25 November 2012

What Are You Afraid of?

All of us are afraid.  Each of us fears different things to different degrees, of course, but the bottom line is that we all have fear.  Some people fear spiders, some fear heights, some fear war--but all of us fear life to one extent or another.  All of us fear what life can do to us if we let go of the control we think we have, if we let down our guard, if we don't do the things we're supposed to do, if we get caught doing the things we're not supposed to do.

But it's important to keep in mind that our fears have been taught to us.  And they've been taught to us by people who are just as afraid of things--of life--as we are.  So these are teachings that aren't really in our best interest to believe, much less to cause us to modify our behavior.  It's not our fault that we're afraid, nor is it other people's fault that they're afraid.  It seems to be a human trait to pass on our fears to others--after all, in our early days as a race those fears kept us from getting killed.  And survival is one of our most important genetic imperatives.

We don't have to be afraid, though.  Life is what it is, and it doesn't have anything personal against us.  It keeps on doing its thing while we keep on doing ours.  Our fear of life is often what actually causes many of the things we fear to happen--we bring it on ourselves by focusing on what we fear.  But what happens if we don't focus on that fear--what happens if we actually are able to recognize our fears and let them go, thus not fearing life any more?  What would our lives look like if our actions and reactions weren't motivated by fear--fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of success, fear of injury?

Imagine your life that way, and then work to make it that way.  A life without fear is a life of peace, a life of acceptance, a life of authenticity.  And why can't your life be that way?  Or can it, once you let go of the fear that keeps you down?

We're afraid of living life, therefore we don't experience, we don't
see.  We don't feel.  We don't risk.  And therefore we don't
live--because life means being actively involved.  Life means
getting your hands dirty.  Life means jumping in the middle of it
all.  Life means falling flat on your face.  Life means
going beyond yourself--into the stars!
Leo Buscaglia

19 November 2012

What We See

I was a weird kid when I was small.  Don't worry--I'm not cutting myself down.  To me, weird is good, so I see the term as something of a compliment.  In any case, I was weird because I used to think weird things that other kids didn't think about.  I know they didn't because I asked them.  I would wonder things like whether words were really words or just sounds that we agreed had meaning, and what would happen if we assigned a different sound to an object--for example, if we assigned the sound "blurb" for chair.  Is it possible that we could forevermore refer to chairs as blurbs?  I also used to wonder if we all saw colors the same, or was it possible that what I see as blue, someone else sees as my red, but because they've been taught that it's blue, that's the term they use to describe it.

I think about this sort of thing a lot.  I wonder why I see certain people as attractive and other people as unattractive, while others see different people as attractive and unattractive.  I wonder why what I see as frightening (heights, for example), other people see as just something else in life.

What you see may not be exactly what I see.  I think that we're making a big mistake when we assume that other people see things exactly as we see them, for when we make that assumption, we open ourselves up to the possibility of making some unfair and unjustified judgments.  I know that people have judged me for how I react to certain things that I see just because I don't see them as they do.  You may see a certain incident as dangerous, and thus expect me to respond to it as something dangerous, whereas I see it as something interesting.  When I don't react to it as something dangerous, you may call me careless or irresponsible for not reacting as you expect me to react.

When I see a red light, I see a certain shade.  Who's to say that when you see a red light, you don't see it as what I see as blue?  Questions like these keep the world really interesting for me, for I know that our perception is a huge part of our reality, and much of what we call reality is based on that perception.  Let's try not to judge other people based on our expectations of what we think they should see, for there's a very good chance that they're perceiving reality in a very different way than we are--and that sort of difference is something that we should celebrate and try to learn from rather than judge and condemn.

13 November 2012

I Just Want to Celebrate

A great song came out a few decades ago.  Called "I Just Want to Celebrate," the lyrics said, "I just want to celebrate another day of living; I just want to celebrate another day of life."  What a great thought that is.  Most of us slog through our days just getting by, doing our best not to fall back a few steps as we try to advance more.  We deal with annoyances and frustrations and all sorts of things that come our way, but let's be honest--how many of us celebrate another day of living each day?

Celebrating is a wonderful way to shape and improve our outlook on life.  The mere act of celebration shows the world and ourselves that there really is something to celebrate, something special in our lives--even if it is simply another day to spend on this beautiful planet with so many wonderful people.  The celebration doesn't have to be huge or pretentious, either--it could be simply toasting the new day with a glass of wine or saying a small "thank you" as you drink your cup of coffee in the morning.  We should define celebration for ourselves, for only then can our celebrations be authentic.  And if you want to celebrate each new day with a piece of cake and a glass of milk, then for goodness' sake, do so--it's your celebration, so make it what you want it to be.

I want to celebrate each day, but usually I forget to add celebration to my often-busy schedule.  When I do celebrate, though, it raises my awareness of the great world in which I live--and that awareness helps me to appreciate all the wonderful gifts that I have, and reminds me that there are even more things to celebrate than I had thought.

Why celebrate a birthday only one day out of the year?
Why not celebrate life every day?  I can!
I can make every day a day for giving thanks!

09 November 2012

Lost Chances

It's fascinating teaching English to high school students.  First of all, pretty much none of them have any idea at all what the parts of speech are--nouns, adjectives, adverbs?  Forget it.  Secondly, they insist that they've never been exposed to the material at all, not in grade school, not in middle school, not ever.  The problem is that I know that this claim isn't true--this material is covered in earlier grades.  But from watching them in my classes, it becomes quite clear that they have very little focus and very little desire to learn, so the chances are very good that the material was covered in an earlier class, but that most of the students simply weren't paying attention when it was.

It gets me thinking about myself.  How many opportunities have I let slip by simply because I was too focused on something else to pay much attention?  How many things have I missed learning because something different was on my mind?  Even if the numbers are relatively low, they're still too high for comfort.  I know that learning is a gift, and it's up to us to try to avoid squandering that gift to the best of our ability.  We all have chances to learn all through life, but sometimes we're like my students who are far too interested in who might be texting them right now to stay focused on a lesson on adverbs.  And because of that lack of focus, they and we miss out on some wonderful things that we could know about us and our lives.

Sometimes we reach certain situations sure that we've never been prepared for them.  While this sometimes may be true, it may also be true that we have had lessons in life that could have prepared us for a current situation, but that we chose to do something else and never even noticed that a potentially valuable learning experience has been in our lives.

In my past, I've been a person who has ignored or who has simply been unaware of learning situations.  Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, though, my hope is that I'm aware of learning opportunities when they come my way, and I hope that I'm not like my students--that I won't complain that something is too hard or that I've never been exposed to certain information before.  After all, learning involves taking leave of our comfort areas and moving into unknown territories, and I sincerely hope that learning always is a part of my life.

Learning is not attained by chance.  It must be sought for
with ardor and attended to with diligence.

Abigail Adams