I’m feeling [insert adjective]

As autumn begins its merry dance and trees across the still green lawn shake gold hues into their leaf tips, the wind changes shape. The sky changes its face. The rift between the livelihood of summer and the dead of winter reveals itself as an inevitable change and plasters in colorful cracking coats, exciting thoughts and refreshing the imagination.

I noticed that when people ask me how I’m doing, if I state a mere “I’m feeling O.K.” then the day feels dull and feelings of inability shoot through my core. But when I reply “I’m doing Fantastic!”, “I’m feeling Great!” something changes. And like the autumn blaze in the season before us a feeling of capability and creativity begin its constructive work.

Last week my wife and I had a discussion about change. About changes that lie before us and the changes we’ve been through. About the habits of millionaires and the activities of people who lead happy lives. Through that conversation two immediate changes came up.

1. Drop the TV.
A good amount of what we watch is educational, but still entertaining. Shows like Good Eats and Mythbusters are peppered with documentaries on health, finances and history. There’s still some mindless entertainment, though. Last night I took some down-time watching a couple of three-stooges episodes. And though I only watch 10 hours of non-scheduled programs a week, opposed to the national average of 19 hours, that’s still 10 hours that could be pared down to 2 (for Family Movie Night).

2. Spend that extra time reading.
My personal take on reading has been to find something that excites the imagination. But reading books to hone and create skills, to challenge and build faith and to encourage thought and creativity need to be more prevalent. The idea is that if I can inspire my desires into action then I’d be more successful in life. For example, I could be a better photographer, a better Dad, a better Husband, a better thinker, a more creative programmer, and overall enjoy life more with a change in attitude and thought that comes through reading and applying.

So those are my two major lifestyle changes that have come up recently. I hate it when people say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or “you’re too old to change”. Bah! That negative attitude didn’t bring them any success. Statements like that are insulting. They’re saying “you’re incapable, unintelligent, too complacent, unmotivated, uncreative…” At the heart of the matter is a lack of faith in God. The Bible is loaded with examples of men, young and old alike, changing. Anything I create I can change. Similarly, anything God creates He can change.

So what am I feeling? I’m feeling change!

Nietzsche’s monster allegory

It’s just a core question about the state of our souls that most theologians have to ask by trade. Who doesn’t at some time in their life feel vanquished, as in empty.

Most have the experience of rejection. When our offerings have been rejected enough times and we’ve been “put in place” (which in this case means reminded that they have no say in the matter at hand) enough times, we can actually convince ourselves that we’re worthless… at least for a time… for most of us. Some never come back.

I wonder about that emptiness. That dead state. It’s a type of insanity that breeds an awareness. We are not as important as we may hope to be. Our accomplishments don’t mean anything to the big picture. Our impact is infinitesimally small. No matter how intelligent you are on a matter, someone else has a more desirable opinion to listen to… because they’re not you. Life is personal, so we take these rejections personally whether we should or should not.

With a fair amount of consideration (or distraction) of the matter, most people return back a little more somber … a little less bright eyed … a lot less enthused. That was the part about “Flowers for Algernon” that freaked me out the most. People can be so subjugated and diminished to the point that their purpose and meaning in life is stripped away with it. It’s akin to breaking a wild stallion then tethering it to a basement grain mill for the rest of its life.

When I feel cramped up too much, or see others in that state I find it helpful to put energy into something creative – in a displayable way. It reminds me that no matter how far down people may push me or how much they crowd me out that I am unique and add to life in a way that they do not.

I admit that there are times at work and even at play that I have to “play dead”, myself. Sometimes a business’ survival is more important at a given time and my participation to help that business, though it may be doldrum or even maddening at times, helps out others – it expands my world and restates my belief that life is more than just myself.

Possums and birds play dead to survive. Like I mentioned before, sometimes we have to do that, too. But if people “play dead” for too long I’ve seen and experienced that the spirit is quenched and a real, insidious death starts to settle in. We began to feel robotic and sense that we are only a cog in a cold machine. Adults aren’t the only ones prone to this.

It starts when we are little. We go to a failing school system; we watch commercials that train us to believe we are unfit (without their product); any friends or family that buy into the culture second guess everything we do to the point that we second guess ourselves; we go to a university where professors almost strategically tell us that whatever we know/think/love is crap (unless you agree with their world view – or at least bribe them a little); in the corporate world you’re told that your job is not to think (at least for most).

Each time these attacks wave and crest in consuming foamy hands to wrench our necks when we try to be creative. It’s policy; it’s bureaucracy; it’s parenting and policing and mentoring gone wrong.

I look back at a week ago when one of my children were so excited about something they were doing. I shooed them off “Daddy has to work. Don’t bother me right now.” and they slump away a little. I became the very monster that bored its way into my life until I dolefully gave in. That sucks!

Nietzsche was incorrect about fighting monsters. It’s when you’re spirit is defeated by the monster that you become like it.

Superstition

I recently watched a show called “Trick or Treat”, hosted by Derren Brown. For those who don’t know who Derren Brown is, he’s the most famous psychology magician in the UK and arguably in the world (other than Benny Hinn). In the last episode of the second season he talks about superstition and it’s curious ties with human reasoning.

He showed strong evidence that we are so self-absorbed that we naturally believe that random events in this world are in response to our involvement – no matter how detached.

I had to think about this and the book of Job came to mind. Here is a righteous man being tortured by Satan and his friends are picking on him, accusing him of doing wrong things that he never even thought of doing.

So I think there are Biblical applications here. In religion, we try to build a relationship between man-kind and the unexplainable. In a relationship with God, we often find that the best miracles happen when we do nothing other than sit and wait. So again, religion does not equate to relationship. Nevertheless, I want to suggest that there is an overall result of our behavior. If we do evil, God allows evil to fall on us with more severity and recourse to ultimate destruction. If we do righteous, then our prayers have merit and God will offer some graces and blessings where there would otherwise be none. But it appears to stop there.

Like my children, if they behave then after a while if they ask something special from me I’m more willing to give it to them – but they’re still getting fed, clothed, sheltered and educated regardless. If they continually misbehave and rebel, then I step back and watch them fall. Sometimes I lecture them afterwords and sometimes I don’t. Again, they’re still going to be provided for regardless.

There’s a proverb that it rains on everyone – the righteous and the wicked alike. From that proverb I agree with Derren Brown. Most of life occurs and it’s what we choose to do with that occurrence that demonstrates who we are, but our ability in tomorrow’s ball game is not dependent on our unwashed lucky socks.

So I’ve been rethinking some of the traditions and rituals I go through in life. Is it because I believe something will happen from it or because I think it’s the right thing to do? That puts a new perspective spin on life.