No one behind, no one ahead.
The path the ancients cleared has closed.
And the other path, everyone’s path,
Easy and wide, goes nowhere.
I am alone and find my way.
Power or Integrity? Which will create the most beneficial change for our world today?
Money or Happiness? Which is more beneficial to what you cherish?
Success or Failure. Which is more valuable ?
How does one go about answering these kinds of enigmatic questions? On the one hand, the answers may seem obvious, and then as we dig deeper into the mystery, we become less sure of the lay of the land.
The sands shift and things get more subtle or difficult to distinguish. One interesting notion is that these types of questions point out how we tend to create answers for ourselves, which is how we build belief systems that inform our life and how we’ll move through it.
In times of stress, do you find yourself relying more on your heart or your head? When you need to answer a difficult question, what dominates?
In a world of all logic and reason, we discover reason is a bit like using a knife without a handle. It will get the job done, but makes the hand bleed that uses it. Logic and reason are wonderful decision making tools, and we need them to navigate, but they can lead to a type of label-gun living, where we inhabit a universe of weighing and measuring the minutia of life until it becomes life-less.
Ever spent time with someone counting calories or tracking weight for example? Everything becomes about a number on a scale. The totality of us becomes a measurement, which then becomes a wonderful excuse to berate ourselves. That becomes our answer.
I’m not good enough. I have not done enough. I am not enough.
Do you notice the tentacles squeezing the life out of things in the social media realm where everything we do is now measured. We have become like robots, obsessed by metrics, and the new purpose of life is engagement, likes and post reach, as if it all means something that is critical to human happiness.
We can’t live by “likes” alone any more than we can hold our breath underwater forever. You need to come up for meaning.
The truth is we are not numbers on a scale. We are human beings. We can find examples everywhere in life of how logic is reducing things to concepts. A forest becomes board, feet and grade of wood instead of a home to countless creatures. Much of our obsession with exponential growth in the realm of business and technology has left us bereft of joy, and lacking a sense of how our lives fit into the grand scheme of things.
We are too busy making pie graphs to notice what anything really means, and so our label-gun obsession has taken much of the sacredness out of daily life and replaced it with practicalities which may be true, and may show us trends, but don’t nourish our souls or connect us to healthy ideas that will sustain ourselves and future generations.
The World According to Feeling
On the other spectrum we have a way of living that keeps us hooked into the emotional life, where we just bypass logic and go straight to feeling. It’s kind of like trying to surf a tidal wave everyday, you’re likely going to be swept away on a sea of emotions when a big question comes up, and this is often when we find ourselves reacting to situations with extreme behaviors and feelings.
It’s when we do things we regret the next day. It’s when we say to ourselves, I’m never going to do that again. Until we do. We’ve all been there, it’s part of finding the right mix in our lives, but it can be quite painful to live in a universe where we make all our decisions that way, and also really draining. We just become exhausted by the TV station we have tuned into 24/7—The all feelings all the time network.
So what do we do?
Well, the good news is there is a strategy, and the bad news is, it’s not very sexy. It’s just an old friend.
The Middle Way is an exquisite balancing act where we discover the perfect blend of feeling and reason, and use the heart and mind in a strategic way built on a single fact: we don’t value one part of us over the other. The result is we uncover something profound about ourselves and find a new way forward, which comes from knowing what the right tool is for the right job at the right time. We find a more whole way of seeing.
I think we could all agree that life is a wonderful mix of ideas that challenge and bewilder us, where perplexing questions seem to arrive in our inbox everyday, in a digital world so full of speed and information bombarding us, that we can often feel too overwhelmed to make sense of it, so we fall back on extremes of thinking or feeling, often based on collective assumptions, societal norms, incomplete data or tinkering around the edges of ideas rather than diving into the depths of them.
We all like answers that create a feeling of security for us, a place where all questions have easy obvious solutions that never change, that drape us in our own peculiar moral universe, where we can rationalize our way out of or into, almost anything.
Just look at all the war we are seeing in our fragile world these days and you see how often this plays out. I don’t have the answers to the most perplexing questions of our time.
I only have more questions.
When to question and when to have faith.
When to let go and when to hold tight.
When to repair by paying close attention and when to repair by radically ignoring.
If we choose to become friendly with our own polarities and hold them thoughtfully, with kindness and patience, we can start to relax into life and accept not always being able to reach an answer we can understand.
My wish is you find interesting answers to your questions as you travel through the mystery and that you use all of yourself to discover them.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Jochen Schliessler