By: Nicki Monti
Fight or Flight. In November of 2008, a magnetic forty-six year old black man named Barack Obama was elected President of these United States. Preceding that event, in September another forty-six year old man – a brilliant author named David Foster Wallace (author of “Infinite Jest” among others), hanged himself. Two men, arriving at the same chronological juncture, taking different roads. It’s a wake up call.
Turns out, life is full of these wake ups. They come in whispers, like when your mother asks you to realize she’s not got that many holiday’s left (true or not, she’s calling attention to her fear), and they come in shouts, like when you find out with a rush something you’ve accomplished has hugely impacted others.
Constantly we are tasked to discover our place in the world. Often, this raises levels of anxiety while requiring a renegotiation of usual ways and means. Life begins to be lived on a razor’s edge. It can be fun. It can be frightening.
It’s easy to turn our backs on it all. After all, there’s thrilling daily distraction…trivia that makes sure we avoid the more profound picture.
But like it or not, the tried and true universal questions pursue us. Everyday, in every way life asks: Will you step up the Obama way, or step out the Wallace way?
Expansion or collapse — that is the question? Can you give what you are most certain you can not possibly offer? Will you dig down into the shielded Heart place you seldom visit to find resolve and generosity? How can you proffer Love where most often you proclaim Disdain?
Don’t mistake me. I’m in no way saying Wallace made a “wrong” choice. Not living inside him how would I know? Still, everyday watching people struggle with issues of personal meaning I recognize one predominant over-riding defeating thrust: Fallen into carelessness we imagine being able to craft outcome. This is a mistake. Focus needs to be on this moment, for we can never know how it’s to turn out. Our business is today not tomorrow. Take care of today and tomorrow will take care of itself.
So, who are you when your back is turned? What sustains you in the challenging dark can’t-do-it hours? How can you manifest your best Self?
If we don’t know who and how we are – really know – we are doomed to continue as we have, imagining some outside something is going to fix whatever feels broken in our lives. This leaves us skating on thin ice.
The answer: Stop thinking about what others have done or are doing to you, and focus on how you are being in the world. Because in the final analysis the inch by inch choices we make, the feelings and thoughts we follow, determines our course.
We don’t know yet how history will report President Obama. We do know we shall never read a new Wallace novel. Gains and losses. Losses and gains. Such are all our lives, little and great.
Meanwhile your actions and thoughts actually count. Maybe not so obviously in this instant – maybe not until you’re forty-six or even older – but count they do. Practicing the Art of Life is the point.
Which road in the yellow woods you take, as the man says, does make all the difference.
Summary: Our lives are filled with choices. Most of those choices are actually of little importance. Often however we jam our time and consciousness with worry over those tiny choice moments when what needs instead to happen is focus on the true and sustaining meaning of life itself and our place and purpose in it. Why are we here, what are we going to do with our time howsoever long it is, and what ways can we find to be truly present to the life before us? How to be or how not to be…that is really the question!