Over the weekend, I finally got to see a new episode of CBS Sunday Morning. One of their stories was about “the new normal.” People have been thinking for the last couple of years that “things would get back to normal” economically. Somehow, the health care crisis would be swept under the rug again. The unemployed would find jobs. Our biggest concern would be whether to shop at Ikea or Target. This story reported, with ample statistical proof, that we are very likely not going to get back to the way things were in 2007. Not right away, anyway. For me, the story was a real bummer.
You see, like many people, I tend to approach life, without realizing it, the same way a little kid does. If you work really really hard, you reach the finish line. You might take first place if you really go gangbusters. Then the race is over, you celebrate, and you move on to the next thing. Since the economy pooped out on us a couple of years ago, I’ve been thinking, “Oh, okay. Well, if I work hard enough, if I save enough, and if I’m a really good girl, things will get right back to the way they were.”
As it happens, this kind of thinking dominates our society, at least here in the US. I can’t speak for places where I’ve never lived. You think, “Oh, okay, well, I’ll get to this point and then I’ll be really really happy.” But you get to that point, like graduating from high school, getting your first job, getting married, whatever it might be, and you find that life keeps on going. The world keeps on spinning. Whether the day is horrible or glorious, the world just keeps on doing its thing, forcing you to do yours.
Listen to the music
A couple of years ago, my brother sent me a link to a YouTube video. The creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, had put together a very un-South Park sort of video. Using an audio recording of British philosopher Alan Watts, Parker and Stone created a short called “Music and Life.” In the video, which I hope you take a couple minutes to view, Alan Watts notes that the way we live would be comparable to going to a concert, hearing the final chord, the final note, and then getting up and leaving. Because we do like to skip to the end, don’t we? We like “closure.” We like rewards. We like promotions. But the final chord is not going to seem impressive if you don’t hear all the rest of the symphony, is it?
We go through our days and we think, “If I can get this presentation done, I’ll be happy.” “If I get this account or this client or this purchase through, I’ll be content.” There is always a sense that something is missing though, and Watts suggests that what we are missing is the singing, dancing, and LIVING that happens while we are focused on one goal after another.
Are you living your life so that it looks like you’re saying, “Boy, I hope get this life done so I can really enjoy myself?” Sometimes I find myself focusing on one goal after another. I spend time thinking about goals. I spend time making goals. I spend time fighting to reach those goals. But there’s more to life, isn’t there?
We only get one chance to write our life symphony. Shall we create something that is just one giant cymbal clash after another, or shall we waltz and sing?
I’m going to focus more on doing the latter.