“I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbor said, ‘Are you going to help?’ I said, ‘No, Six should be enough.’” – Les Dawson
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel
“A man only becomes wise when he begins to calculate the approximate depth of his ignorance.” - Gian Carlo Menotti
“If it’s true that our species is alone in the universe, then I’d have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little.” – George Carlin
“All generalizations are false, including this one.” – Mark Twain
“Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.” – Douglas Adams
“Our attitude toward life determines life’s attitude towards us.” – John N. Mitchell
“What you perceive, your observations, feelings, interpretations, are all your truth. Your truth is important. Yet it is not The Truth.” – Linda Ellinor
“The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on.” – Chuck
“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”― Franz Kafka
On the surface, ‘nothing lasts forever’ sounds depressing. The saying is often employed with a connotation of hopelessness or lament. It reminds us of the inevitability of loss and pain and of our own mortality. It makes us feel ineffectual, powerless, insignificant. Usually when we hear those three words, it’s about as helpful as ‘life sucks and then you die.’ But that association is a matter of perspective, and therefore, it’s within our control. We can choose differently. We can choose better.
I don’t remember a lot of my childhood prior to age eleven. Most of it’s just a warm, sunny blur. It’s as if the lights in the camera were on, but the film wasn’t running. I call those my ‘pre-sentience’ years, the time before Life shocked me to attention.
In 1999, life dealt me a handful of shitty cards in rapid succession. My parents separated. I’d never even heard the word ‘divorce’ before my Dad told me they were getting one. It was messy, too. My siblings and I got caught up in our parents’ ensuing battle and were divided between them.
My grandfather, the funniest and most high-octane babysitter I’d ever had, became untreatably ill and died. His passing was my first major experience of the reality of death. It felt like the death of fun altogether.
In the midst of all of this, I began my 6th grade year at a new school. I went from being the popular big fish in elementary school back to the bottom rung in junior high. Never before or since had I seen such a drought in friendliness and non-douche-tasticism in my peers. It was a miserable experience and it kept getting worse.
Probably to help me make friends, my body kickstarted the chemical machinery of pubescence, which gifted me with spectacular B.O. and boners pretty much all the time. Looking back, I seemed especially afflicted with them just before a teacher would call me up to the whiteboard. I had to do the tuck-and-shuffle on a near-daily basis.
In short, times was tough and I’s handleds it rough.
One morning, I woke up in dread of going to school. I didn’t want to face the other kids because they treated me like hot garbage. I didn’t want to face the teachers because I couldn’t bring myself to care about the work. My world felt like a whirlwind of chaos in which I had no control, no power over anything. I wanted to hide. So, I tried coming up with a good excuse to stay home. I simulated vomit by pouring Italian dressing and other condiments onto the kitchen floor, then tried to convince my Dad that I was sick. Of course, he wasn’t fooled for a second. Angrily, he made me clean it up, and got me to confess what I was really feeling. And his reply is still to this day of the most helpful pieces of advice I’ve ever been given:
“Nothing lasts forever. All of this pain, it’s temporary. One day, none of it will matter. All you have to do is get through the time and it will pass. Everything’s going to be okay. You don’t have to be afraid. Nothing lasts forever.”
When I heard those words from my father, they didn’t take full effect right away. I only found small comfort because I didn’t yet understand how to take the reins of my own perspective. It wasn’t until some time later that I figured it out, but when I did, I felt as if I’d just grown three feet taller.
I realized that it’s not worthwhile to try controlling everything that happens in my life. It’s not up to me to decide what I get to keep and what I don’t. Nothing lasts forever. Friends can outgrow each other. Lovers separate. Our environments and bodies change. Eventually, people have to die. Great shows like Firefly and Frisky Dingo get cancelled after a cliffhanger ending. And all of that is perfectly okay.
It’s okay because, out of the dissolution of one relationship, the opportunity for a new one is created. The world around us changes and we have to change with it. People die because life is not a guarantee. Life is just a loan. And sooner or later, we each must pay the Creditor what we owe. We must spend our loan well, stretch every penny of it, so that when the time comes to settle our arrears, we can look back on our time with satisfaction and gratitude.
Civilizations rise and fall, allowing new ones to flourish in their place. Frisky Dingo gets cancelled and the creators move on to bring us Archer. Stars go supernova and eject the material necessary to form planets, to create life. This is the way of nature. Beginning and end are synonymous with each other. An end is never truly an end. What we perceive as an end is just an actualization transforming back into a potential. It is the circle beginning anew.
