Life: How to Make the Most of It
An Attitude of Freedom
By: J. Marlando
Some Reasons Why Lots of People Don’t
As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and so it typically is. I have a great many years of it and looking back, life becomes far less complicated, difficult and challenging than I believed it was as I weaved through its thickets of chaos and chance; those decades of feeling my way along those dark corridors of uncertainty called life.
First of all, nearly all of us were given misinformation even by our most caring parents, teachers and preachers because, for one thing, they were simply passing down what their parents, teachers and preachers taught them wrapped in their own experiences.
As little kids we only have the adults in our world to give us an understanding of how to be a person. The sad thing is that most neglected kids never learn how and so that’s why they have such troubled lives. Our prisons are filled with those impoverished by the lack of love.
Making the most of your life begins with permitting yourself to love and to be loved. As simple as that sounds some people have a great deal of difficulty accepting the fact that they are loving and lovable. In regard to this, I know a woman who has virtually spent her entire life trying to please her father and gain his love. She’s still trying to please him even though he’s now been dead for a dozen years and she is nearly 40 years old herself.
There is a great lesson in this for all of us. You do NOT have to be what people have told you that you are.
Reread the above sentence because it can be a real epiphany for at least some readers.
Also you do not have to live up to anyone’s expectations except your own. In fact, if you are a grown up, you do not have to mind your parents anymore or, for that matter, anyone else.
This was probably amidst the first misinformation you were given: Good little boys and girls…mind. Well, minding is necessitated for children but “big” boys and girls need to make their own decisions and, in many instances, their own rules. After all, if you happen to be the type that is like a sheep forever seeking a shepherd, you will probably spend your lifetime feeling far more lost than found!
With this in mind, this is where the first great lesson in “making the most of your life” arrives. Never, never, never, judge yourself by others or others by yourself…never!
Nevertheless, it is almost for certain that you were raised to do this cloaked in competitiveness—are you dressed as well as other kids in school…are you as popular as others in your class…will you be as successful as so-in-so and the nonsense continues into keeping up with the Jones or self-condemning because you can’t. There is simply not a bigger unhappy-maker than comparing ourselves with others and others with ourselves.
I have said this many times but clearly the truth remains that judging self by others and others by self is one of the most destructive habits that people have.
The only person you ever want to compete with is you unless you’re in sports. And even if you’re in sports you should never judge you by anyone else. Just be all you can be and don’t worry about whose better or worse, richer or poorer, fatter or thinner—you don’t have one thing to prove and that’s a fact. You’ve only been raised to believe that you are what you own, or how you dress, or what your title is…or isn’t.
This is where our parents come in again. They are forever telling us that we could have done better so if we’re very touchy we feel that there’s something in us that keeps us from doing our best—some kind of a flaw or weakness. The truth, however, is that we can ONLY do our best. Go on try and do anything less than your best and you’ll find out you can’t in the moment you are doing it.
While it is true you can do better next time, “this time” you’re giving it your best. Think about it, have you ever done less than your best in the present moment? Absolutely not!
Not doing one’s best is a mythology of behavior and nothing more. It’s like saying if the horse would have run faster he would have won the race.
Another thing is that the significant others in our lives invariably teach us that there is little worthwhile in the present: When you’re going to school no one ever bothers to teach us to enjoy learning but rather tells us how much “learning” will deliver to us in the future. You know, once you graduate, you will be able to get a good job or have a great career and have all this stuff. If you work hard you will be able to retire and have a good time which indicates that working hard is necessarily a “bad” time. Culturally, especially we Westerners are a little phobic when it comes to the present moment.
We are taught to always be thinking ahead.
Well, thinking ahead is important when we are planning but not when we’re laying on the beach or patio soaking in the sun; not when we’re having a fun time or, as they say, making whoopee. The truth is that we are conditioned to constantly be aware of the “seriousness” of life. In America it is that old crazy-making Puritanism that is in our bloodstreams. The dull-brained Puritans were indeed devoted to pain over pleasure because pleasure could too easily lead to “sinfulness.”
And this leads us into another topic. Chances are that our parents, teachers and preachers also indoctrinated us into believing that suffering was somehow the road to salvation. This dumb and dumber concept has kept otherwise normal people on the yellow line for thousands of years. For example, when I was a kid, I was convinced that I was born sinful because two naked people were disobedient.
And speaking of guilt and shame, as a quick aside, have you ever noticed that the “fat cats” are forever telling the poor folk that their reward will be in heaven. And if you want to get to heaven, you’ve got to mind—now is that fist-banging politics or what?
Back more directly to the topic of thinking ahead: We invariably learn to live in the “then” and “there” as opposed to the “here” and “now.” Success for example is nearly always put at the top of some peak, a mountain difficult to climb and demanding—what else—sacrifice.
While there is no such thing as sacrifice the master demagogues in our lives have been telling us there is sacrifice for thousands of years, there isn’t! While it is certainly possible to “sacrifice” someone else no one can sacrifice themselves because he or she is choosing between two alternatives and therefore deciding on the one most favored or desired. For example, the mother who feeds her child instead of eating herself is not sacrificing for the child she is giving the food to the child because it is more important to her that her child eats than eating herself. Actually sacrificing is merely an ancient religious-socio more with the roots of tithing in its earliest practice.
