Shout yes at the silver moon

Life doesn’t ask much of us; only that we say yes, especially when we want to say no.

It’s easy to affirm life when things are going our way, when we always get 21 at the blackjack table, win the lottery, our children are on the dean’s list and our grandchildren look like the offspring of Brad and Angelina, with the IQ of Einstein.

But life wants us to say yes when we hit 41 or 61, when we lose what little money we have, when our kids are on the wanted list and the grandchildren look like an experiment gone wrong in a horror movie.

“Security is mostly a superstition,” said Helen Keller. “It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

We have to say yes to menopause, andropause, sagging body parts, wrinkles, aching joints, the kids leaving home, then returning home, to being fired, being retired….

“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death,” wrote French playwright Jean Anouilh.

When we say yes, we don’t have to protect our persona, our stuff, or prove our worth by winning the game, whether tennis, tiddly winks or one-upmanship.

Saying yes opens doors to endless possibilities; yelling no slams that door while we run and hide under the bed.

When we say yes, we develop the rhythm of a tai chi master, or a dancer moving with the flow.

We don’t have to lead the dance, just move with the music and in the midst of the movement, stillness comes to us.

“All the things we do to protect ourselves from suffering is what’s causing the suffering,” wrote Hale Dwoskin, author of The Sedona Method. “Our filters hold in the suffering and keep out the exquisite joy and pleasure that comes from just being with whatever’s happening in the moment.”

When we were young, we said yes with gusto to the endless opportunities, and sampled enthusiastically from the overflowing buffet of wonder.

Life didn’t change, we did.

We always have the choice of how we act. Sometimes the situation is too big for us: a war, a catastrophe, a disaster, but how we respond determines who we become.

Viktor Frankl overcame the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, where his wife and parents died, forgave his captors and shaped a philosophy, logotherapy, from it.

To say no re-inforces a victim mentality and we affirm that status most in our vehement denial that we have that mindset: when we pound our fist on the steering wheel in a traffic jam; when we’re terse with the clerk became we had to wait too long for our coffee, when we adopt a get-them-before-they-get-us philosophy; when we complain.

 “Like everyone else, Canadians love to complain,” Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente wrote a few years ago in her Canada Day column.

“Our taxes are too high and our social services are too low. Our winters are too long and our politicians are pathetic. We have no sense of national unity. Our neighbour to the south has gone temporarily berserk. Gas prices are going through the roof, and global warming is melting the  Arctic ice.

“But where else would we rather be? Canada is the lucky country, blessed with more beauty and abundance than any other place on Earth. We have the spectacular good fortune to dwell in a scenic backwater, far from the crossroads of history — an insignificant suburb, really where nothing ever happens, but the quality of life is great.”

It’s a matter of perspective: Sisyphus, doomed to push a rock up a hill for eternity, can be a symbol of deepest despair or  shining hope. Prometheus, bound to a cliff and sentenced to have his liver ripped out by a vulture every day, a re-affirmation of the value of life in the face of a seemingly unjust fate.

But it is saying yes in a hopeless situation that allows us to find victory and growth and what caused Frankl “to come to the conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, a Toronto writer, has a similar, hard-won, outlook.

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing,” she writes in the prose poem The Invitation, which eventually became a book.

“It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

 “I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon,  ‘Yes.’”

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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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