-- Yehuda Amichai
"Good and bad, happy and sad, all thoughts vanish into emptiness, like the imprint of a bird in the sky."
-- The Sadhana of Mahamudra
Words of wisdom are a lot like pissing in the wind. You may get a little blow back, you may nourish a few flowers, but ultimately they don't amount to doodley squat.
That's OK. As long as were not seduced into believing that the words themselves can embody truth. They can't. They can at best point the way towards it. But even though the map is not the territory, it sure as hell helps sometimes to have one!
So, though all these wise thoughts will vanish eventually, that doesn't mean that we can't use them now to help guide our way through life. Many times the remembrance of a particular pithy phrase has saved my bacon when I've been distraught, mislead, or just plain stupid. I hope at least some of these quotations have the same effect upon you.
But on an even deeper level, when we begin to assimilate and live the wisdom we read about, our entire lives change. We may not become richer, more successful or more handsome, but we experience life differently, more completely. And so it's harder to truly become wiser without becoming happier.
Thanks for traveling with me for a short way. No matter where you are now in life, no matter where you may go, may wisdom and happiness permeate your soul!
"I am going to live the rest of my life as if I were a great man... I'm going to concentrate my life on the biggest ideals and ideas I can handle."
-- James Michener
James sounds like a charter member of the As If Club. Club. Motto: Fake It 'Till You Make It! Anyone can join at anytime -- all it takes is a change of attitude.
Most of us, however, spend our lives "playing small," as Marianne Williamson so famously put it. Instead of concentrating on the biggest and grandest parts of life, instead of owning our own greatness, we get by. We live in the shadows of the mountain top of human potential with our brethren who have silently agreed with us not to transcend the normal neurosis that passes for human life. Too bad.
Whether we are as successful as Michener was in the journey he chose to undertake, we really have nothing to lose, except our own limitations. If he had written one hundred books and none of them had become best sellers, he still would have been richer for the experience of having written them.
But your thing may not be writing. No matter. Their are thousands of ways to pursue the major ideas and the cosmic ideals. You must find your own path up the mountain, and it will, most likely, be very different from that of James Michener, or anyone else.
Michener made the above pronouncement at age 40, before he had written a single book. Whatever your age, it is never too late to live as if you were great. It is never too late to focus upon the biggest ideas and ideals you can handle. There is really only one perfect time to do anything -- now.
"Truth is as poor as Job, as barren as the desert sand, and as boring as an old second-hand bookseller.
-- Hjalmar Soderberg
No wonder the truth has so few friends! It's redeeming qualities are hidden, and it's got no voluptuousness or virileness to attract people to it. The truth stands alone.
As well it should. The truth has not entered a popularity contest. The very fact that most people coldly ignore it, is, to paraphrase the Tao Te Ching, a sort of proof that it is indeed the truth!
Seekers of the truth, and to an even larger degree, speakers of the truth, are reviled, laughed at, and even pitied in most cultures. Dreamers philosophers and mystics, are assumed to be effete and less involved in life than your average Joe Six Pack. Nothing could be further from the truth.
To engage life at its deepest levels, the levels where ultimate truth resides, requires a certain spiritual musculature that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look downright wimpy. The truth both requires and elicits strength, even more so because it has no natural sex appeal. Seeing truth is like seeing the incredible beauty in the homely girl at the high school dance rather than merely being dazzled by some Barbiesque bimbo and her silicone sisters.
So, don't expect truth to find truth standing provocatively on the street corner whispering, "Hey philosopher, want a date?" The corner is home to all flash and no substance.
Truth will never seduce you; you must seek it out with both insight and perspicacity. And in your search you'll fall asleep reading, fall in love with illusion, and fall for demigods and drag queens. Just keep on keeping on. Somewhere, hidden in the poverty, bareness, and boredom, truth will indeed be found.
"We are encouraged to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to create impressions that don't last, on people we don't care about."
-- Tim Jackson
It's funny. I posted this quotation as a status update on Facebook, and within minutes three of my friends responded with comments that basically said "not me." Well, I'm glad that my friends are so economically and psychologically enlightened, but I think we've all been guilty of at least some of what Tim points out above.
But to take a step back, he is not pointing fingers at any specific consumer, per se. What he's saying is that retailers, advertisers, and even our national economic policy encourages people to spend beyond their means. And any time you're buying stuff on credit you are literally spending beyond your current means.
The fact that retailers and advertisers encourage this is expected and nearly universally accepted. But the fact that our economic health as a nation is based upon people buying crap they don't really need with money they don't really have is a national disgrace. Better for the economy to crash and burn (which it will do eventually in on way or another, anyway) than to continue to prop it up with conspicuous consumption!
Back to my friends. As enlightened as they, and we, like to see ourselves, if we look around our homes (many of which are, in and of themselves, too freakin' big) we'll find all kinds of stuff we don't need. Why we bought it, whether it was to impress others or not, is a question we can sort out with our therapists, but the fact is we are all complicit victims with both Madison avenue and Wall Street.
What to do? Divest! Get rid of all that crap you don't need. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Or get rid of it all and start over. Hopefully with more consciousness and less acquisitiveness.
Then you can invest your time and money in more important things. Like creativity, helping others, caring for the planet, finding joy within and sharing it.
Life is so much more than just consumption. And it's so much more enjoyable when you're not ruled by the marketplace. Move beyond the current economic system and explore the alternatives. In all kinds of unexpected ways, the Universe will thank you.
"My father says I'm a lazy son of a bitch and a disgrace to my heredity, but I don't care because I like him too much."
-- Clement Greenberg
People will judge you. No matter. Though it seems to be part of our nature to be judgmental, you don't have to judge them back. Instead, you can choose to focus upon what is good about them and simply like them regardless of their judgments of you.
It's not always easy to take the high road, but, as has been said many times, it's a lot less crowded! Many people go through life as if their only purpose is to generate opinions and make judgments. In other words, they waste a large portion of their time adding nothing of value to the world. And, even more absurdly, their opinions and judgments actually decrease, rather than increase, their own happiness!
Don't try and change them. It doesn't work. Don't fight fire with fire. Instead us the power of liking. Everybody (yes everybody!) has some stellar qualities. It's up to you, as a "relationship archeologist" to unearth those qualities no matter how hidden and moldy they may be.
Why? Because it's a helluva lot more fun than getting stuck in the judgmental cycle. Liking feels so much better than judging -- just give it a try!
"Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others."
-- Thomas Jefferson
Damn it's fun to criticize other people! And it's not like they don't deserve it. The problem is that no matter how good it makes your ego feel, criticizing others is a total waste of your time. Rarely do people willingly and joyfully accept your criticism, and even less rarely do they actually change as a result of it.
Self-improvement, on the other hand, always pays dividends. No matter what the world does, no matter what other people do, you will more empowered to face the future if you practice self-improvement today.
What does that look like? It may mean going for a run rather than sitting in the coffee shop gossiping, or meditating instead of watching some inane show on TV, or developing a new skill instead of buying more useless crap from China at the mall. Self-improvement is anything that
expands your choices, skills, and consciousness. It is your way to become more fully you.
And others? They're really none of your business. Their shortcomings will never be remedied by your criticism but only through their own efforts at self-improvement. You can encourage them to do so, but don't let your so-called encouragement be merely criticism in drag. Focus upon yourself, and you'll be amazed how other people magically improve as well, whether they actually change or not!