There are hundreds of ways to slice into groups – young/old, democratic/everything else, rich/poor, alive/dead, healthy/sick, calm/agitated, content/discontented – to name a few. There could be an endless list of lists of ways to explain how we are different.
There could also be a long list of ways to describe how we feel about the life we lead – unifying terms like living, human, bipedal, most intelligent people ever, wealthiest people ever, and healthiest people ever.
But how can we be one thing, fit one defining characteristic, when we live in a world with such evident and deep divisions between people, between happy and unhappy?
In Alberta right now, when everyone is for or against a new premier, everyone is for or against a change of governing party, but we know that’s really the case.
There is a vast middle between those extremes: those who aren’t sure/undecided and those who don’t care. And people who don’t care aren’t bad, just different. Some are “My voice and vote are too tiny to make any difference,” those who are too busy or too focused on other things in their lives and children who are too young to know and wonderfully oblivious to matters that consume others.
And those children have parents and grandparents who read the headlines where fears of political and economic mayhem playing out get detailed; they are battered by information and opinion – quality mixed with the shite, which is horribly confusing, and deadlines (obituary page) where reading that someone who died, and giving different meaning from a stage play review or the sports page story of they have died, falling short on success, utterly different meaning …
There is not one voice or two – there are (as of just the other day) 8.0 billion voices on this planet, and in some respects, we are too many ants in too many proverbial anthills.
But when we study life as we know it; and see it play out before us, we all wonder what it is all about. Some days our view is rosy, some days – dour, but on balance, it’s a good life, and we collectively make life better.
For most of us, that is a reasonably routine rollercoaster ride – one of contentment, living within one’s means, making our lives better through career path financial growth, inheritance, investments, and profiting by chasing opportunities.
Sometimes it’s hard to see it that way because, once again, we divide into two groups – which you could easily mislabel as the haves and the have-nots.
A better way to bisect this is because wealth vs. poverty, or opportunity vs. lack of opportunity, is too simplistic and misses the point with so many.
We have a hopeful life, one with substantial optimism and confidence. We and those we care about will be OK, weather storms, laugh and play, live long lives and have experienced minor difficulties instead of complex, dark and irreversible ones.
On the other side of this coin, some don’t see a hopeful life – they see their dark corner and dismal outlook or their fear of living in that dark corner. This impacts the rich and average folks a lot. I’m not so sure this tracks for those who are poor but not starving. Poor people don’t spend time worrying about politics, which streaming service to use or which personal trainer to hire. They don’t wrestle with which brand and model of hybrid or electric vehicle to test-drive, and they don’t fret about the stock market or carnage to their retirement savings.
If you’ve read this far, you might be confused, as I sometimes am about the determination of happy vs. not happy, fulfilled enough – or not, ready-to-roll or ready-to-quit.
Many of us, and I’ve had my share too, in recent years have had whatever difficulties we faced added to by economic rollercoaster rides, pandemic and fear-mongering nonsense, political nonsense, social media nonsense, and just plain nonsense …
Managing a life, our life, is a lifetime job – it offers no wages but can make us rich in many ways. It has no retirement plan, no insurance against all perils, with no guarantee that the life-altering circumstances or the actions of others won’t upset our day, mess up our dreams, or end our lives.
Enjoying life, our life, is also a lifetime gig.
Except for those whose mental and or physical inabilities and complexities (though many live far more empowered and self-directed lives than most perceive), everyone gets to choose to manage their life and/or enjoy it.
Everyone can opt for neither, and mostly the world would not notice or care, so I’ll hold to the idea that I can manage and enjoy life without feeling I have to do anything anyone else’s way – and I’ll continue to remind myself regularly of Dr. Viktor Frankl’s answer to how he coped with atrocities and unspeakable hardships he endured. In this regard, he was also speaking from his learnings and conclusions from studying and observing his fellow residents at Auschwitz, “I get to choose how I react to what is happening to me.”
We live in a troubled world, a complex society in flux. Among those 8.0 billion of our fellow earthlings, there are reprehensible nasty criminals, psycho-everything-bad folks, dead, dying, disagreeable and irreparable people doing irreparable harm to their fellow humans, to say nothing of injury being done to all living things and the planet.
Some days that picture is painted by those who shout loudest from extreme corners – the world as we know it will end, while others blame everything on hoax perpetrators, alleging something sinister behind everyone who wins.
For billions of years, before there were billions of us, the earth has been self-repairing. The planet will continue for another four to five billion years before it is incinerated by the late stages of a dying star (our sun) …
So, we have time.
We can see many better days ahead.
There will be horrible things happening to good people in real life – not just in novels and streamed dramas – we will witness, but all the while, new babies will cry, children will laugh, lovers will erupt in passion, and older men will smile and not sit idly deflating in a rocking chair.
It matters little what gets us onto a thought journey to solving a problem, chasing a goal, climbing a tall peak or descending into any deep place or state of mind. Still, it seems to matter to many – as it does for me, that the more challenges we face, the more we believe we can meet challenges head-on, the more we accomplish, the more we know we can deal with whatever life throws our way.
Accepting reality, the parts we cannot change is something we can deny and ignore, but reality is persistent.
Let’s all agree on one thing – that reality can change.
What was true yesterday might not be certain tomorrow, or the reverse could also be true – so everything is true until it isn’t true anymore.
Change is a constant, which is why we look out the window every morning with hope rather than dread, and sometimes we go back to bed instead – but then we get up, we get going …
There is a script I remember from one of those motivation posters companies post in lunch rooms and board rooms – it pictures animals in Africa, and it quotes the words of Christopher McDougall:
“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.”
The Roy Rogers Museum has permanently closed because no one knew who he was. I once bought a pair of desert boots and told the clerk that I felt like Steve McQueen when I wore them. She said “Who is Steve McQueen”. From Captains and the Kings: “The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls of Mastodons, are now billiard balls; Great Caesar’s bust is on the shelf; And I don’t feel so well myself!”, GB, Calgary, AB,