The apple fell to earth as the couple ran from the garden, landing with a small bounce allowing a lone seed to loosen from its fleshy white home and touch the fertile soil. Now free, the seed burrowed deep into the earth, past topsoil and roots which might compete for life giving nutrients, toward the safety of rock and clay. Here, in the moist and cold darkness of life’s foundation, the seed waited for the renewal of light into its world.
I lived through another night. Funny, just a few years ago not living for any reason wasn’t something that I considered. Now, with all that has happened over the last 24 months, just being alive is a miracle. Although what I am doing isn’t really living…it is existing until I don’t anymore. If this journal survives, maybe it will help someone smarter than I am understand what has happened. I am not really sure.
A longtime friend left for Heaven a few weeks back. He had lived a long and fruitful life, positively influencing the lives of many and rarely asking anything in return. He gave much – much more than he got, but that is how he wanted it. He is missed because we cannot see him anymore, but his touch on our hearts and minds; the memories of laughter, of intelligent discussion and political debate are now integral to our DNA. A part of us left when he did, because we are a mixture of ourselves and the people we love and who love us. The essence of my life is the sum of what God does, what I do, and what I absorb from friends and family. So, some of me left when he did, but much more of him stayed behind. Like I said, he gave more that he got.
The bell shaped curve, that great equalizer of the school classroom, is meant to explain how a population of test scores will eventually unfold itself neatly along a predetermine path, thus displaying the test results into upper, lower, and average positions. In my eighth grade English class, I prayed that everyone else was as confused and ill-prepared as I, so the entire curve would be adjusted downward, giving me a fighting chance for a graded-on-the-curve C. But the concept of a predictable outcome of highs, mediums and lows, is not just used in school; cars are labeled as luxury, mid class, and economy, you can fly in first class, coach, or in lower fare seats. The bell shaped curve is also used to described our life (yours and mine), in terms of its quality when compared to everyone else. Are we middle class, upper class, or poor? Those labels are thrown at us by politicians, reporters, educators; the need for others to categorize our life into a single box is nearly fanatical in its scope.
Perhaps worse is when we place our ability to be happy (content, or joyful) on a human bell shaped curve, relegating the amount of time we can spend being at the apex of life to 10-15 %, and when we are ‘just average’ to 70% of life’s timeline. I don’t believe people knowingly choose a mid-level happiness state for the bulk of their life, I think it just happens. I think we self-impose an expectation that being in a constant state of over-the-top exuberant happiness is wrong – only weird or naive people think like that. We tend to accept that good is good enough, and great is rare.
Ask someone the question, “How are you?” The overwhelming response is, “Good.” You will get a few greats, and a few that are ousy, but good will dominate. I submit that being great is a much more natural state that being good, and that we can, and should, redefine the curve to include more great, and less good and lousy. I believe that the plan was always for greatness, and we have deviated from where we can be.
Here are a few ways to move the bar towards great:
- Redefine the driving force that creates your personal happiness (or joy) away from external sources to internal ones. Try not to rely on a person, place or event to make you happy. Choose to be happy all on your own.
- Use your own definition for happiness, not that of someone else. It’s your life, you get to define it.
- If happiness and joy are elusive, try doing something great for someone else, and something great for yourself too. Feeling great spreads from person to person like butter on warm bread.
I’m not proposing an arrogant version of great or a prideful view of happy. Just the opposite, I am promoting a humble and sincere version of being at the top, where there is room for everyone.
I find joy in my faith, where I am told that I am special, I am one of a kind and I am loved beyond my capacity to comprehend. There is nothing wrong with feeling good, but there is something very right about being great.
Thanks for reading.