Thursday, February 12, 2015

Human Being

There is a thin, narrow strip at the center of everything. It runs straight and true from beginning to end. From birth to death. Every now and then, I stumble across it and am reminded. It is the simple part of being human. It is the being part.

Years ago, a popular phrase that focused in our desire to make our lives matter by being as busy as possible was written everywhere: I am a human being, not a human doing. Like every other catchphrase or slogan or mantra I've come across, it is reactionary and only tells part of the story.

We can't stop doing. Not if we want to tell a story or build a road or serve our fellow humans with our hands. Not if we want to actually love someone. That takes a lot of doing. Every workshop I've ever attended teaches this version of the truth: that successful people are willing to do the things that unsuccessful people are not. Lots of esoteric judgement in that notion. It assumes we all agree on what success actually is. Most of the time, in our society, it has to do with income and recognition. We are asked to suspend our disbelief and imagine that the definition of success is universal. Ah, fame and fortune. Worthy goals, right? We hear it sold to us everywhere: money may not make you happy but it buys the paving for the road to happiness. I won't pretend for one second that I don't like the comfort money can buy. But we can't stop there. We can't say comfort is success, because there are way too many comfortable people drinking themselves to death, or numbing out with other addictions that do not serve them well, in order to face life.

Working on our dreams as if our lives depended on it is a well respected way to live, at least in our society. Bigger, better, longer, faster...who doesn't admire the success stories of those who start with little and end up with a lot?

But is that why we are here? There is more to our existence than the pursuit of happiness as defined by success, as defined by winning. At least, for me.  What role our search for meaning will play in our own happiness can't be recommended to us by someone else. Not even by Viktor E Frankl. Not even Aristotle or Descartes or Charlie Brown. Snoopy comes close, but still...

My theory for today is that stopping to examine my path is a necessary part of my happiness. What is the good life, and how do you live it: a question Bob and I have been asking since our days at Holden Village as teenagers. The answer morphs and re-organizes itself as I grow and change. Being open to growth and change is another requirement for me. Another phrase from the 70s "If you don't know where you are going, you will likely end up somewhere else" is not quite right for me, either. It implies we are in control, and already know what is best for us. Having dreams and goals is good and helpful. But pretending that the best intentioned planner will not be broadsided by unforeseen circumstances is not quite honest.

Being grateful for lessons learned by my failures, being grateful for the comforts born of success, being grateful for time to reflect and ask and learn and fall and get back up again- maybe that is my personal definition of success. Time for being in the midst of all the doing. And grateful for being human. A human being. Who gets to do stuff. I have never put an emoticon in my blog, but I'm tempted to stick a happy face on the end. You'll just have to imagine it here:

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