One interpretation of sacrifice is to do without in the present in order to have in the future. Hardly a sacrifice but called that never the less. In any case, we are typically taught that success is never easy to achieve, that it takes “sacrifice,” devotion, work and persistence; keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. In other words, no pain, no gain!
This view once again returns us to the rather slow-witted Puritans who are at the basis of our so-called work-ethic. In our Western culture, we are generally raised to believe if something isn’t difficult it isn’t of value; that only back-breaking or brain-straining work is what leads to success. As said, it’s the “no pain, no gain” philosophy.
Conscientious parents do their best to teach their children the differences between right and wrong The problem is that so much of what we call right and wrong is based on social mores and cultural mythology. In fact, at least some of what the last generation called wrong, bad or even wicked, the next generation accepts as the norm. And anyway, just because something is not socially accepted doesn’t mean that its wrong, it merely means its not socially accepted.
A great many parents go as far as to tell their children that God is watching them and knows when they do the naughty or wrong; when they are “bad” little boys and girls. There is a great problem with this since children who are led to believe they are bad…typically try to live up to the name. It’s interesting but popular tatoos for a lot of prison inmates not too long ago were: Born to be Bad and Born to Lose.
Negletful parents for sure but even the best intended parent can sentence their children to a life of unhappiness from their own notions of right and wrong. Indeed, many have such strict ideas of what rightiousness is (or should be) that they condemn them to meakness and/or self-doubt.
In regard to the above, in the U.S.A., we were all raised to believe that one of our country’s pride and joys is the “individualist.” In fact, not just the individualist but the “rugged individualist.” The problem is that anyone who actually becomes individualist is pushed to the fringes of the society and labeled undesirable. Well, unless he makes a ton of money and then he is called eccentric. Michael Jackson was, if you will, “eccentric” in this view but just think what the lions of social protocal and formality would have done to him had he been born a poor, little black boy with no talent.
Many parents (yes, even with the best intentions) instill fear-of-self-exertion in their children so they spend a lifetime in obedience. In this they often do the right thing for the wrong reason since what he or she has deemed “right” is merely a parroting of what the authority in his or her life has deemed…right. Thus, personal freedom has been abandoned for the security of acceptance.
There is more of course but I believe I’ve covered the most common concepts that serve to stop a lot of people from exploring and testing their own abilities to pursue their own happiness and making the best of their own lives. We will talk about breaking the chains of such subordinations next.
Making the Most out of (Your) Life
To begin with we’ll return to the top of this article to recall a most important piece of information: You do NOT have to be what people told you that you are.
You do not have to live up to anyone’s expectations of you or “perform” for anyone. As long as you are an adult in at least average, good mental health—you are free to simply be and do what you choose.
Remember, some people spend entire life times either obeying or disobeying their parents and/or other authority in their pasts. They create persona-selves and all sorts of behaviors to cloak themselves in how they “think” others see them or how they “want” to be seen by others. Others have nothing to do with the who, what and how you are. You can CHOOSE to leave those false images by the wayside.
This action of “open-self-expression” always demands you to NOT judge yourself by others or others by yourself. As you have already read, this is the greatest unhappy-makers of all. You need to sit back and analyse what YOU really want, what lifestyle makes YOU happy and content. One of the happiest persons I’ve ever known was a pick and shovel man! You don’t have to be anything that you don’t deem rewarding for YOU. After all, no one is living your life accept you and, I remind you that it is indeed YOUR life.
In view of the above, the first thing you need to do is quit making rash choices and decisions. That is, quit permitting your world to dictate your course and instead begin to take charge of your world. Observe—a person with very little is NOT a failure any more than a person with a lot is a success. Understand, no matter what you’ve been told, life is NOT about success and failure it is about happiness and unhappiness, contentment and discontentment.
A problem is that you have probably been indoctrinated in believing that having a bunch of stuff is the ultimate aim…there’s nothing wrong with wanting and obtaining a lot of material property along your way as long as you’re enjoying “along your way.”
In fact, if you don’t know how to enjoy yourself with nothing, you will not be able to enjoy yourself with something either. You will simply want something more and something else but of course you already understand those trappings.
Never self condemn. This is how the tricksters of religion and government keep you on tilt. Remember that everyone has their hangups, their deviations and their weirdness…we all put our pants on the same way!
As long as your actions have not coerced or harmed someone, you have NOTHING to feel guilt and/or shame about. You’ve only been manipulated by those two phantoms; the tools of the pious and pretentious. As for sin: *God does not judge you your parents, teachers and preachers do.
In regard to this, there in NO right and wrong in the context of morality. These are merely cultural creations and mores. Do not ask if something is right or wrong—ask if something is cruel or kind. As long as you do the kind thing you cannot do the wrong thing!
You can turn a screw in the wrong way and you can make a wrong decision but as far as human ethics and morality is concerned, all that truly matters is what is kind and what isn’t.
