“It’s the best possible time of being alive, when almost
everything you thought you knew is wrong.”
~ Tom Stoppard
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What if almost everything you’ve assumed to be true was false? And what if things were much better than you thought?
Ignorance is bliss. So wrote Thomas Gray, an eighteen century English poet. Was he right? Yes and no.
We can’t miss what we’ve never had, it’s true. In that sense, ignorance is bliss. On the other hand, if we don’t know how to experience fulfillment we can’t be happy. In that case, ignorance is definitely not bliss.
It’s easy to get confused about life right now. We’re assaulted 24/7 with “news,” which should really be called “olds,” because it’s always a report on the past. And, it’s almost always bad. We swim in negativity. It’s addictive. It’s seductive. And it can convince us that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, as the saying goes. Who wouldn’t like even a few changes for the better?
We’ve recently celebrated the end of one year and the beginning of another. Out come the New Year’s Resolutions and, at least for a few weeks, hopes run high that this will be the year of change. Finally, we will lose weight, get that promotion, find the perfect partner (or our current partner will magically change). We might even hope to make great progress towards spiritual enlightenment.
“But, it’s very rare you’ll keep your resolutions for the whole year. According to U.S. News, approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so the odds are against you.” 1
It’s easy to blame ourselves for a lack of discipline, for reaching too high, or for simply losing our motivation. But there’s a deeper issue at the heart of our chronic failure to create newness and sustain change – a misunderstanding of what it means to begin.
Why do we make New Year’s Resolutions in January? Because it’s a new year. Really? Who said so? Well, the calendar for one. But does that make it so? Only if we agree it does. The Chinese don’t. Their new year begins February 16 this year. Is someone right and someone else wrong? No, it’s just a matter of different perception and beliefs.
If that’s the case, we might want to experiment with being proactive about beginnings. In other words, invent our own. For instance, this is a beginning right now, as I write and you read. Why not? You can decide it is and so can I. But to do so, and to make it stick, we will likely struggle against our own convictions and assumptions. After all, there’s nothing special about this moment. Or, is there? How might we make it easier to render this moment unique and worthy of eager exploration?
Actually, we’ve already experienced this … when we were babies, when everything was new. What was, simply was. We didn’t compare, we couldn’t, because we didn’t have the developed capacity. It wasn’t Wednesday (again), it was just another moment of being alive and exploring whatever showed up.
As adults, we don’t enjoy the luxury of hanging out moment to moment and having our every need provided for. We’re responsible for making a living and caring for ourselves and our families. Unfortunately, that means that we tend to lose touch with the novelty inherent in being alive in each simple moment.
Many of us agree to work from Monday to Friday. Then we do something different, but often predictable, on the weekends. Even our vacations might be fully planned. In other words, we stay busy inventing sameness.
What if we quit? Sure, we might have contemplated this question at work. Or, in our marriage. Sports fans might get fed up when their team loses too often and consider suspending their support. And most of us have bailed on a movie or two when it failed to deliver what the trailer promised. So, this is a habit we all understand. But we probably haven’t applied it to a much larger challenge, you could say a universal one: quitting the lie of assumed sameness.
In fact, there is no valid reason why we can’t make this moment a beginning and invest it with our full passion for joy and fulfillment. We can jettison our well-worn excuses, if we choose. You know them as well as I do: I’m too old, too young, don’t have enough money, there’s something wrong with me or my partner, we elected the wrong President, etc. The alternative? Quit complaining, accept the way things are, and create the life experience we prefer.
What about all the obstacles? Well, have you ever seen a tree growing out of a rock, or a plant erupting through pavement? That’s what life innately does and, one imagines, without complaint.
A whole new vista of experience can open for us, the moment we choose to become the author of our experience rather than a spectator. Sages call this The Holy Instant. If that sounds appealing, well, here it is, never more (freely) available than right now in this very moment.