Hope

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.

 


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!

 


be kind to yourself instead

 

Somewhere between love and hate is the forgotten realm of kindness.  It is an old and noble kingdom that is often ignored and definitely taken for granted.  We often pass it by, on our way to wage war with ourselves or each other. Running back and forth between loving and hating.

So be kind to yourself instead.

Sometimes love is a very tall order, and hatred just comes a little too easy, especially since we are constantly encouraged by the choir of voices on social media, spurring us on.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

We don’t have to dig trenches and embrace either extreme, and fight a battle that will ultimately end with an unavoidable stalemate.  A war that proves nothing, and inflicts much pain and destruction along the way.

So be kind to yourself.

To be honest, I experience loneliness very often. It feels very comfortable after so many years.

When I look around I get a sense from those I meet, that they don’t really see me, or even care to.  They talk at me, they see through me, as though my life didn’t really matter. I only serve a commercial purpose. I am nothing more than a cog in a progressive wheel. I am simply admired for keeping up my end of the bargain, and not being a financial burden on society.

I have a deep unquenchable desire to live my life with great meaning and I try to act with purpose every day. It’s just that the things I care deeply about and the things that trouble me, don’t interest most people. They seem more interested in making money, building a better home, and entertaining a new fashionable affair.

The things I care about trouble deeply, and cycle back to me over and over again.

I want to know for example why it is that we have to die. I want to know who I am and how to live a meaningful life. I want to know how to raise my children to be hopeful people, despite knowing that a day is coming, when I will have to say goodbye, and they will cry, like I did ten years ago. 

I think about my past and all the things that I could have done a little better but I also think of the things I have done well, and feel a sense of joy knowing that I have become who I am.

I try to be kind to myself. 

Kind, because I have done nothing wrong by being born. I am in a struggle like everyone else. I make mistakes like everyone else. I desire to know the mysteries of our existence, like everyone else.

I think we do ourselves a great injustice when loathe and hate ourselves, even a little. We have no right to be our own worst critic. We don’t even have the right to be a mild critic. We have no right to any criticism at all.

Our mandate is to love ourselves, but for right now, I will take a bit of kindness.

Kindness when I fall down and gossip. Kindness when I look at the shape of my body in the mirror and laugh at the futility of change. Kindness when I overeat. Make promises I cannot keep. When I get lazy. Angry. Get judgemental. Proud. Arrogant. Jealous.  Kindness, when ignore those that love me, and run back into the cold arms of loneliness.

We need love.

We need to fight hatred.

But first, we need a little bit of kindness.

 


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.

 


weekend quotable no. 37

 

 “All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be, the blade that was broken,

The crownless again shall be king.”

JRR Tolkien

 

Take heart, especially if you’re down.

Take heart because not all that is gold always glitters.  Not everything that you do may make any sense.  But a good way out is to make an actual decision.  A way out is to actually stick to a plan.  A way out is to get to work, sling that dirt, dig your ditch, and just let go. 

Let go of everything.  Turn away from everything you have done.  Close your eyes on who you think you are and where you think you are going.  Just let go.  Leap forward, and let life reveal the best direction to go.

You may feel like you’re lost, but in truth, there is nowhere you must be.  There is nowhere you must go.  There is nothing you must accomplish.  It is all imagined and you control the thermostat of your dreams. 

Being lost implies knowing how to take the certain path, but most of our happiness comes about in joyfully stumbling along.

You must let go of the world of measurement, and embrace a universe of possibilities.

Embrace what could be.  Imagine what will be.

Your mistakes probably sting a great deal.  Your failures sometimes feel like you’re really broken.  But take comfort in the thought that a fire can be awoken, with some effort, even from seemingly cold, abandoned ashes.  A light can always spring through the shadows. 

Hold on to hope. 

Don’t quit too early. 

Don’t lose heart.

You will once again be crowned a Queen.