2009-02-19

the little prince

"Only the children know what they are looking for," said the little prince. "They waste their time over a rag doll and it becomes very important to them; and if anybody takes it away from them, they cry..."

"They are lucky," the switchman said.

2009-02-13

constraint...

Something I've been thinking about lately is that humans only grow and mature when they are presented with constraint, restriction, opposition.

A human left to himself and his own wishes never learns, never grows, never matures.

I seem to see this in so many facets of life, as we here in America seek for what we call freedom, which we define as the right to do whatever we please. We fight for our "right" to drive huge automobiles, to sprawl as far as we like, to eat as much as we like whenever we like, to own a lot of useless things - and we call this freedom.

What it is really, is the heaviest burden of them all. As Kahlil Gibran says in The Prophet:

You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief,

But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.

And how shall you rise beyond your days and nights unless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour?

In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle the eyes.

We define freedom as the absence of connection, the absence of responsibility, we seek to remove ourselves from the connections between things, but that simply can't happen. Whether we like it or not, we are all connected, we all bear responsibility for ourselves and for each other, and we all affect each other. There is no freedom in trying to break those connections, there is only freedom in realizing them.

In my own life, I've found it to be true that I never learn anything useful about life unless I am confronted with my own views by someone who is resisting them. I find that I am most often selfish, and I will continue to be so until someone around me confines me by showing me how I am acting.

Resistance sharpens us by forcing us to be introspective - it's an irrepressible mirror held up to us by life. Resistance also forces us to look at our surroundings. If we all have a nice, wide road with no stop signs along it, we will drive as fast as we can as far as we can, and our last thought will be for the other people we might damage along the road. It's only when the road is confined around us, when there are obstacles that force us to slow down, to look around, that we will consider whether there might not be others on the road who are valuable and need looking out for.

So, be on the lookout for constraint. Sharpen yourself. Dive into the connections you have with others, and let them change your views of life. Let them soften you, let them temper the self-centered views you may still hold onto - and as you do, you will also act as the mirror for those around you.