Here’s a clue: you are human.
And the word human comes from the same root word for “humor” and “humility”
…suggesting that maybe one of the reasons you are here is to laugh at yourself!
This may not be as crazy as it sounds.
There is a Zen Buddhist monastery where they laugh at themselves every morning as a spiritual exercise! When they first wake up, they get up, stand in front of a mirror and get themselves in some kind of crazy, awkward stance. Then they laugh just as long and as loud as they can…at themselves.
Do you dare try it? Sure, it feels peculiar at first, but then you may find yourself moving through your day with a lighter step.
(Of course, if you sleep with someone, you might want to warn them the night before! Who knows what they’ll think if you just jump up and…you know.)
With all the over-seriousness of life—and the tendency to take ourselves a little too seriously—maybe some practice laughing at ourselves can help us “get a clue”…and stay a little more human.
You are already a winner in the cosmic lottery
This is absolutely true about you. And it’s true for three reasons.
First, in the NASCAR, Triple Crown, sperm race of your conception, out of all those thousands of swimming sperms, you won! You got the chance to be born when you might not have been born at all!
Second, you were born not as a cockroach, or snake, or cow, or giraffe, or deer tick, but as a human being, with the ability to think, laugh, weep, love, create, struggle and dream.
And third, you were born one of a kind—unlike any other who has ever been born or ever will be born.
So the question is: now that you’ve already won the cosmic lottery, what will you do with your winnings?
Abraham Heschel recommended the strategy of wonder, the strategy of surprise. He said:
“Being human is a surprise!”
Think about that for a moment. You are a surprise.
The strategy of surprise says…
- Start exactly where you are, as you are, with the people you’re with and the situations you’re in, here and now.
- Today, be surprised! Look for the surprise! Look at the situations and the people you’re with through the eyes of child you once were. (This is the antidote to taking everything for granted and becoming complacent.)
- Today, be surprising! Do something unexpected. Find small ways to celebrate your aliveness and uniqueness and joy. (This is the antidote to numbing, mindless repetition; also the antidote to being bored and boring.)
Like a bowl of oatmeal, we have to stir things up once in a while so our lives don’t stick and burn!
There’s a therapist who begins the first session with each new patient by asking:
“If you were already cured of the personal problems that brought you here, if all of those issues were resolved…what would you do? Would you renew a broken relationship? Change jobs? Go back to school? Write a book? Take up a new hobby? Enjoy life more? What would you do?”
After the patient gives her answer, the therapist says, “Why don’t you just do that?”
Well, if you were the patient that would at least get your attention!
And I can see a few ways of responding to this idea.
First, I have to say I’m impressed with a therapist who tries to make himself unnecessary! (Though I suspect he knows that most patients won’t take him up on the challenge!)
Second, I appreciate the way he puts the emphasis on the patient’s power to take action in spite of problems, rather than on getting bogged down in the problems.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to suggest that all personal problems can be disposed of with the snap of a finger. Of course, they can’t.
But maybe that’s just the point. Maybe the problem with life is not problems (we’ll always have them). Maybe it’s the way we let problems keep us from getting to the precious possibilities.
So we might use this question as a mind-stretching life-stretching exercise for ourselves:
Is there some dream you have, some yearning, something you long to do or need to do, something important you’ve been putting off because conditions aren’t right…or because you’re too busy?
If all excuses and roadblocks were taken away, what would you do?
Why don’t you just do that?
“Once in a while it would be nice to get a little appreciation.”
True that. Under-appreciation seems pretty common in the human situation.
So why not start by appreciating yourself?
Mark Twain said,
“When you cannot get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.”
Of course, we’re not talking about deluding ourselves. Or flattering ourselves. We’re talking about genuine appreciation.
Look, you are no doubt trying hard and doing your best. So have you ever stopped to just appreciate what you do each day? Have you ever complimented yourself?
If not, you might take a moment to appreciate the extra effort you put into that report…or that special dinner you made for the family…or the way you set aside your own concerns to really listen to a friend or family member…or the way you used humor to defuse a tense situation.
Not a bad way to start the day, right?
And now that you have some experience in showing appreciation (by appreciating yourself), you could start your own one-person investment firm—investing in appreciation. You could move through your days paying attention to people, noticing their efforts, and dispensing genuine, thoughtful appreciation.
There’s no guarantee of course (you have to do this without expectations), but the more appreciation you give, the more you are apt to get back.
Appreciation is one investment that never depreciates.