Sunday, August 22, 2010
Driving your own bus...
One of my fundamental beliefs in life is “cause and effect”. I believe our lives, circumstances and conditions of the times are all based on “causes and effects” of thoughts and actions passed down in some cases for millenniums. The main difference…and for me a proof of God as a higher power…is the ability of man to reason and change based on that reason. How is it that our species in the chain of the animal kingdom came to have such power and enlightenment compared to the other living creators of this world? Was it all really chance…or is there a source and purpose to everything that happens in time and space? Of course, there are no really simple answers to these questions unless you just choose to accept a simpleton’s outlook on the subject and don’t want to do the hard life’s work of thinking and sorting things out from YOUR perspective and experiences. In my view, a mind is a terrible thing to waste…but many of us do…on a daily basis. I do some days…and abhor it.
What seems to be some of the biggest perplexities for our existence is sorting out “good and bad”, “right and wrong”. Most of the world’s religions and a huge percentage of the world’s literature is focused on explaining and instructing us what “right and wrong” is. I embrace the idea that we should read as much history as possible…as long as it is verifiable…to get instruction on the cause and effect of right and wrong decisions. I don’t think life has to be as complicated as we humans try to make it. I think two plus two equals four now…just as much as it did thousands of years ago. Once a human mind understands those core mathematics I think he is able to deduce logically most any issue or decision needed in his daily life. Of course as life goes on the equations become more complicated. We have many more choices to make…and we start understanding the gravity of our choices.
In some cases people get frozen in fear and intimidation to make decisions for themselves…because they start understanding the gravity of making the wrong ones. And somehow most humans eventually learn to “pass the buck” and not make any decisions for themselves, preferring the “safer” route of letting their families, religions or governments make most of their determinations in life for them. Instead of questioning, doubting or making bold changes, most humans simply fold under the pressure of the majority…living for the “greater good”, whatever that means. These people will never solve the puzzle of life or get where they want to…because their math is faulty and they refuse to go back and analyze or fix where they went wrong in the equation. I personally was not a good math student…but life has revealed to me that you can’t move forward sometimes until you backtrack and take note of where you went wrong…and learn from it.
Now that I have lived over half of a century…which really is insignificant in the light of time and space of this world…I feel I have a small glimpse of cause and effect and its effect on our continual evolution. I have been lucky to be born in a place and time where I was taught and encouraged to read and think. I was encouraged to be adventurous and try new things. Compared to most people, I have probably become an addict to adventure and change. Time will tell whether that was a good or bad thing…but for the moment let’s call it “good”. Even us simpletons (compared to many intellects I have read or observed, I feel like a simpleton) have our, as Gomer Pyle would put it…, ”Shazaam” moments. You know…those moments when a thought or experience totally jolts you into a new awareness or changes your direction in life?
One of those fundamental “Shazaam” moments in my thinking is realizing the freedom we each have to choose that which is “good”. I’m not talking about some “subjective” good, or some innocuous, flighty fantasy or bland utopia. I’m talking about objective cause and effect choices we make every day at most every moment with every person we intersect with. The “power of one” I often write about is that choice to be positive or negative. To be confirming or critical. To notice the beauty or the ugly. To notice difference or commonality.
We have this inverse or maybe even perverse way of thinking where we live for distinction and independence, fame and fortune…and yet most of our thinking and actions are about “fitting in” or “being accepted by others”. We have the need for individuality, yet we also have a craving for acceptance and love from others. I actually see these dichotomies as the “poetry in motion” of life. How do I find the balance of pleasing myself and pleasing others?
I actually think this cause and effect is most evident in parental relationships with your own families. On one hand, you want to have a lot in common…and see shared values…among those you live with. You want your kids to have the same advantages or MORE than you had. You want them to be a “chip off the old block”…yet, you also want to see and support distinction. You want to take pride that your kid or your friend is the BEST at something…yet you also want them to understand or participate in what is meaningful to YOU. I think the hardest thing to do in life is learn to let go and accept difference with those you love the most. Or to accept distance from someone you USED to be very close with. These are the human tragedies that we all grow up experiencing…and reliving constantly through our movies and soap operas. It is this constant conflict between intimacy and loneliness. Desiring to be attached to something or someone…and the next minute wishing you could have some time alone and just focus on YOU. Life is full of these conflicts and choices…some of our choosing and some that simply confront us whether we want them there or not.
As I consider my friends and family who have influence in my life and then try to understand at a higher level the relationship between God and Man…I think there are some interesting parallels to contemplate. Much of my imagination about who I am and what I think comes from those I grew up with in my formative years. I can no more cut that out of “me” than I can cut off some part of my body that I may or may not necessarily appreciate. Even in my limited knowledge of genetics and evolution, it seems obvious to me that cause and effect of where we live, with whom and what activities we choose determine much of our physical and mental makeup. If we eat to access without adequate balancing physical activity, we are going to get fat. If we obsess about any particular person, religion, sport or activity…our identities, minds and conversations are going to have limited breadth or appeal to the broad range of the human race or our own personal growth in understanding. It’s hard to find that balance between “specialization” and “generalization”…but who we are and who we become are all about the decisions we make in that balancing equation.
Wow…how do I sum up all of these thoughts? Basically what I am trying to say here is that the power we have in life to grow and evolve is dependent on our choices. We can choose that which makes us independent or dependent. We can choose to believe what we want to believe…whether it agrees with our human reasoning and those around us…or not. If we see ourselves as simply a “cog in the wheel”, that is probably what we will be. If we see ourselves in the driver’s seat of life, we will probably do the driving. If we are content to ride along…we will just be a passenger…and have no responsibility for where we end up. Not everybody can drive and not everybody can ride…and I am growing to think that is OK. It has to be ok…because that is the way it is based on “cause and effect”. Not everybody has learned to “drive their own bus”.