Sunday, September 22, 2013

"It Happens."

“Saints are sinners who kept on going.” 

Robert Louis Stevenson

“One may go a long way after one is tired.” 

French Proverb

“You just ran through a big pile of dog ^%#$!”
“It happens.”
“What? ^%#$!???”

Forrest Gump

It happens, doesn’t it? Disaster.  Tragedy.  Pain.  ^%#$!.  The optimist in me would like to believe that things will work out, that people are basically good and that everything is fine.  Sadly, I can’t subscribe to those notions, at least not wholeheartedly.  In The Wisdom of No Escape, Pema Chodron says,
“When the Buddha taught, he didn’t say that we were bad people or that there
was some sin that we had committed—original or otherwise—that made us more ignorant than clear, more harsh than gentle, more closed than open. He taught that there is a kind of innocent misunderstanding that we all share, something that can be turned around, corrected, and seen through, as if we were in a dark room and someone showed us where the light switch was. It isn’t a sin that we are in a dark room. It’s just an innocent situation, but how fortunate that someone shows us where the light switch is.”

            As much as I enjoy her work, I have to disagree with Ms. Chodron on this one.   There is sin in the world.  There is evil, stupidity, laziness, greed and hatred.  And all of it goes beyond an innocent misunderstanding.  Nazism, terrorism, genocide, racism, sexism, child molestation and all kinds of troubles go far beyond innocence.  These things are evil.  And while you or I may not be evil, we have all participated in some wrongdoing at one time or another, or more accurately, many times.  
In addition, through no fault of our own, many of us have been blindsided by the unexpected.  Millions have been affected directly or indirectly by the evils mentioned above.  On top of that there have been economic, personal and health setbacks for most of us.
So what do we do?
What do I do when the unexpected occurs?
I stay the course.
That means two things:
1.     I have a course to stay on.
2.     I stay on it.
First, I need a course to stay on.  I need a Purpose.  I need goals.  I also need objectives and tasks (as Michael Masterson says in The Pledge) in order to reach those goals.  I need a plan and I need to follow through on my plan.    I once wrote, “It’s okay to be without a map, but it’s not okay to be without a destination.”  Recently, I refuted that (  So which is it, map or destination?  Of course, it’s both. 
I have to have a course though.  I have to have a destination.  Too often in life I have gone through my days with not really understanding why.  I would get up, go to work or school, go home and do it all again the next day.  There was no course.  There was no destination, other than a vague one such as, “I need money or I need to graduate.”
Those reasons did not motivate me to find joy or excellence in anything I was doing, and I rarely found either.  With a destination, I often find both.
Sometimes however, the map gets misplaced.  Sometimes I get turned around, slowed down or detoured.  Yet to the best of my ability, I stay the course.  I keep moving forward.  I don’t stop and I try not to go backwards.  If I do go backwards, I start moving forward again as quickly as possible.  Sometimes, due to setbacks or misfortune, I am required to find a different route to reach my goal.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.  I still need to stay the course.  Here are some things that have discouraged me from staying the course:
·      Illness
·      The loss of friendships
·      Being judged by people who don’t know me
·      Financial troubles
·       Job troubles
·      Relationship troubles
·      Fear
·      Self-pity

There are probably others too, but these are examples of things that have discouraged me so much that I didn’t want to go on with my purpose.  But I have to go on.  Maybe I need to cry or sleep or eat or pray or ask for prayer.  But then I need to get out my map and stay the course.
In Start Late, Finish Rich, David Bach lists over 30 major historical events that were nationally or globally traumatic, such as Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy and King assassinations and September 11, 2001.  After almost all of these events, the value of stocks dropped immediately.  Within four months, the stock market recovered with an average of 9.9% increase.
In the poem The Second Coming, W. B. Yeats says
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

But here’s the thing.  According to history, the center does hold.  The pendulum swings.  The best do not lack conviction and they are full of passionate intensity.  “Normalcy” returns…and is then lost…and then returns.   What do I do?  I stay the course.  Yes, $%&# happens, but so does success, though not accidentally.   I just have to  Get Started and I Keep Going.  If I get knocked down, then I Get Started and I Keep Going…again and again and again.