Over the course of the past several months I’ve been reading and thinking and reading and listening and thinking some more about stuff. I haven’t written much because, quite frankly, I haven’t had much to say and I’m growing more and more frustrated at not only the way things are but the manner in which people try to effect outcomes to change things.
Maybe it’s my personal transition from a solidly middle-class income to poor college student. Maybe it’s the culmination of many things, but I’ve come to a conclusion…a truism if you will, that goes something like this:
Nothing you want to happen to you happens overnight.
Now let’s think about this for a moment. What events happen suddenly, or seem to happen suddenly? Car wrecks, deaths in the family, job losses, terrorist attacks…the list goes on. Short of winning the lottery, there is nothing I can think of that happens suddenly that you would wish upon yourself.
The truth is, even most things that seem to happen suddenly don’t necessarily REALLY happen that suddenly. It’s a perception thing. So if neither the majority of good or bad things that happen to people, or groups of people, or situations, happen suddenly, then what the hell am I talking about?
Imagine this. You roll a marble on a hardwood floor. That marble will likely travel in one general direction until something affects its travel. If the floor is slightly unlevel, it will drift if one direction or the other gradually, gaining speed as momentum takes it left or right. If there is an obstruction, it will stop suddenly or bounce off the obstruction, and likely turn left or right, depending on the conditions of the momentum that was carrying it forward. Sometimes, due to momentum, obstruction or conditions of the hardwood floor, it will just stop.
If you take the example of the marble traveling across the floor as a metaphor for anything: your life, your causes, etc., etc., then you want to make sure that your roll your marble on the flattest, least obstructed hardwood floor you can find to ensure that; 1. You get where you want to go. And 2. You get there in the shortest time/distance possible. That, at the very least, would be the smart thing to do.
But people often aren’t always very smart, and instead of looking at the lay of the land and rolling their marble in a direction or towards a goal using the least obstructed path, most people just hurl the marble out there, in the same way they always have, relying on the hope, or emotionally driven belief that because the desired destination of their marble is right and pure and true, that their marble will defy the odds and get where they want it to go.
Rarely does this ever happen.
By the same token, rarely is the floor a wide-open, unobstructed, flat hardwood floor. More often than not, for the more complicated things in life, it’s a bumpy ever-changing maze filled with all kinds of obstructions and conflicts and things that you never imagined. And more often than not, full well knowing this condition exists; we roll our marbles out there emotionally, instead of rationally, expecting some guiding hand, or the supernatural force of our righteousness or the righteousness of our cause to carry us to our destination. And more often than not, we fail.
Think about it in terms of something just about everyone has tried to do at one point or another…weight loss. You can do a crash diet, you can do the fad diet of the week, you can buy an exercise video or ridiculous device off of an infomercial, and all sorts of other things to lose weight, but in the end, most of us don’t keep that weight off because we emotionally took some kind of short cut to our destination and never REALLY arrived at the place we were really trying to get to, just a place that looked an awful lot like it. Then, a month, or six months later, we’re right back where we were, in the first place, and we feel bad about ourselves or whatever, and we give up, or lash out at circumstance, or any other number of emotionally driven reactions that really don’t get us one inch closer to our goal.
So what’s the problem? The real problem is two-fold: First, we’ve taken an abbreviated path to our “goal”, whatever that goal is. Second, the goal we’ve chosen is a shortsighted, temporary goal that ignores the reality that we should be working toward a maintaining a healthy lifestyle, rather than some ridiculous and largely meaningless “weight target”.
The truth of the matter is that whether we’re talking about marbles or whatever, we have to recognize and focus ourselves on REAL goals rather than the shortcuts, and there is a process involved in getting to our REAL goal. That process, even though it’s tried and true, is more often than not, rejected by people because it’s too hard or inconvenient or whatever it is to them. Every time we reject that process we put ourselves further and further, deeper and deeper on an island of delusion that we have created for ourselves, grounded in the belief that if we just believe hard enough, the hard work it takes to actually get stuff done will fade away and we’ll get what we want.
So when I look at people, regardless of education, ideology, or any other of the human conditions that we live in, who are doing things to get things done by doing them in the way THEY want to, as if to enforce their will on the rest of us, rather than respecting the process, a tried and true process, of getting stuff done, and they’re frustrated, or emotional or whatever they are because if people would just listen to them the whole world would be a better place, I find myself wondering just what they expected?
The process exists for a reason, and that reason is to protect and respect all of us from the small few of us who would, if we could, unilaterally enforce our will upon the whole of us, because “ if people would just listen to them the whole world would be a better place”, which, I think, is a pretty good definition of fascism, because we all know that as long as it’s OUR will, it’s fine, but if it’s SOMEONE ELSE’S will, it’s not necessarily fine, and that process is not immediate, but a long and winding and a huge pain, because if it wasn’t, it would actually suck worse for all of us because it would seem like an immediate change, and as I said at the beginning of this screed;
Nothing you want to happen to you happens overnight.
See, you can keep doing what you’ve been doing and keep getting what you’ve always got. You can whine and complain to friends and colleagues, and get nowhere. If you’re a little more industrious, you can go to your favorite locally owned craft store, and build a sandwich board, and whine and complain publicly on a street corner and get labeled one of those “whiners and complainers”. If you’re really creative and not a total jerk, you can organize yourself into a group of like-minded people forming a “whine and complain” club that takes comfort in the familiarity of its favorite brand of bitchiness and moaniness, but ultimately gets nothing done. Or, if you KNOW WHAT YOU REALLY WANT, you can educate yourself about the issues and the process, insert yourself into that process, focus your attention on the path most likely to get you where you want to be, and slowly, and patiently build consensus around this idea until it gradually and deliberately becomes the change you wanted in the first place.
This means you don’t just hurl your marble forward and pray you don’t run into any obstacles, but you deliberately direct your marble through the maze of the process an inch at a time, knowing that the path will take you both forward and backwards, left and right, all the while grounding yourself in that ultimate goal. By doing this, keeping your perspective, and most of all, exercising patience, you WILL get to that goal eventually, despite the setbacks, obstacles, trials and tribulations that come with anything in this world that is worth a damn.
You’ve got to stay focused, and that’s hard. You’ve got to be patient, and that’s hard. But most of all, you’ve got to control your marble, and that’s, by far, the hardest part of all of it. If you do, you’ll get the thing you wanted, and if you’re really good, you’ll want something more, because the perspective you gain from the journey will make you better, and in the end, that’s ultimately what it’s all about.