Certainly it is essential that you plan ahead but you do not want to live in future or past events as so many do. Past is gone and future has not arrived. You need to consciously practice living in the present moment. After all, you are here and now.
However, know this: Every decision you make, big and small, determines your destiny. Know that every choice you make has a consequence and that consequence may turn out to be the butterfly flapping his wings to create a windstorm a thousand miles away. Think about it!
In highsight you will one day learn—if you haven’t already—that constantly you stood (and stand) at a crossroads with your entire fate depending on which way you CHOSE to go. Even in regard to this much, I tell you that you have always been freer than you thought you were. It is probably safe to say that you are much freer right now, than you think or believe you are.
We human beings have such a tendency to blame fate for our misfortunes—the why me, God, syndrome! This doom and gloom attitude actually begins, at least for most people, with the lunacy of believing in original sin. No just human being, much less a loving God, would condemn the infant to take on the sins of his or her mother—only a most chauvinistic, self-rightious person would do this. Recall, no one ever even imagined the idea of “original” sin before 4th century Rome when Augustine was given the job to interpret Genesis. Indeed, human sexuality had never been attached to sin before this. In fact, it is primarily thanks to Augustine and a few other of the church’s arrogant intellectuals like Tertullian and Jerone that sex and sin have all but become synonymous. With sex and disobedience aside, however, no one is born under a lucky or unlucky star. The Universe is neutral and so as the old saying tells us, it rains on everyone…the sun also shines on all of us—bottom line, we are victims or victors of our own choices!
At this juncture the reader might be saying but I didn’t choose this missing leg or tornato that just destroyed my home or car wreck I was just in but what I have to say to this person is, “recall the butterfly flapping his wings.”
There is happenstance, yes but nearly all of it, good and bad, can be traced back to the chain event of our past choices.
Certainly some people are born into wealth and some into poverty but note—many a rich person has gone broke and misused fortunes while many a poor person has achieved great wealth—the rich person was not unlucky and the poor person lucky, one merely made the better decisions.
In view of all this, parents are nearly always at the ready to teach their children all the old memes of their cultures about succeeding. In our society we learn at a very young age that success is always at the end of a long road of nose-to-the-grindstone labor or at the summit of some distant mountain called “Peak Making It.” That is, the grand rewards of our life are always placed way over there at the end of some rainbow. Certainly financial success (and that’s the only kind deemed important in modernism) can take time and lots of effort to achive but few of us are taught to enjoy and have a pleasurable time all along our way. In fact, we have an underlying philosphy that whispers in the ear that if it ain’t difficult, it ain’t of valuable.
In thiking about this, the Greek philosopher, Ericuruswho lived around 200 B.C. said, “The fool, with all his other faults, has this also, he is always getting ready to live.”
This ancient observation is ever as applicable today—most people are waiting to one day be able to enjoy their lives because they place joy at the end of acquisition and accumulation. In this regard, during an interveiw with the renowned Dr. Bernie Siegel, he said to me, “...We need to choose our way of loving the world.” This aphorism works naturally for children and remains with them until it is taken away by their parents, teachers and preachers who tend to shadow everything by price-tagging what is vluable and what isn’t. Even to gain God’s favor the child learns that he/she must “learn to be obedient.”
What we all should learn is that we need to have fun and pleasure all along our way. As the old saying goes, we need to wake up and smell the roses.”
While very few people find work that they absolutely love everyone can love the work that they do; they can turn the most dreadful labor into a loving endeavor. I can say this because my dad was a coal miner (one of the most physically demanding jobs and in truly challenging conditions) and he “loved” it all…he CHOSE to love it as the alternative would have been self-defeating and he knew it.
To love is to make free, to hate is to enslave.
We can make the most of our lives by deciding to! Indeed, the greatest secret in the world might well be that beneath all our indoctrinations is a freedom that we soon enough forget ever existed; that our great gift is the power of deciding.
This gift, however, can lead in many directions since the choices we make today, in this instant, might well, and probably will, create the storm or the calm in our tomorrows to come. After all, every time we make a decision, we change our course of action and in the doing change our fate.
This, beyond all else, is the price of freedom and each of us possess it although most people prefer blaming circumstances and/or others for the mishaps in their lives. Nevertheless, how often have we heard ourselves or someone else say, if only I’d done this or that, I’d be so much better off today? Well, hindsight really is 20/20 at least most of the time. but yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not yet arrived and so with every choice you make today you recreate your world.
The common question is how the heck do we know when we are making the positive choice?
First of all the world of others tend to mislead and misrepresent. The labels and titles, ranks and rituals are all persona-based; they encourage and then entrap. Indeed, how often do we wonder, just how’d I get into this mess?
At least one answer to this question is that our children are taught by the adults in their lives to follow and not to think. While most parents will readily deny this, this is an accurate observation. In fact, a great many so-called individuals go through their entire lives….following and in the doing, surrender their freedom…to choose.
So how do we regain the wisdom to forward and grow our lives? Socrates told us millenniums ago: Wisdom is elicited from within. And so, the next time you are about to make a decision of any level of importance, go inside and you will find the positive choice to make…and remember, it is the truth that sets you free.
*A thought first expressed by Bernie Siegel during an interview with him.