most swift and immediate resolution.

But why did they do it?

And why do you keep telling yourself that you can’t?

They fought because they knew they could never stop fighting for each other. If they surrendered, they would have been captured, become prisoners, and if they were not summarily executed that day, they would have toiled in the German labour camps and died a painful death.

They were not stupid. They knew their odds. They embraced the inevitable outcome, but never once stopped thinking about the story that their children would learn to tell.

This was certainly a slaughter, but it is not written as a defeat.

This was a victory.

A battle that would play itself out, over and over again, in the hearts of many Poles, through brave acts of subversion, sabotage, and culminating itself in the tragic Warsaw Uprising of 1944.

There is was a magnificent spirit in those men on horses.  A beautiful spirit that stems from the words - I can.

Such simple words. So, complicated to say.

I can.

But don’t sweat it. I already know you can’t.

You continue to whine and whimper about your life because you seek certainty. Certainty that you’ll make it. Certainty that it will all be worth it in the end. That’s why you look to the stars, gaze into crystal balls, and read your daily horoscope.

You’re afraid of living and you’re afraid of dying. You’re crippled by fear and overcome with awful nagging anxiety. You embrace and cling to your doubts about yourself, and to the endless stories of your unceasing incompetence, and yet they do not feed your soul.

You are always hungry. You are always left unsatisfied.

But what if you can?

What if you do?

What if your mistakes, your painful doubts can become a sign of hope for others?

I know I can’t change your mind.

I can only prick your consciousness.

Before you take on the world.

Try to ignore your futile whimper.

Embrace change. Get to work.

Believe you can.

 


where are you going?

 

Quo Vadis?

Where are you going?

Or more precisely, where are we going? Where are you taking us

You stand on the shoulders of giants and without your ancestors, you would not be able to inhale or exhale a single breath, or clumsily manage a simple step. You are going for them.

You also belong to a family. An extended family. A family that includes some characters, but all of them share your passion and devotion. You are going for them too.

There are also so many people you have met along the way, but perhaps didn’t make time to notice until now, that have collectively contributed so immeasurably to your life, in so many hidden ways. Unsung heroes and heroines. You are going for them as well.

But where are you going?

I ponder that question daily. I give thanks each morning for being able to take a breath, and quickly count the blessings in my life. What remains is to begin asking what’s next.

What’s next? Where should I go? What should we do?

Why? How? When? Where?

I have learned much from Mr. Zig Ziglar, but one of the most beautiful metaphors I ever heard is the one about being a ship in the harbour.

It takes great effort to sail and the ocean is often a very dangerous place to be.  Navigation is crucial and no picnic either. But any ship anchored in the harbour, does not share a better fate. Inevitably it rusts and serves no ultimate purpose.

You and I must guard each other so we do not resign ourselves into being anchored by a melancholy shore.

Ships were built to sail. You and I were born to see the world.

We have to sail with purpose. We have to live with gusto. We have to tread the waters of our lives with determination and freedom.

But not absolute freedom.

Absolute freedom is a dangerous illusion.

Freedom is not an absence from something. It is a choice to be enslaved by something.

If you bellow the word freedom from the top of the mast, and refuse or seek any direction, you will die alone, somewhere in the undiscovered vastness of the ocean.

The ocean is a vast and often unforgiving, but so is life, if you don’t care to discover or ask where you are going.

For this reason, we need a compass.

This is why we need respect and obey the Northern Star.

In order to get anywhere in life, we must suspend our stubborn, unapologetic notion of doing what we want because we have always done it. We have to choose a new path. A direction of discomfort and trepidation.

We need to pick a new untrodden trail and unequivocally respect our journey. Obey the laws and directions of that journey. Be aware and ready for the impending weather, and adjust accordingly for the unapologetic rotation of the earth.

We need a compass.

A good compass.

We need a Northern Star.

A plan.

A good plan.

Something tangible.

From someone wise.

Only then and only armed with a good compass, can we navigate our very own ocean.

We cannot sail without direction. If we do, we will be left alone to our own frustration and the misery of some wretched company.

If we sail with a compass, we will dock in many unimaginable ports. Learn many things. Exchange ideas with unbelievably gifted people.

We will live a life we could never otherwise have imagined.

A life invisible if you are resigned to stand on the shore or be docked in the harbour.

