“Humans are the only animals that, when they find themselves in a rut, they furnish it.” Anonymous
As a westerner, we like to believe we are in control of our world, captain of the ship of our life, and responsible for our self. There is great beauty and power in this orientation. But it also minimizes the fact that we participate in a greater drama and that we are deeply affected by forces beyond our control. We often rile against the world when the illusion of control collides with greater forces and life, or society, or our own unconscious, blocks our way or disrupts our routines.
For a poetic version of this same idea, check out my poem, Pebble, in my poetry blog
Photo, Prose, and Recital © Nick LeForce
All Rights Reserved
These greater forces come in four major forms: spiritual, natural, social, and personal. There are the obvious “acts of God,” which is a legal term for natural disasters, like floods, earthquakes, and storms, that can change our lives, or end our lives or take the lives of loved ones, in a flash. There are also the magical times of blessed synchronicity as if an “invisible hand,” has guided us to the exact place we need to be or introduced us to the right person at that point in our life.
Thoughts to ponder and questions to consider:
Our lives are truly nested in greater forces, forces over which we have no control and that often carry us along in life, whether or not we are aware of the ride, and regardless of whether we accept it or resist it. These greater forces are "what brought you here and what will take you on the next leg of your journey." Developing a relationship to these greater forces is one of the great tasks of life.
How did you get to where you are now?
What is your attitude toward the greater forces of life?
What if you and the greater forces were lovers finding your place with each other?
The natural world, especially the landscape of our birth or homeland, has a powerful influence on us. Someone raised and living in Hawaii has a very different experience of life than someone raised and living in Siberia. Even the everyday patterns of weather affect what we do, how we dress, where we go and how we feel.
Anyone who has traveled to foreign lands, especially those willing to go beyond the tourist attractions and engage with the local life, will recognize that people from a different culture live by very different norms. Society and culture shape our worldview, establish our identity, organize our beliefs, and direct our perception. Current research into “cultural intelligence” points out the massive effect culture has on our way of being and moving through life. Cultural differences determine how we view time and tasks, family and friendships, productivity and pleasure, and how and where we fit into the world.
There is wisdom in the old folk saying: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Our basic sense of self was sculpted by the day-to-day, sometimes intentional and sometimes accidental, chiseling affect from family to community to country. These forces determine what is permissible for us and what we expect and desire from others. The expectations, demands, and desires of others play a major role in almost everything we do in life. Whether we like it or not, we are a product of our social world either in obedience to it or rebellion against it.
Psychological research shows how much of our everyday life and action, including our thinking and emotion, is simply a set of operating routines. The ratio of conscious to unconscious is astonishingly small and the evidence overwhelmingly supports the unconscious as the tour de force behind our life. The unconscious includes the natural drives of biology, the make up of our physiology, and the shaping of the body and mind by experiences in life.
Most of us avoid thinking about all these greater forces because it is simply overwhelming. It’s much easier to find a good rut to live in and hold fast to the illusion of control. This works as long as the rut is not slammed by life (a major illness, loss of a loved one, loss of a job or upheaval in the community) and as long as we avoid any serious soul searching. But be warned: Ruts come with a very big cost: we lose ourselves and we run the risk that we will face the number one regret of the dying: that we failed to live our own life. The only way to live a genuine life is to engage the greater forces in ourselves, to dance the delicate dance with society, and to come to terms with life before it is too late.
Please share your thoughts and comments below: