Thursday, June 18, 2009

Guts & Glory: More Than Surviving

“I don’t want to survive, I want to live.” Wall-E  

Such a simple statement from the futuristic children’s movie Wall-E, but its meaning carries seismic paradigm shifting consequence. Survivors, at some point in the very midst of their crisis seizing body, mind, and spirit decide…they are not going to fight, flee, or freeze. No, survivors will tell you at some point, they decide they will not give in to instinctual, autonomic, involuntary reaction. Survivors will tell you they want to do more than survive, they want to live.

“It is not the situation that matters, but how you react to it”. Epictetus

In the midst of mortal danger, or even repeated mundane daily stressors (which over time can cause as much damage or even more that one incidence of mortal danger), we have a golden opportunity for glory. 

With each daily stressor (or if you are THAT person experiencing mortal danger or threat) we have a decision to make, which will change our lives. Although sometimes we do not think or accept that suffering through life is good, I believe it is. Suffering allows us to learn and if not mortal, gives us a second chance to make the right decision. Making the right decision determines whether we will be “bitter or better”, and whether we will stand or fall. Adversity and struggle really ought to be our best friend, our greatest teacher. 

The question is this: will we allow ourselves to be dictated by the world’s definition of success or failure, or will we seek success in a new light? This light, which some call enlightenment, allows you to forever refute the world’s definition of success, and instead embrace an eternal definition of success.

Much of our fear and worry comes from caving in to seeking approval and expectation from others. It also comes from thinking that this “world” is all that will ever exist for us. This type of thinking creates a fear-based poverty mentality where a person may act out of character and good reason because they are making decisions based on fear of loss, poverty, or death. However, who is defining or telling us that loss, poverty, or death are “bad” things? The world tells us that loss, poverty, or death are bad. Those with what I’ll call “Eternal Wealth Philosophy”, make the decision and choice to not succumb to the world’s definition of “wealth vs. poverty, success vs. failure, or pleasure vs. pain”. Those people hold a belief that is dear and sacred to them. They believe that they are in no position to “judge” pleasure from pain or success from failure but instead they live by faith that in all things they endure – ultimate eternal wealth will come.

We can take this a step further and say that once the survivor has made the choice to endure and overcome, staying full of expectant hope and refusing to be confined by the finite world’s view of success, they can choose to help others who have similarly suffered. This is called the golden rule or the rule of karma and dharma, do unto others as you would be done unto and act for the sake of action’s sake, not just to reap the reward of the action. 

We should pursue, with great compassion and love, those activities which ultimately “build up”, instead of “tear down” relationships. I believe the greatest act of resilience is to love others, which leads others toward a life of expectant hope and demonstrates that eternal wealth is a birthright and exists through love and its actions. 

I believe all things work toward a common good for all who believe in a life of eternal wealth. It becomes easier to shed “poverty and fear” based thinking when we have something to look forward to beyond this life. It also becomes easier to shed doom and gloom thinking when we realize what we suffer through can ultimately help another person survive.

What also makes survivors resilient is their exercise of choice (either knowingly or unknowingly). By choice, they overcome. And each time they undergo adversity and survive, they become stronger and draw on faith from past experience, as well as from being supported by others who have suffered similarly they will again survive.

In many cases, belief in a Higher power is where people derive that core "faith,” because they believe there is a cloud of witnesses who have gone before them who have survived similar ordeals and are surrounding them with support. Those people also draw on faith because they believe nothing is left to chance and that everything happens for a reason and can work for the good of all.

John Donne' said, "No man is an not think for whom the bell tolls, the bell tolls for thee."

As a result, our life experiences, our “surviving”, is never in vain. We can always use our situations of survival to aid and assist others. Ultimately, our pain can be our best teacher. We can further harness lessons, and be of help to ourselves, by helping others through their similar pain and suffering - by sharing in the human condition. Someone else's pain becomes our pain. Someone else's joy then becomes our joy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. penned from an Alabama jail, "We are all interconnected...I cannot become what I am supposed to become until you become what you are supposed to become...."

Learning the lesson of using pain as our teacher to help ourselves and others can ultimately be what empowers us and others to choose to survive, and overcome. By your suffering, you can save two lives – someone else’s and your own.

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