 


the infinite game

 

Life is not a test.

But we often treat as one. We live our lives like a set of hurdles to overcome or a predetermined set of instructions to follow.

We are always at the ready, to study or to cheat someone or something, in order to achieve better results. We embrace the process of measurement. The feel the need to define, judge and be judged by others. We hate the very idea of infinity and more specifically, not knowing how we measure out against those we’re competing against. 

We want to win.

We want to nothing more than to declare ourselves Champions. Champions of the game of life.  Yet we are always stuck in a self-absorbed, mindless, results driven, data centered life, that all too often, leads to a burden which often consumes and makes us sick.

Life is not a test.

Life is a game.

An infinite game.

If there is a God, or even if there isn’t, all of existence and all the natural laws point to the fact that we were born to take part in everything. To do it with gusto. To live our lives and not merely exist. To become who we know we are meant to be. To be happy.

Such is goal of the infinite game.

A game we have always played, but sometimes forget that we play.

In the infinite game, there are no winners or losers, because the point of the game isn’t to separate the strong from the weak, but to spend some meaningful time together. To celebrate. To relish. To cherish. To find meaning and purpose in our lives.

You might be tired and frustrated this morning, probably because you are playing a finite game.

You’ve decided, on the advice of your guidance counsellor, that you must be someone or have something in order to be worthy, or belong.

You exist in the realm of doing, but you need to shift your energy leap into the universe of being.

The infinite game is pretty simple, although the rules themselves can become quite complex at times. But that doesn’t even matter because mistakes aren’t disastrous roadblocks, like they are in the other contest, they are simply fascinating lessons, to carry with you, in order to sharpen your skill, and become a better player.

Life is a game to be played with friends and strangers alike.

It is an infinite game precisely because it never ends. It can be played anywhere and everywhere. In all seasons, and on all budgets.

When you go to dinner with your dearest friend, for example, you certainly won’t go out, so you can become less hungry, and to continue your noble quest not to die. I think you’ll go out to share a meal together, to experience each other’s company, to laugh, or perhaps to cry, but the meal, the meal itself, is an inconsequential part of the equation.

We are funny creatures.

As finite beings who need to face our own mortality we become quite miserable when we engage in finite tasks and limited adventures. We are only happy, truly happy, when we participate in things that stretch beyond the temporal world. When we enter the real of faith, hope, and love. We are happy, when we don’t know why we are happy.

I encourage you to take a stand and decide which game you are going to play.

I strongly recommend investing more time in an infinite contest. The finite one has too many cranky, bitchy people in it, who are fighting over a very small square of space, while you have the opportunity to walk anywhere and be anything, surrounded by the luscious infinity of space.

Go out and play.

Never stop playing.

Enjoy the rehearsal.

Performance is a finite trap.

 


staying afloat in society's negative sewer system

 

Monday.

A glorious new day. A beautiful new beginning. A new promise. A possibility of a new life.

I won’t lie to you, that I don’t approach my Monday’s with a little bit of pragmatic caution, or my Friday’s with a little bit of hopeful optimism. I admit that I am as susceptible as anyone else, to be negative and pessimistic sewer system I’ve grown up in.

It’s easy.

The whole society is just a big waste disposal system. We are lucky to get to navigate it, and try to stay afloat, for as long as we can.

It’s a terrible world out there, they say.

Every newspaper and every television broadcast pontificates the coming of a terrible winter, inevitable conflict, financial ruin, and the latest thing that will inevitably kill you.

People hate Monday’s, but how can you blame them?

They begin each day by waking up their miserable bodies in alarm and grinding out through their morning, so they can show up for work, and go through the motions of efficiency.

They cope by making little, stinging, sarcastic remarks. By rolling their eyes. By complaining. By bitching and whining. They try to uplift their misery by slinging as much human excrement as they can.

And for what?

I’m not really sure.

We all seem to do it. We’ve all done it. We seem destined to continue to do it.

What a waste of a morning. What a waste of a day. What a waste of a life.

Being negative is easy. You just flow with the stream. You don’t resist. You follow blindly, bob up and down, but be prepared to shoulder the burden of the consequences.

Or you can choose to resist.

You can turn off CNN, and let world leaders handle Donald Trump. You can stop reading the daily papers, and let police officers police the streets, and let the firefighters take care of the accidents.