Accept that none of us truly owns anything. Not our property, our relationships, living conditions, or even our lives. At best, we just rent these things for a short while. And that’s a good thing. It’s humbling. We humans need to be reminded that we are not as central as our Egos tell us we are. Maybe if we are humbled enough, we will appreciate our lives and each other a little more and really put this time to better use.
Sometimes, life just hurts. That’s perfectly natural and totally necessary for our growth. Life rarely happens on our own terms, because Life is much bigger than us, and we need to know that in order to become stronger, wiser, better people. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we do have power over what it means and how we’re changed by it. And that, in a way, is controlling what happens.
Enjoy what life is available to you, and appreciate the people with whom you have to share it. Your life is just a loan. It is never guaranteed. Nothing lasts forever. All things in existence obey the same majestic cycle of beginning, end, and back again. What an incredible honor it is to be a part of it at all.
Birth is the exiting from one phase of gestation and entering into another. Our lives are comprised of stages of development, and all of our experience is simply preparation for the next level. I do not believe this process stops at death. Death is just the next level.
I suspect that the beginning of physical life occurs in the precise way it does to be a mirrored image of the end, and what we can expect to come after.
Imagine yourself as a child experiencing the womb and birth. You live and grow in a warm, cozy world with no real knowledge of anything beyond it. Once in a while you might hear a muffled voice, indistinct, soothing, ethereal. It’s a voice from the next world. It’s the voice of your host, your creator. Then a day comes when you have to leave this soft, lovely, safe place for one that is completely alien to you. This new world is cold, bright, and airy, the opposite of everything you know. The transition is a total shock, but no matter what, you cannot go back.
But then, you hear the voice of her. That part of your last world is still with you, only now it’s no longer ethereal. Indeed, it is the only thing that is real or recognizable. You are with your host God. And eventually, you will learn to be like her, grow to be a creator yourself. But you’re not ready for that yet. You’ve been cramped into a small body for a while and need to stretch yourself out first.
What if this world you and I are experiencing right now is just the next womb? Our senses are so limited here. We are not able to perceive the whole of reality. We know that. We can hear the muffled voices, hints of a world beyond this one, the light at the end of the tunnel.
So just maybe, when you die, you get to see God smiling, crying with relief at the sight of you. It just might be the purest, most absolute love you will have ever known.
There’s a lot of fear going around these days. It’s no wonder. Most of what we see on the news is frightening: war, poverty, crime, disease, corruption, natural disasters, terrorism, etc. It’s gotten to the point where a lot of us are very easily terrified of each other. We just want to lock the doors and stay inside where it’s safe. We’re encouraged to feel separate, alone, and many of us take to the feeling well.
How then can we work together? This is our world, these things are our problems, and we need to make it better. The truth is we can’t work together. Not all of us. Not yet. We’re too concerned for ourselves right now. Too easily do we accept false security in exchange for our freedom. I say ‘false’ because, in the words of Christopher Moore, “to be safe is to be afraid,” and individuals cannot truly be free in a climate of fear.
It doesn’t help our case that we’re also encouraged to morally judge one another. This behavior is both extremely popular and utterly fruitless. We like to think that the behavior of others shapes our social environment, and while this is true, we neglect to consider how our environment shapes them. The darkest minds in our world are the results of adaptation more than they are of their own choices. What they learned as children makes them who they are more than anything else. The causes and effects that make our world so scary aren’t linear. They are cyclical, beginning and ending at the same point.
Take our justice system for example, which is clearly inadequate. Our economy is failing and we spend billions of dollars keeping offenders, both violent and not, locked up. Prisons all over the country are packed and more are always being built. That costs us even more money. Crime is often a result of poverty or greed, so how is this massive drain on the economy supposed to solve the problem? Going to prison is not even a guaranteed effective means of rehabilitation. If a bad social environment is what bred a so-called criminal, how is forcing them into a concentrated form of that setting supposed to better their behavior? While the justice system is by no means a total failure, in many ways it perpetuates the very thing it’s designed to discourage.
In this way, imprisonment can never bring an end to crime in the world, and likewise war will never bring an end to war. Unless, of course, it brings an end to us first.
So, where does the cycle end? If not with the punishment of criminals, how else can we raise a more functional, cohesive community? Being terrified of each other certainly won’t do us any good, so the first step toward solving the problem must be creating a more positive perspective. It’s a simple fix because the cause and effect of how we feel about our world are synonymous. If we can’t rely on our environment to change the way we feel, all we have to do is just change our feelings anyway.
