Guest Post By Landon Saunders
There was a great tree with lofty branches and deep roots. One day the lightning came and said, “Stand aside or I’ll blast you off the face of the earth.” The tree looked back and said, “I haven’t grown a trunk so strong and roots so deep to be intimidated by you. Strike away.”
We need the strength that comes from strong trunks and deep roots, but that doesn’t come easily or quickly. Trees spend years building deep roots so that when the lightning strikes, they will survive.
How do we do that? How do we grow these strong trunks and deep roots? I believe one way is to follow the great part that is in you, not the small part.
If there is resentment that creeps up in your life, don’t say, “Well, I am resentful. I’m just a resentful person.” Or if jealously comes to you, don’t say, “I’m just jealous. That’s just the way I am.” Or, “I’m selfish, and I wish I weren’t so selfish, but that’s just the way I am.” What are you doing? You are holding onto the smallest part of your nature, the worst part of your character.
Instead, grab hold of the greater part of who you are. If there is love in your life, follow it. If there is joy, pursue it. If there is a moment of generosity that arises in your day, don’t say, “Well, where did that come from?” But, rather, latch onto it, and do not let it go. This is the way we add strength and depth to our lives, so we can stand tall in the face of whatever lightning comes our way.
How is your relationship with time?
Sometimes our relationship with time feels tense or stressed. We say, “I never have enough time!” Sometimes time drags and sometimes it flies. We wonder, where did the time go? We can feel that we’re working against the clock.
Little children seem to have a different relationship to time—more relaxed, more playful. Their experience is more like that of Walt Whitman who said, “Time is a stream I go a-fishing in.”
And Zorba (in Zorba The Greek) says,
“I saw a very old man planting an almond tree and I said, ‘Old man, why are you planting that almond tree?’ He said, ‘I live each day as if I would live forever.’ Then I said, ‘I live each day as if I would die tomorrow!’ But I wonder, which one of us is right?”
Here’s the point: People who live joyful, exuberant lives seem to have learned a freer, more relaxed and yet more adventurous relationship to time.
Yes, they know they are timed. But they also know that they have all the time they need to do the things they really need to do in life—the things that truly matter to them.
I think it’s important to be reminded that we are not prisoners of time. We’re not locked in. We always have the option of choosing to explore and experiment and be playful and adventurous with time. We can live in a way that knows that time is on our side rather than against us.
We can make friends with time.
Guest post by Landon Saunders
Many years ago, Sydney Harris, the journalist, was walking with a friend who went to buy a newspaper. Now, the person selling the paper was very rude, but Sydney Harris’ friend just stayed calm and kind, and, no matter how rude the man was, the friend continued to be kind. Finally, when the transaction was finished, Mr. Harris asked his friend, “Why did you continue treating him so kindly when he was so obviously rude?” And his friend said, “Because I refuse to let him decide how I’m going to act.”
That’s the right spirit, isn’t it? “I refuse to let him decide how I am going to act.” How many times do other people decide how you’re going to act? Instead of being thermostats, too often we are more like thermometers. A thermometer merely reflects the temperature of the room. The thermostat changes the temperature of the room. In the case of Mr. Harris’ friend, what was he—a thermostat or thermometer? He was a thermostat. He was changing the behavior patterns by choosing a response that was surprising. It was unexpected.
Now that’s an exciting way to live as a human being! To live in a way so that another person does not program your behavior as you respond to them, but, instead, no matter how they respond to you, your response comes out of who you are instead of simply being a reaction to what’s going on around you.
That is an entirely different way to live and an entirely different way to act.
In his classic book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Victor E. Frankl, a professor of psychiatry, tells about the things he learned in three grim years at the concentration camp in Auschwitz and other Nazi prisons.
As Frankl tried to encourage his fellow prisoners, he saw that those who had the hardest time surviving were those who saw no more sense in life, no aim, no purpose, no reason. They felt they had nothing left to expect from life, so they were in danger of giving up.
Early on in that horrible experience, Frankl had realized that he just had to strike out his former life and turn loose of all those expectations.
Later, he wrote:
“What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.”
Our situation today is nothing like being in a concentration camp, of course. And yet, don’t Frankl’s words speak to us?
When the things we expect from life have been upended, how freeing it can be to say: “It doesn’t matter so much what I expect from life; rather, what matters most is what life expects from me.”
I like that way of thinking about life—to see life as a daily courageous, exuberant, whole-hearted response to what my life wants from me and only me.
You have to admit, it beats getting depressed over all the things we can’t do.
And maybe it’s more than that. Maybe this is the way we quit waiting for the meaning of our lives to magically appear and, instead, create the meaning of our lives day by day.
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