May 2009

It Could Be Worse

Author: Craig Hysell

It’s that time again. We few, we happy few who receive our monthly inoculation against despair, insanity and misplaced anger with that priceless injection of perspective are at it again. This month, though, is a bit different.
See, admittedly, I know very little about life. In fact, if anything, my personal tale should be a cautionary one in terms of both finance and direction at the moment. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with my life, and I’ve lost just about everything I own to bankruptcy at the age of 34. On top of all that, my first child is due in June, and I constantly wonder what kind of father I will be to my newborn son or daughter. Will I be good enough? Can I lead by example? (I have no idea.)
However…the fact that I can admit that I don’t really know a whole lot about life puts me in a somewhat elite position. As a voluntarily confused member of society, I possess very little arrogance in terms of how the world must be defined in order for me to be at ease with it. That seems awfully rare these days. How much easier would life be for all of us if it was built on mutual respect and empathy rather than absolutism?

I have a lot of questions. All my answers lead to more questions. I have chosen to forever remain a student. And the one lesson that Life continuously scrawls on the chalkboard before me is this: Your attitude, which you have complete control over whether you believe it or not, determines the world around you at all times. Both your good days and your bad days depend on one very, very simple thing: how you look at it.

You don’t lose almost every material thing you own without having some idea of what you’re talking about when it comes to the power (or the debilitating effects) of perspective. This month I look to other people with much, much larger voices than little ol’ me to see what they had to say about perspective. If they had likeminded notions, maybe the prospect of a proper attitude in life can be better validated for all of us. Okay, most of us… I don’t mind being labeled an idealist, but even idealism must face up to reality, and the reality is this: Some people will never understand that it could be worse. Or that the world owes us absolutely nothing.

The Perspective Philosophy
“Half the world laughs at the other half, though all are fools. Either everything is good or everything is bad, depending on the vote. What one sues, another pursues. An insufferable fool, he who wishes the universe regulated according to his plans…Proper satisfaction may be taken only in the approval of persons of authority and those who have standing in their fields. Do not live by the sanction of any one voice, or of any one custom, or of any single period.”–Balthasar Gracian in The Art of Worldly Wisdom

“South Park bothers me. I question whether it’s morally appropriate…[but] The fact of the matter is that the people who think they have ‘the corner on truth’ need to be taken down a peg. After all, people’s perceptions of the truth are just that, people’s perceptions, and it’s OK to laugh at them.”—Robert Arp in South Park And Philosophy

“Everyone lets the present moment slip by, then looks for it as though he thought it were somewhere else. No one seems to have noticed this fact. But grasping this firmly, one must pile experience upon experience. And once one has come to this understanding, he will be a different person from that point on, though he may not always bear it in mind. When one understands this settling into single-mindedness, well, his affairs will thin out.”—Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai

“Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others, when thou dost not refer thy thoughts to some object of common utility…What is such and such a person doing, and why, and what is he saying, and what is he thinking of, and what is he contriving, and whatever else of the kind makes us wander away from the observation of our own ruling power.”—Marcus Aurelius in Mediations

“Life is the effect of feelings. Life is simply what our feelings do to us.”—Bruce Lee in Striking Thoughts

“Great leaders are rarely ‘realistic.’ They are intelligent, and they are accurate, but they are not realistic by other people’s standards. What is realistic for one person, though, is totally different for another person, based upon their references… If you’re going to make an error in life, err on the side of overestimating your capabilities.”—Tony Robbins in Awaken the Giant Within

“Those of us who go into the wilderness or seek our thrills in contact with the forces of nature soon learn, in fact, that experience, training and modern equipment can betray you. The maddening thing for someone with a Western scientific mind is that it’s not what’s in your pack that separates the quick from the dead. It’s not even what’s in your mind. Corny as it sounds, it’s what’s in your heart.”—Laurence Gonzales in Deep Survival. Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

“I am completely miserable, San Diego. It’s so hot. Milk was a bad choice.”—Ron Burgundy in Anchorman

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