Our soul is calling us to the barricades to launch a revolution, an inner revolution.
Revolutions change the world. Seven thousand years ago, the Agricultural Revolution overthrew the nomadic way of life and allowed civilization to prosper; 150 years ago, the Industrial Revolution overthrew the agricultural and civilization changed directions again.
There have been a host of others, of course: The Renaissance, the Reformation…. The revolution of physics seems obscure and abstruse even now, but just about everything in modern life flows from quantum mechanics and the Theory of Relativity: TVs, computers, the remote control.
The Sexual Revolution also changed the world, and without it there might never have been Sex and the City, and Desperate Housewives on TV, but fortunately the remote helps there.
Although our inner revolution isn’t an armed struggle, we can take heart from one slogan: workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains. Unlike the Russian serfs, we aren’t enslaved by the czar, the nobility and the custom of centuries.
Our chains are the thought patterns that enslave us in our own misery. Either we don’t see it or we love it too much to change.
In the book Learned Optimism, Martin Seligman, recounts an experiment on dogs that were penned in an enclosure with an electrified floor. No matter how much they howled, prowled and scratched at the walls, they couldn’t get out and they eventually accepted their lot. Later, even when could get out, they didn’t; they sat in the security of their pain.
There is also the story of a young man who could have been in a Tums commercial. He grew up with spicy food and as a result, always had heartburn. He joined the army and soon the bland food allowed his body to heal. When the heartburn stopped, he ran to the infirmary.
“Doc! Doc!” he yelled. “My fire has gone out.”
We become resigned, like the dogs, to our misery or, like the soldier, learn to love it.
We talk about our ill health, getting old, our lousy job and even worse boss, about our children who won’t leave home, and if they do, they never call. The pain is the common bond we have with everyone, whether a friend or someone we meet at ICBC or the dentist’s office.
We talk about the weather, about the snow in March, which provides a nice segue into a conversation about our arthritis. Before you know it, 45 minutes have zipped by and it’s our turn in the dental chair or to have our picture taken for a new licence, which means we’re five years older, and more fuel for our next conversation.
Leonard Cohen sings in Anthem:
The birds they sing at the start of the day
Start again I heard them say
don’t dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.
What would we be like if we hummed along with the primal song Life sings to the butterfly and the buttercup, to everything, even to us:
grow, be all you can be?
What would we be like if we stopped playing songs that are the spiritual equivalent of she-done-me-wrong? Would that help us remember we are Life incarnate? Just as a quantum particle is a product of its field, we are a product of the field of all possibilities.
The field has many names, but the name is irrelevant.
“You are the mirror in which God recognizes itself,” says a Sufi proverb.
Even after our inner revolution, growth means struggle: the butterfly, the chick, the cicada are born of their own efforts. While the metaphor isn’t seamless, it applies to the birth of a human baby. The mother must, no matter how much support and coaching she has, breathe and push on her own.
In our re-genesis, we give birth to ourselves. We are our own parents; we choose how we will grow, who we will become.
“To put it simply, be who you are. Encourage others to be who they are. Be authentic, responsible, and empowered. Empower others to be authentic and responsible.” Paul Ferrini writes in The Ecstatic Moment.
“Don’t lead. Don’t blame. Go alone when you have to. Go hand in hand when others want to join you. Either way, be an equal. See your inherent equality with all beings. That way your gifts will be offered in a way that helps others and you will receive the gifts of others in a way that helps you.”
Oddly enough, no matter how much time we spend fighting for our misery, it’s a fight most are destined to lose. Two University of Chicago studies suggest older people are happier than younger ones — except for baby boomers who are the least happy.
“Life gets better in one’s perception as one ages,” said sociologist Yang Yang, author of one of the studies.
His study found that the odds are happiness improves by five per cent every 10 years.
Ilse Siegler, an 84-year-old widowed, former nurse, said these aren’t her happiest years, but she is content. “Contentment as far as I’m concerned comes with old age because you accept things the way they are. You know that nothing is perfect.”
But in a counter-intuitive sort of way, everything is perfect, because life is the way it is. We might not see it, we might not appreciate it, we might not like it, but when we accept it, life flows and we recognize the perfection.
In an old movie, actor Burgess Meredith, who later played Rocky’s trainer, said something was a miracle, to which his companion said there is no such thing as miracles.
“I know,” Meredith’s character replied with his twisted smile. “That’s what so miraculous.”
It, as always, comes down to a choice — about life and every-day miracles.
We can choose to see the grandeur in a sunset and a traffic jam, or we can choose to ignore the first and complain about the second. But in the end, one will still be beautiful and we will still be in the traffic jam. Nothing changes except our perception.
And that changes everything.
We can get past the regrets about yesterday and ignore the fears about tomorrow and live right now, since it’s all we have. We can choose to remember this Navajo prayer:
“Beauty above me, beauty below me, beauty in front of me, beauty behind me, all around me beauty.”
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.