You can turn off the sports radio stations, and not get angry and wrapped up in the argument if Dion Phanuef is truly overpaid, and earning his keep as a top four defender.

You can turn off your television and stop going through people’s storage lockers, listening to them bitch and moan about the perfect wedding dress. You can stop watching people compete for a million dollars, through treasure hunts, and other, seemingly infinite, asinine activities.

You can choose to eat lunch on your own on occasion. Away from the gossip, the complaining, and the stench of misery and failure.

You can surround yourself with good books. You can devour great motivational or educational podcasts. You can listen to inspirational music.

You can choose to spend time with friends who don’t suck the living life out of you, and are genuinely trying to make a difference. They are trying to live meaningful lives, and don’t mind your meaningful company.

You can do a lot to resist, but the question is, do you really want to?

It won’t be easy. It will not happen in one day. It will take persistence. You will experience moments of loneliness. Periods of misunderstanding.

But it will be worth it.

The choice is yours.

Just remember.

You look pretty silly as you trade away five days of the week, for some illusion and blissful anticipation of the weekend.

In the end. You are at least guilty of some terrible math.

 


life is not fair you said

 

Life is not fair, you said.

You finally stopped talking, for a moment, and you pondered the futility of your situation. You lovingly gazed into my eyes, searching for an answer, but instead you found munificent silence.

Not the, I told you so kind of silence. Nor the, I don’t know what to say, so I will just say nothing at all, kind of silence. In me, you found a compassionate, challenging, kind of silence. The kind that understands the question and sees a way out, but also knows the cost and the unavoidable price for being a human being.

Life is not fair, you said.

I agreed.

Life isn’t fair.

Being black is different than being white. Being Indigenous, at least in North America, is something completely different, all together.

Practicing and sharing your Muslim faith in the United States of America, or expressing your Christian values in Iran, let’s say, will present its own set of challenges, to say the least.

Life is not fair.

Whomever did you believe that told you otherwise?

Nothing will make the reality any easier when your child is born with cerebral palsy, or dies too prematurely. When you can’t have children at all, or find yourself in hell fighting post partem depression.

Life won’t be fair when your husband of thirty-five years, had an affair for thirteen of those seemingly precious years.

Nothing can really help you deal with the destructive reality of your brother’s gambling addiction. Or that your sister is a drunk. Or that you have an inoperable tumour.

Every stage of life, no matter who you are, or where you are, presents its own set of scrapes and struggles. I almost said problems, but they are not really problems.  They are challenges. Life is not something to conquer and overcome.  Life is something to experience and live. The struggle is the fuel. It’s not about doing, it has always been about being.

There is no point gathering wood for your fire, if you have no intention of doing something with the light.

I hope you can see that there is so many things you can do with that glorious light!

Life is not fair, you said.

And you are right.

I answered in my silence.

It is not fair, but it is still worth living.

Viktor Frankl, a beautiful man who survived the hell of Auschwitz, gave us a transformative insight about our last human freedom.

When it is all going wrong. When the pangs of hell are at your door; the attitude you take towards your unavoidable suffering or the things you cannot change, is your last and only hope. It is more powerful than you would care to believe.

It’s not easy.

You cannot measure a person’s pain or the depths of their sacrifice. You cannot count the cost or fully repay the debt you owe to those that helped you along the way. 

Life is not fair, but I believe that is whole point of it all.

Right to the end. Despite of everything. You get to choose how you feel, think, or what you want to do. Your attitude towards the unavoidable reality of your life is yours. It is magnificently placed in your hands. It doesn’t change the truth or intensity of your situation, but it does build your character, and it makes God smile.

No one will be shocked if you give up. No one will blame you if you quit. If the burden of your agony buckles you at the knees.

There is no right or wrong answer. Your life and the decisions that you make are simply beyond all measurement. No one can judgement. Not even you. In fact, there is never a right or wrong time to do anything. There is no magical place. The right advice. Pivotal insight. Maps. Guides. Badges of accomplishments or monuments of greatness.

There is no thing. Nothing. Just you and the universe that is set before you.

You are never out of chances or possibilities.

You control your last human freedom.

Life is not fair, you said.

I agreed and answered in the undeniable silence of your attitude towards the things you cannot change.