All Change Please
Can you feel it? It’s discomforting. It’s annoying. It’s persistent. But what exactly is it?
Some call ‘it’ existential dread, others a modern malaise, still others — the dark night of the soul. Actually, I don’t know anyone who calls it the latter but it sounds pretty neat.
Whatever designation you give ‘it’ — suffering is likely. ‘It’ manifested from the demise of religious institutions, became accelerated through social media incessantly reminding us of what we don’t have, and has been compounded by our global pandemic.
Not always necessary, but often needed — ‘it’ can be that gift that leads to meaningful change.‘It’ nags at you “Hey my friend, something isn’t quite right here.” And whether or not you listen to ‘it’ (or maybe it’s how you listen?) can mark the turning point of your life.
Meaning ensues from a process of discovery and defeat. It’s revealed during those ups and the downs, and in between all the gnarly waves that life brings. Meaning comes from the fruits of your labor as well as the process, the sweat, and the struggle. Or as Harvard Psychologist Susan David explains, “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.”
Making meaning is both your ultimate freedom and responsibility. ‘It’ functions as a flashing green light. You might pause. You might put the pedal to the metal or you may take a turn. The specific direction you choose is less significant than setting out on the quest itself.
Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl knew that the only thing keeping him alive (and his fellow prisoners in the concentration camps) was a deep-seated sense of purpose. The manuscript he’d been working on for years was stripped from his possession. So he began writing it all over again, only this time in his head. He adopted a mindset that his work would eventually find its way into the world. And indeed it did, illuminating how our thoughts shape our reality.
After Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami ran 62 miles around the shores of Lake Saroma — he wrote:
“Usually when I approach the end of the marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That’s all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of the ultramarathon, I wasn’t really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.”
When we learn to appreciate the permanence of our impermanence — we begin to flow where life wants us to go. And if the pandemic has revealed anything to us, it’s that two things can be true at once:
I DJ a Zoom birthday party alone. I feel connected to each and every ‘attendee’.
I can easily dine anywhere I want across the city. Friends overseas can’t move 1000 meters beyond their home.
I yearn to be productive. I crave a retreat.
I feel that time is moving so slow. It’s moving way too fast!
Earthly life has no meaning. My own life definitely matters.
Our unexpected era of quarantine is the universe conspiring. And what we’re experiencing isn’t cognitive dissonance so much as an invitation to boost our individual and collective resiliency.
Human flourishing has always meant persevering in the face of adversity. It time to deconstruct our egos and plunge into something bigger than ourselves. Because when we do…‘it’ gently fades away.