Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking up

I would like to share three interesting perspectives on looking up...

People often refer to others they look up to for inspiration. Some look up to earthly characters, others choose metaphysical ones; some, admire both kinds. I recently heard the Bible referred to as "the first self-help book." Hmm... I could see the case for that. In it, as well as countless other writings from that era, there are references to wise people having "went up to the mountain." As it turns out, this is currently understood to mean that they stepped aside to reflect on the situation and attempted to gain a hilltop-like perspective, while aligning their thoughts more closely to that of God's and seeking His (Her, what-have-you) guidance and assistance. Einstein is noted to have said that you cannot solve a problem from the level of the problem. Apparently, these wise people knew that, too.

In the same stroke I learned of the above, I was also taught a fascinating physiological fun-fact about the literal act of looking up. Where ever you are, take note of your posture, your spine, your breathing... then make a small adjustment by tilting your chin up just a notch, and then raise your gaze a few degrees. You will likely notice a clearer breath and a subtle inner smile. Supposedly, moving your eyeballs upwards engages your frontal lobe. This is where advanced cognition takes place. This is how we solve problems :)

Lastly, I was walking the half-block from my car to my home the other night, and I gazed up at the stars, which I often do at night; during the day, I frequently admire the cloud formations. Granted, where I live, there aren't a lot of starry nights, or days with clouds other than a gray blanket, but when I do get to look upon the moon and stars or a batch of cumulus clouds, I tend to take the opportunity. I always have, but I find, sadly, not many others do. I thought a little more about it this other night, and I realized that I do it not only because I just love Nature, and enjoy taking it in, but in the case of examining the beauty of the sky, I also enjoy the sense of scale it provides. I suspect some people, were they to consider their smallness, might feel very meek, and perhaps experience a sense of impotence. For me, however, I find that when I am reminded of the vastness of the Universe, I feel even more grand for being a part of it, and it is my problems which come to seem insignificant to me. I wish for all of Creation to be able to share in this experience with me.

In summary, looking up offers numerous ways to grow: you can look up to inspirational entities for guidance and a broader perspective; you can look upwards to engage your cognitive powerhouse; and you can look up at the sky to remember not to take things too seriously :) Happy gazing!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Personal accountability

I've mentioned Peck's "The Road Less Traveled" in reference to love, and that one of love's described facets is discipline. Peck defines self-discipline as 4-fold, including delaying gratification, accepting responsibility, dedicating to truth, and balancing.

In light of certain aspects of certain current events, I am compelled to comment specifically on the second listing: accepting responsibility, or personal accountability. This means recognizing the choices we have made, and their role in our circumstance. This also means preceding choices with consideration of outcomes, but it seems that the retrospective understanding is most difficult for us mortals. It is unfortunately easy to fall into the mindset of the victim when evaluating our circumstances. The self-perceived victim fails to maintain sight of his or her gift of choice. Most of the time, we have a vast array of choice. Undoubtedly, there are influences on our lives which are sourced beyond our realm of will, but our reactions to such influences, as well as all events, remain solely within our very own discretion.

If you make a choice that turns out to be less beneficial than you anticipated, and subsequently place blame on entities outside of your self, you are not accepting responsibility for your own decisions and actions, and you are falling prey to your own victimization. If you choose to become a victim of your own choices, you will find yourself in an assured cycle of despair. If, however, you make a choice under certain conditions, and those conditions change during the course of your actions, in such a way as to have an adverse effect on your planned outcome, you could choose to cry victim, and pitch a fit, but you still have the gift of choice. You could alternatively, recognize that some of the negative effects of your choice were set from the beginning - whether or not you chose to acknowledge them then - and choose to make lemonade out of the newly and unexpectedly developed lemons. Discover your innate resourcefulness, develop a greater ingenuity, get creative! Perhaps, consider occupying YOUR street. See if your neighbors need any services you might be able to provide (e.g., lawn care, pet care, child care, automobile care, or even other forms of personal assistance you might be qualified for, such as accounting assistance, academic tutoring, or shopping aid...) Seek a wage, be a volunteer. Be proactive, but be productive. You only get to the extent that you give.

Charles Darwin initiated the discovery of the nature of evolution, the law of survival of the fittest, and the necessity of adaptation. Failure to perceive the universal fact of ever occurring change will result in a regular shellacking of unpleasant surprises and disappointment, as well as an inability to adapt. Resilience is a quality we should all aspire to cultivate. It is what we see in every person ever admired by anyone. It is what is lacking in so much of our modern culture to a depressing degree, and what we need to reclaim if we are to have any hope for survival. Depending on others for our own well-being is no way to obtain well-being; in fact, it is a distinct recipe for ill-being.

When we find that our circumstances are undesirable - be they self-made or external - we are well advised to take what action we can to effect constructive change. We can always make changes in our own lives, and that's also the best place to start when seeking to effect change in external circumstances. When external change requires greater action, engage in an enterprise that will effectively achieve your goals, and consistently integrate with your values. In any case, we must always remain accountable for our own choices, for without that assumption of responsibility, we leave the option open to others to assume it for us. If we lose our freedom of choice, we lose all worth of life.