Ben Taylor is a guy who started a youtube vlog to tell the story of Joel, a man from Liberia who sent him a facebook message asking for electronics, promising to split the profits he made selling them in Africa. Ben thought it was a scam, but he played along anyway and asked Joel about his skills and passions.
Apparently, Joel wanted to become a journalist, so Ben sent him a 30$ camera assuring him that he will get paid for the good pictures he took. Soon enough, after some practice, Joel started sending amazing photographs about life in Liberia. Ben put together an album and launched an Indiegogo campaign. People from all over the world purchased the book and one thousand copies were sold. How great is that?
But that’s only half the story. Ben wanted to donate
his share of the profits to children in Liberia, so he wired 500$ to Joel. What
happened next is heartwarming. Children in five local schools received
backpacks, notebooks and other much needed supplies. Their story went viral, so
Ben printed more books, sold shirts and pillows and, over Christmas, 600
children received gifts from Santa Joel.
It’s all you
I’m pretty sure that not even in his wildest dreams did Joel expect to do so much good by sending that one facebook message. Neither did Ben when he answered. Labeling this and that as good or bad has one effect and one effect only. It can either make us happy, joyful, aware, curious, or sad, angry, enraged, depressed. And to be honest, the Universe doesn’t care about how we feel. Its job is to feed us the experiences we need, in order to shift us into the direction we really, deeply want to go. Whether the journey will be pleasant or not, that is our choice, our responsibility.
What I’ve trained myself to do is to take a step back before (re)acting and feeling like my entire world is falling apart. I remain curious, I ask myself what the experience is showing me, how it is helpful to me, why it has happened (but not in a “WHY GOD?!” melodramatic tone), what it can teach me. Because I know I was the sole creator of that event. And when I do that, good and bad no longer exist. It is impossible to define good and bad in a way that applies to everyone, every time and for all eternity.
Each experience transforms us into something
new. Not better, not worse, just new. The way we choose to experience the experience dictates what that “new” looks like, how
long it takes us to get there and how pleasant the journey is going to be.
Responsibility is choosing how to experience the experience.
The challenge is to trust when you can’t see the meaning yet. But there is always a meaning. Sometimes it just takes a while for the Universe to reveal it. And there are meanings we’ll never ever know. I sometimes like to think about all the chances I was guided not to take, all the relationships that ended without my conscious will, all the trains I “missed”.
Every second, there are infinite possibilities, infinite scenarios that can play out one way or the other. I have no idea how many bullets I’ve dodged along the way. But I’m confident that the Universe is even cooler than Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. It keeps us safe from dangers we didn’t even see coming. And it expects nothing in return.
Not knowing how things would have panned out, had we gotten our way, often prevents us from being grateful for what we actually got. That’s only because we label unmet expectations as bad, as lost experiences.
So what happens when we think about something painful from the past and all those bitter feelings are still there? Well, from my experience, the answer to this question is simple and a bit harsh. It just means we haven’t learned our lesson yet. Not in a sense that someone out there is trying to teach us a lesson or to punish us; we’ve just not absorbed what that experience (which we chose) was trying to show us. Maybe we’re not ready yet, maybe we need some help or maybe we’re just resisting change. John Lennon said:
“Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end”.
Trying to be a control freak director in a
world of infinite possibilities is maddening. I’ve been there, I’m never going
back. Improvisation is all part of the act and surprises happen every day, whether
we let them or not. Actors never perform with the sole purpose of getting to
that final scene. They never want the curtain to fall. Neither does the
audience. Unless it’s a really bad play, in which case we don’t stop going to
the theater; we just choose something
different the following week.
Allan Watts, who has been an amazing mentor
for me through his teachings, says that “in music, one doesn’t make the end of
a composition the point of the composition. If that were so, the best
conductors would be those who played fastest.” And it’s the same with dancing.
You don’t swirl around the room with the purpose of stopping in a particular
place on the dance floor, because that is the end you’ve envisioned. “The whole
purpose of dancing is the dance.” Each second of that experience brings you
But we don’t see life this way. We’ve turned
it into a list of milestones we have to achieve in order to be happy. There’s
always somewhere we need to go, and we have to get there as fast as possible.
Every detour, every bump in the road is reason for disappointment. And when we
finally reach our destination, it is only to find that it was a mere stop
towards something else. Always something else, further along the road.
“The power is yours!”Captain Planet
A wise man once told his apprentice: “Imagine contemplating five beautiful, radiant, globes of colorful light. No matter how much you try, you can’t really say that one is ‘more perfect’ than the other. You might choose the one you like best, your favorite color maybe, but you would still be fascinated by all of them. Now start wrapping these balls of light in plastic foil. You’ve got all sorts of plastic; different colors, different textures, some sheer, other opaque. The more you wrap, the harder it is for the light to shine through. Looking at the five globes again, you notice they’re not as breathtaking as they were when you first found them. In fact, you can’t even tell that they hold a ball of light inside.
If you were to grab someone by the hand and
take them to see the five perfect orbs
of light, they’d say you were crazy, because all they could see is big clumps
of plastic. You’d have to unwrap a ball and show them what you already knew to
be true. And you see, unwrapping just one ball might be enough to make them
believe you were right about the others too.”
People often say we live in a plastic world.
The problem is not the world. Is what we do with the plastic. The world is made by people, not the other way around.
In fact, we are the only species on the Planet that can make a world and yet we’re the ones complaining about the world we
live in. The layers of plastic are inevitable. We’ll get caught up and wrapped
up and from time to time we’ll need to get a pair of scissors and cut if all
off. The more we ignore it, the longer we put it off, the harder it gets.
Sometimes, so much time passes that we even forget there’s a perfect us inside there somewhere.
But once we allow it to shine, once we become aware of its existence, once we acknowledge that it cannot and will not change, we can play freely with all the layers of plastic. We can build complex, colorful personas, that change and explore, that shift perspectives and experiment, that always return to their centers.
Drifting away is all part of life and coming back often demands overcoming the fear of losing those layers of plastic we have worked so hard to neatly wrap around ourselves. The fear of being exposed and vulnerable. The fear of taking responsibility for ourselves. The fear of not being good enough, all naked inside. But the naked self is nothing less than perfect. Do whatever it takes to believe that.