The Hungers of Life III

There are times in the life of all when, weak and worn with the struggle, the ebb-tide of hope seems to carry out with it all inspiration, all impulse, all incentive. In the darkest night of a great loss, a paralyzing pain, or a voiceless grief we seem to lose our very bearings on life, and weak, trembling hands hold the useless compass of our purpose. We see nothing to live for, and life does not then seem worth living. At such an hour gentle words of comfort and courage and companionship—words that come glowing from the very soul of another, not empty, cheap commonplaces that roll flippantly from the tongue—come as living food to the hungry heart.

When the trials of the individual life seem hard to bear and the failures of our best efforts tempt us to overthrow the altars of our ideals, and all that we have held high and best seems empty delusion, we feel this hunger for a loving friend, a counselor, a guide. We want fresh, kindly eyes of those who really care to look at our problems, to help us to regain our faith in humanity, our belief in ourselves, our trust in the certainty of the final triumph of right, love, justice and truth.

To feed the heart-hungry we must give the positives of our life, not the negations. We must give our strength, not our weakness; our certainties, not our fears; our radiant finalities of decision, not our unsettled dilemmas.” ~ William George Jordan

I had the good fortune to have been born into a family that prized and managed to maintain stability throughout my youth. No doubt my parents were dealing at times with the vicissitudes of life, but they always managed to keep my brothers and I insulated from the uncertainty, uneven pressures and the waxing and waning of resources. In this sense, they were, and continue to be, perfect parents.

Now that my children and my field of responsibility are growing I am compelled to offer the same to them and to those for whom I am responsible. As usual, that is easier said than done, in fact, the way things are in the world today, you are swimming against a powerful current if you take such an approach. All kinds of forces work to distract you from this purpose, yet it is clear to me that now more than ever we need men and women who will live up to this high standard and who are capable of providing strength, certainties and decisiveness in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

At a certain point in life you are exposed to the fact that life has its ups and downs. Some discover this much earlier than others, but virtually everyone must face this central challenge of living at one point or another. Whether you came to terms with this at a young age or only moments ago, the vital thing to realize is that you can always, no matter what your station or present resource base, feed the heart-hungry. Life will have its ups and its downs and there is absolutely no point in whining, complaining or blaming when you hit the low points, in fact, those tend to be the most defining of times and you are wise to use them to your advantage.

I have come to realize that the surest way to have a reserve of the stuff of encouragement is to eschew the tendency to focus on or obsess with the “negatives” as Mr. Jordan described them. This does not mean that you deny their presence, for the negatives are ubiquitous, but you can strategically downplay them while emphasizing the positives of life.

What you feed with your attention will tend to grow in the soil of your life.

You needn’t have an ideal upbringing to serve your world radiantly. In fact, sometimes the unfortunate lessons in life serve as character building exercises that would be quite difficult to replicate under less stressful, more ideal circumstances. There are those who say pain and suffering are necessary to know love and joy, but I beg to differ. A world without the former could still be full of the latter, but in the meantime we have some work to do.

Your Book of Life

Rosetti (self-portrait) Image by Wikipedia

Sudden Light by Dante Gabriel Rosetti

I have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around the shore.
You have been mine before,—

How long ago I may not know:
But just when at that swallow’s soar
Your neck turn’d so,
Some veil did fall,—I knew it all of yore.
Has this been thus before?
And shall not thus time’s eddying flight

Still with our lives our love restore
In death’s despite,
And day and night yield one delight once more?

You were born with an empty book before you. Your life quickly began filling its pages, the pages become chapters and before you knew it your little notebook transformed into a novel that told the tale of another of humanity’s grains of sand.

The chapters of life are a fascinating thing to me. While Rosetti was likely speaking of the death known as “physical death” (the kind that ends in a grave), I have to wonder if he wasn’t speaking to the chapters of life as well.

One life can be divided up in so many ways. Childhood and adulthood. Educational years, working years, retirement years. All can be seen as chapters in a book.

When you’ve moved from chapter to chapter in life, have you found some strings of continuity? Are there persistent themes that appear and reappear with comforting or at times alarming consistency, times where you say to yourself as Rosetti put it: “Has this been thus before?”

Threads of success as well as failure weave through life in a predictable fashion until the pattern is broken, one way or the other. You can succeed where you’ve failed in the past and you can fail where success was previously the norm. As such, it is important to take note when you do succeed and take heed when you fail. Both will offer important clues as to how to be a greater success in the next chapter of your life.

You cannot learn about who you are or what successes will be wrought through you from a book. There is no manual. You may glean bits and pieces of advice from here and there, but ultimately the story you tell has to emerge in and through you.

There is no doubt that we live in a tough world. It is not ideal. No one had an ideal upbringing. We’ve all had our bumps and bruises and we each have the scars – physical, mental and emotional – to show for it.

Just as you should never scratch a mosquito bite, you are wise not to dwell on the irritants in your life – past or present. Ask yourself instead, “What can I do – here and now, based on what I know and what resources I have at my command – to handle this situation successfully?” Doing anything else is not only a waste of time, it will likely result in further bloodshed and scarring.

Creative thinking and timely action is your lifeblood. Forego either or both and you will add sad stories to a subsequently less successful chapter in your life. There are far more tales of woe in the history of man than there are bright examples of success and victory.

What will it be for you?