Things change. Life flows and moves. From the physical environment to our very blood streams, nothing in life is static. The notion of stacicity or concreteness is an illusion; even the hardest materials deteriorate over time. Likewise, the mountains are moved and shaped by eroding waters, and young, pliable saplings become brittle twigs that snap beneath our feet during the chilly autumn evenings. One of the most obvious manifestations of the flow of life is that fact that all things born will one day die.
Often times we resist this fact, that life is movement. Yet, physics shows us objects interact with one another. Chemistry illustrates to us how and why those interactions produce changes and transformations, providing a basis for biology to piece together the movement and change in energy throughout living systems. Still, even us scientists can find ourselves resisting change outside the labs in our daily lives.
When I say “resist” I’m referring to our longings for the past. Not in the sense that when we remember a happy moment from our past we smile, or in the sense that we think of a lost loved one with sadness. I am talking about the resistance we develop as we try to deny that the past is the past and the present is right in front of us, preventing us from making the most out the current moment, the only moment where we can actually influence change.
I am also speaking of the resistance we develop in regards to our expectations for the future, and the ideal worlds we create with our minds that never seem to manifest in the world we share with others. Overall, it frustrates us that life is not what is should be or what it once was. But why can’t it be so?
The biggest reason is that the image of a perfect world is just that, an image. Something static and unchanging is not life, it is the absolute opposite. Furthermore, even the Mona Lisa is not the same as the day Da Vinci completed her.
Of course, there is a side to this idea that is unsettling. It’s different for everyone, but the anxiety usually stems from death. The fact that we will die, our friends and family will too, and any creation we put forth, ultimately, will move to the shadows as others after us continue to create and shape the world. However, there are two sides to every coin, ups and downs. So, cheer up, because the same idea allows for birth, growth, and creation itself!
It’s bad practice to assume one but not the other; good without bad, hot without cold, how can you know one but not the other? The illustration of opposites could go on forever, and if you look around you will see opposites existing everywhere. For example, how do you know you are healthy? Well, you don’t feel sick. And for those of you that sing, you know the sound of being “on pitch” because you know “off pitch” just as well.
My purpose is not to point out every possible set of opposites. It is to illustrate that aspects of our life move between two opposing poles constantly, they never completely stop in one place. Change, movement, death these are all good things because they allow us to see beauty in every situation, to know that the bad times will give rise to good ones, and bring music out of the silence. My purpose is to tell you that you can either resist change, or get with it, because, either way, its happening.
In buddhism, this is called emptiness: the fact that no one thing exists without its relation and interdependence with all other things. During our younger years, we are at the disposal of our parents or guardians. We rely on them for food, shelter and safety; and, overall, we are heavily influenced by our physical, external environments. We are shaped and molded by every experience we have.
There comes a time, though, when society tells us, “okay, you’re ready.” This is adulthood. At this point we are suppose to take responsibility for who we are, what we are, and the actions we take from here on. Still, it’s a fuzzy line of when this distinction is made – especially in America, where our rites of passage, if you want to call them that, are as sophisticated as: you now get to drive, or you now have the opportunity sign your life over to the military, or you now get to (safely) dumb yourself down with alcohol. There is no definite mark in our lives where it is said, “it’s all on you now.” In almost every other culture there is a point in a young man or woman’s life where they are told just that, it’s all on you now. For instance, in the Lakota Native American culture young men and women discover their place in life by going on a vision quest. It is a very distinct and defined moment in a tribe member’s life. Compare this to the American idea of becoming an adult: In general, for other adults to consider you a man or woman you must be of a certain age, have a college degree, a steady job, and/or be married and children. But, consider the man who lives at home after attaining an undergraduate degree, planning his next move. Compare him with the sixteen year old who has a kid. Then, compare the previous two with a man who is thirty, makes millions of dollars a year, but has never been with a woman intimately and doesn’t know how to make his own bed. Which of these men is more of a man?
In America there seems to be a never ending set of hoops we have to jump through, dragging our feet in a safe zone, until one day we realize, “Wow! I guess I am an adult now.” But by that point we are stuck in our ways and have commitment after commitment that we aren’t so sure we wanted, but someone told us, “That’s just the way it is.”
When it comes to this point, we’re usually a little upset and down on ourselves. “What happened?”, we say, “This is it?” And the answer is, yes. Everything has come to this moment, right here, right now, and you might feel cheated about that.
Some people, when they get to this point, begin to blame others. These people get very angry and lash out, causing a big disturbance, or even harming the innocent. In either case, what caused the outlash was the fact that they didn’t realize it was up to them. It was up to them to make the decision to harm the innocent, or steal, or cheat, whether or not someone else did the right or wrong thing. This goes back to the idea of opposites and polarity. If you blame everyone else for what is happening, you’ll never have the power or ability to influence your own life. If it’s “their fault” all the time you never have any power, and you have taken it away from yourself. That’s the view you have taken, and because of it, you are the mercy of the world, so it’s going to push you around.
Now, please, don’t think I am saying you always ask for a bad thing to happen to you. I’m not. Horrible things happen, and often times they happen to very good and wonderful people. Still – and this is not a new idea – every person has the power to decide how they are going to react. You will feel how you feel, that’s not something you can change. Furthermore, sometimes your actions take place instantaneously; like saying, “Ouch!” when you stub your toe. However, the instances I am talking about are delayed instances. If someone pulls your hair, you pull back. Sadness was a feeling, but you chose to call it depression and use drugs or alcohol as your therapy. Fast Food companies put cheap, greasy food in front of you, and you eat it. You can’t blame other people or external circumstances for your attitude towards life, otherwise, you’re powerless! And that’s alright for some. Some people don’t want power over themselves. However, if you want to own your life, change it and create something worth living, then you have to take responsibility!
Teachers and coaches are excellent resources. The same is true for parents and guardians. However, they cannot act as crutches. They cannot spoon feed you forever, nor can they do anything for you. If they try to, fine, but shame on you if you let them. You have to make the commitment, you have to take charge, you have to ask the right questions and follow through with mindfulness and action. You have to say, it’s all on me now.
You are not your past; not even your memories are concrete. Your future is unknown and does not exist yet. This moment is not static, it moves flowingly, changing before your eyes, in your stomach, and begins with your mind. That’s not a cause for anxiety, because it is showered by opportunity and possibility. But it has to start NOW.
So, are you ready? Are you ready to accept responsibility? Are you ready to admit that whatever happens to you gives you an opportunity to create? Or are you a rolling stone that gets pushed around mindlessly, bumping into people and never knowing why you are so beat up and tired all the time? The choice is yours, and in both instances you deserve what you get. Only one, however, gets you what you want. Responsibility is power, not over the world, but over yourself! And this power allows you to create. Make a choice. NOW.