Choosing a more positive perspective regardless of the circumstances around us changes the way we behave toward the others we encounter. Our behavior has a direct impact on their experience of the world, which affects their perception and behavior, which in turn affects our social environment as a whole. If we change our attitude, by natural consequence our environment will change to reflect it.
No matter how ugly the world seems, we must never lose our confidence in each other. Otherwise our fear of being disappointed will only guarantee that outcome. If you have reservations of faith, forget them. A reservation of faith denies faith by default, because faith requires no proof. However, for those of us who do not subscribe to faith and do require concrete reassurance, I might be able to help. I’m going to tell you why the existence of parents prove the good nature of humankind.
When we think of a parent in the most general terms, we think of someone who helps produce and raise a child into an adult. But the idea goes much deeper than that. When children are born they are weak, vulnerable creatures, utterly incapable of meeting their own basic needs. The Parent gives of themselves to compensate for those inadequacies. They strengthen the weak, protect the vulnerable and empower the powerless.
Now, I’m not saying that this is what all parents do for their children. The state of our world makes it clear that this is not the case. There are many, many people in the world who are abusive or unavailable to their children, physically, emotionally or both. And those children are forced to grow in an unhealthy social environment most likely because their parents were as well. The cause and effect are cyclical, one and the same. Instead, what I’m describing is the most fundamental quality of the Parent: compassion.
The drive to alleviate the suffering of other people, to elevate their states of being, is the reason why we have a society to begin with. Compassion is not merely a moral attribute, but a survival instinct. Without it, our species wouldn’t exist today. If we weren’t meant and able to care for each other, we simply wouldn’t be here.
Written somewhere within all of us is the instinctive desire to care for the people who really need it. We may be taught to fight. We may be conditioned to hate and fear each other. But this is not our true nature. The parental inscription exists no matter how much the sediment of experience may obscure it. And no matter how frightening the world may seem today, or worse it may become tomorrow, some day we will remember that every one of us can be a Parent to the rest.
For another good reason to believe in people, click here.
We can never truly know other people, only ourselves. Everything we feel like we know is based solely on our perception, which is very limited. We can meet other people, talk, and experience time together, but the feeling of truly knowing another person is an overgeneralization. The investment, the confidence that we’ve got them “figured out” doesn’t come from true knowledge. It comes from the idea about them that we create.
This is true for all relationships, whether fleeting, prolonged, positive or unsavory, and it is essential to who we are because we’re changed in some way by each one. Our feelings about other people and how we choose to act on them is the force that shapes how well our society operates.
The two people of a relationship are like the two sides of a coin. But in truth, every coin also has a third. The first side is you. The second is your friend, family member, acquaintance or enemy. They are who sits beside you. The one you can see, hear, touch. Though we may feel we can fully understand them, we are physically and mentally separate creatures and aren’t capable of that. But, our minds compensate for this fact so well we aren’t even aware of it. Through the invention of an invisible third personality, part them and part us, we create a bridge.
This bridge personality is the result of our experience of a person and how we perceive that experience. They are filtered, condensed and incorporated into us as an idea. That idea is what we can know, and each one changes us because we help create it.
Often, our ideas about people seem more important than the actual people themselves. When our expectations are not met, we become disappointed or angry. We create a precedent, a template for future encounters, even with those whom we have never met.
Have you ever met a person with trust issues because of a single or several disappointments in the past? The fear of being let down alone makes it more difficult for them to enjoy relationships to the fullest. So, what is that fear really worth? Individuals who choose to learn a negative lesson like fear or distrust only serve to alienate themselves and impede their own ability to achieve happiness.
So, how can we avoid this impulse? First, we must ask, who is truly responsible for the way we feel? Is it the one sitting beside us, or the idea we created that has truly let us down? We feel hurt by others because we invest too much in certain expectations. Being able to have expectations of others is necessary, but maybe we can set them in a way that allows us to react positively when otherwise we wouldn’t.
Perhaps then we can free ourselves from the fear of disappointment. We can more easily accept each other for our differences, forgive for our flaws and mistakes, and open ourselves to the more positive and nourishing lessons our relationships can offer us. Isn’t that why we all have each other in the first place, to help us grow?
We may never be able to truly know the person beside us, but through a healthier maintenance of the ideas that bridge us together, our connections can make us better and happier than we ever could achieve alone. Our experiences of each other, and how we choose to perceive them, have the power to change who we are and the way we treat people in general. This affects the experiences and perceptions of everyone else, changing them as well. In this regard, we all help create each other. And, if you love yourself and love life, in a way you can thank everyone you have ever known for the help.
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