At one of my lectures, an earnest fellow asked me to “bottom-line it” for him; what is my approach all about? Remember to play, I told him. He wrote this down carefully, which suggested that he may not have gotten the message.
Carpe diem, goes the old Latin tag. “Seize the day.” My personal mantra is no less proactive, but more conscious: choose the day. By my observation, what we encounter on any day has a great deal to do with what we bring to that day. We draw or repel different events and encounters according to our attitudes and the basic energy we are carrying. We find doors open or closed according to our willingness or refusal to change our expectations and our plans as circumatsnaces change.
We choose every day, whether we are aware of this or not. If we tell ourselves we have no choice, that is a choice we are making. If we tell ourselves that we have no choice because a situation is beyond our control, we forget that we can still choose our response to the world, and that can change everything. Whenever I hear someone – perhaps a voice within myself – bleating or protesting that the world is cruel and can’t be changed, I think of Viktor Frankl in the nightmare of Auschwitz. Reduced to a tattooed number, starved and worked almost to death, liable to be killed at any moment, Frankl chose to project his mind into a vision of an “impossible” future in which the Nazis were an ancient memory and he was again a respected pyschologist, lecturing to an enthusiastic audience on “the psychology of the concentration camps.” In growing the vision of a future beyond the pain and horror, he found the means of survival, as described in his indelible book Man’s Search for Meaning – and throws down the gauntlet to all of us who tell ourselves, under gentler pressures, that we have no choice.
At the close of a beautiful week of soul healing and shared dreaming in my workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, I asked the members of our circle to choose the day, in a personal statement. Here’s a sampling of what they said:
“I choose to be present today with all of my senses.”
“I choose to have Tiger in my heart.”
“I choose to follow my soul’s purpose.”
“I choose to see my waking life as a dream.”
“I choose to travel with the energy of the group.”
“I choose to be compassionate.”
“I choose to be a survivor.”
“I choose to soar with the bird and see my roads from a higher perspective.”
“I choose the fire.”
My own statement for the day: “I choose to live as if everything matters.”
Champagne sparkle in the waters at Hollyhock. Photo by Steve Case.
When I was last in London, I walked down a quiet road off Kensington High Street where I once lived and noticed that there is now a blue plaque marking the apartment building opposite my former home as a place where the poet T.S.Eliot once had a flat. This took me back to even older memories, of listening to Eliot read his own poems on a scratchy old 78 rpm record in my room when I was in my early teens. Eliot read very well, and I can still recite long passages from “The Waste Land”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and above all, his luminous Four Quartets from memory.
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.