[Caveat: All of my observations, or essays, however dubbed, are simply reflections on lessons that life has taught me, which I here pass along to my loved ones and to any others who choose to read them. I make no claim to prescience, wisdom or mastery of any of these life-lessons. They simply reflect observations and goals to which I still aspire.]
Life is as we see it, the way that we choose to see it, nothing more, nothing less. Life is our perception of it.
The trite analogies say it well: Do we see the donut or the hole, the glass half-empty or half-full? Choose the donut and the glass half-full every time, and we are well on the way to a good life. Choose the negatives, and misery will be ours. As the blind man sees only the images that he creates, we create our own unique impressions of what we see. Choose to focus on the positives and see the prism of life’s radiant colors that are so apparent to open eyes.
Why not see people through our own prism? How much to concentrate on whatever is appealing about them (i.e., their appealing features, clothing and character traits) rather than on their unpleasant ones. This in no way suggests that we should ignore danger signs or fail to be alert to risk from unsavory sorts or from our environment. I’m not a Pollyanna. I have been duped, cheated, embezzled, sued and bamboozled by all manner of desperate miscreants. Life is far too short to spend my days dwelling on those who have hurt me. Miscreants punish themselves. I've learned the hard way to protect myself, and I urge others to do no less. While we cannot risk embracing strangers indiscriminately or fail to be alert and to maintain our defenses in place, we are still not precluded from searching for the best in everyone, as nearly everyone has some redeeming elements to share; the objective is to find and enjoy them.
So, to the extent not risky, I search for the good in all situations and in all people. By so doing, the good that I find is my perception of them, and my perception of good is my reality, which makes me happier and should make them somewhat happier. I am constrained to again recall the inspirational comment of that universally venerated American cracker-barrel philosopher, comedian, Oklahoma Congressman and icon, Will Rogers (1879-1935):
“I’ve never met a man I didn’t like.”
What more marvelous thing can anyone say? Would you guess that Will was a happy man? Absolutely. I confess that I can't say that, not exactly, but I can get close: I can find something to like in everyone. I may not overtake Will, but this approach DOES help me a great deal. It's a joy-giving view! Just think how wonderful our day would be today and every day, if only we found something to like in everyone! We can do it 99% of the time anyway. Each time we do that, our day is happier, as is the day of all about finding something to like in every stranger we encounter, because, feeling our approval, they naturally reciprocate by approving and liking us, and we launch our own little snowball of happy relationships and happier days. Isn’t that really what’s important?
Our job can be approached in much the same way. Just as there is no shame in any honest labor, there is something good to be found in every job, if we look for it, really look for it. We can find something to like in most every job, and that, too, makes for a much more pleasant day. Jobs, like people and life, are perception. This is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to do whatever job appeals to us; it’s just to say that happiness can be found in infinite ways. Spreading happiness by finding ways to like other makes a great start.
One of the pre-eminent philosophers of the 19th Century, G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1830) asserted:
“The only thing real is the mind."
He held that conscious thought creates reality; that is, the reality of all matter. This heady thought has begun to appear in the writings of physicists. Putatively the greatest theoretical physicist and cosmologist since Einstein, Stephen Hawking (Brit born 1942, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom), poses a similar thought in his must-read A Brief History of Time. The poet, Edgar Allan Poe, put it differently:
“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”
We shall never solve these conundrums, but we do know that, in our lives, the mind has powers far beyond our comprehension. We can't "see" electricity, but we can see its power; imagine the power of collective thoughts! At the very least, our minds determine our feelings: Whatever our minds feel is what we experience, but we are not its mercy. We are the bosses of our own minds. The mind, like a steering wheel, directs our feelings in different directions, but we are at liberty to seize that wheel and steer it wherever we like, by removing any negative thoughts and implanting positive ones. What do we wish to be and become?
We can control our thoughts and, therefore, our feelings, and, long term, our destinies.
If we are idle, and do not take control, our thoughts will often go astray, being led by others, some with negative outlooks or bad habits (e.g., excessive drinking or even abusive drugs). The good news is that we have the power to choose our paths for ourselves. In the final analysis, it’s up to us. We must decide how we will perceive life. There is no one else to blame or credit.
Our perceptions are our realities.
We alone control our perceptions.
As such, we control our lives.
The mind rules all, and we rule our minds.
Therefore, in the long run, life will be what we perceive it to be.