The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Change

I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

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Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms

Mind-stripping

It is my latest epiphany that the only thing worth living for is giving. Allow me to exemplify this with a little tale.

One night I awoke from my slumber to a voice in the next room. I quickly remembered that my grandfather was sleeping in the next room for a few nights while recovering from medical difficulties. At first it was hard to make out what he was saying, but I soon realized that he was talking to no one but himself, even in his dreams. He became more audible as he continued, mumbling phrases like “music was my life… I used to be so great at it. And now I can’t even play my instruments.” He continued on, his mind dealing with other things he’s lost with his age. “I used to play tennis every day, and now I can barely hold a racket.” I was aghast with the thought that someday I too will be in his position.

What will I say in my sleep? What things will my subconscious take upon itself to unload from my mind as I waste away in my sleep?

Then it hit me. The only things that my subconscious will never have to handle in such a way are those things which I’ve given away. What things in life are so important that we really need to attend to more than giving? After all, we’ll all grow old, and all our joys will be stripped from us… save for one—observing the fruits of our efforts in generosity.

Filed under: change, comfort, decisions, dream, friendship, generosity, helping, importance, interaction, loneliness, losing, loss, priorities, sleep, Uncategorized

Rise

The other day I was thinking about hardships. Everyone knows they happen. Sometimes they’re nasty, sometimes deadly, and sometimes they’re just downright inconvenient. But what makes the difference? Well… right now I could go into the whole “severity of discomfort” spiel, but I won’t. Discomfort, while sometimes physical, is many times just a mental construct. When something wretched comes along, what makes it so wretched? Most of the time it’s just our own brains worrying. If the president of the United States were shot tomorrow, would there really be a good reason for me to panic? Would there really even be a good reason to stop doing what I was doing at the time?

Humans seem to think that getting angry, frustrated, or worried are good and natural responses to misfortune. They’re only partly right. Getting angry, frustrated, and worried are natural responses, but they are not good. Take a look at some of the wisest figures to ever grace our history books. Ghandi is considered one of the wisest people who ever walked the sphere. What was his response to misfortune? What about Mother Theresa? Same story.

The truth is, getting angry only makes you more angry, and worrying is just silly. Morgan Freeman—playing God—delivered it very well in Evan Almighty (which surpassed my expectations…):

”When someone prays for patience, do you think God makes them patient or does He give them an opportunity to learn patience? When someone asks for courage, does God simply make them courageous or does he give them an opportunity to be brave? When someone prays for their family to be closer, does God just do it or does he give them an opportunity to spend time together?“

When something bad happens, isn’t it just a chance to rise above the challenge where others would break down? If we can break our minds from the mold of anger, just look at the doors we open.

Filed under: anger, change, conditioning, decisions, fear, growth, independence, learning, living, loss, misfortune, opportunity, priorities, strength, trauma

Numbers

Just recently I was talking with a friend, and he mentioned how gold seemed to be the only currency in which you can put faith that currency is just paper with user-attached value. I found his point to be very true, and was reminded of just how poor I really am. We attach so much value to that number we carry around on our little plastic cards and in our little folding wallets. Then it hit me that not even gold is worth anything unless you can use it for something. I don’t know about you, but I don’t personally smelt my own solid gold jewelry on a regular basis—and even if I did, I’d need someone who would buy it with something that’s useful to me, not just someone who’d give me cash. Try living a happy life with the things you have… not counting that number.

Our Lady Peace put it well in one of their album titles, “happiness is not a fish that you can catch.” Ever noticed that when you’re busy and constructive you’re happier? The best times in our lives aren’t found in day-to-day living. I don’t look back on, say, a school year, and say to myself “man… I’m so glad I got to sleep at a decent hour each night!” or “I’m really glad my meals each day were sufficient.” Instead, I remember times when I was tested and passed, times when I discovered parts of my personality I didn’t know existed, times that I’ll never have again. In the same respect, Brad Pitt delivered a great line written by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club), ”hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat.“

Filed under: belonging, change, interaction, money, priorities, value

Batteries

Batteries are interesting things. We put them in brand new, and then we forget about them until they die. Really they only get attention at the beginnings of their lives and at the ends. What about all the batteries that outlast us? Has it ever crossed your mind that when you put a battery in an appliance it may very well live after you’re dead? All those clocks ticking, cell phones ringing, and lights glowing will still tick, ring, and glow without you. It’s astounding what changes you can make in the world around you with such little effort. They’re changes that may seem small now, but maybe later they’ll be big to someone else—perhaps even after you’re gone. So, what sorts of things do you put batteries into?

Filed under: batteries, change, creativity, growth, helping, hurting, hypothetical, interaction, living, making a difference, metaphor, opportunity, priorities

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