Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Reflections from 2010

--by Mike Adams

This holiday season, like almost any other, came with interpersonal challenges, personal upsets and relational cathartic discussions culminating in mutual understanding and a sense of familial affinity.

My in-laws are gone from my home and this season represents the end to an era.  My mother-in-law will be moving to the town we live in this summer, she will rent an apartment, navigate with GPS, bring added support to my family in terms of child care and add to our dynamic of sarcastic humor.  While this is a happy transition, it represents an end to our family being able to visit Northern California and stay with her for several weeks.  Our vacations will henceforth be shorter and more expensive.

This past year has been entirely transitional, my youngest began kindergarten, my eldest began middle school, my supervisor, a personal friend and mentor, died in a plane crash in May and another close friend and mentor from California just died only days before Christmas.

I could make lots of meaning out of these events but in the end, there is nothing more than what I take away from them.  They are truly irrelevant in the grand scheme of existence.  I love my little kindergartner and he fills my life with meaning but is also completely anonymous outside of the micro-sphere of those who know him.  I will miss my mentors/friends and the latter mentioned above will have a permanent impact on what I do in the world.  It was from him that I learned to articulate myself clearly and communicate deliberately.  

Over the past days, I have continually had to confront the fact that at some point, someone will lower my remains into the ground and throw dirt on my face or scatter my ashes in the forest.  People will probably cry and my children will hopefully remember me fondly…but life will continue, and if society remembers me at all it will likely be as a statistic and ultimately I'll be forgotten altogether.

My life's meaning is no more than a transitory creative process, composed of things like what I, embrace and exemplify in my actions and words as I trudge life's path.  That meaning is what I've been contemplating over recent days.  Not in terms of a New Year's resolution, but rather in terms of a mission statement.

I've been examining moral values I hold and how I attempt to balance conflicting values.  I've been considering what I want my life to serve, how far I want to try and reach in my efforts to realize those values in today's world.

One difficulty is that even at 39 years of age, having accomplished very little in life, I still think that perhaps I can save the world.  Despite having a track record of zero on transformative change outside of myself and a few loved ones, I still think (hope maybe a better word) that I could affect some monumental shift in human activity.  Basically, I'm vain!  I'm incredibly arrogant!  If someone had the misjudgment to put me in a room with Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and the Dhali Lama, I would start talking as if I really had something big to offer them.  The crazy thing is that I would truly expect them to listen…carefully.  It's just the way I am and I haven't effectively changed it yet.  To some it is an endearing trait and to others (mostly other really arrogant people) it is deeply annoying.

But I don't care if I'm arrogant, I won't let that stand in the way of my life having a meaning and I won't let it stand in the way of what I care about.

I care about people!  I love people…almost all of them! I am amazed by people, by our ability to be perfectly compassionate despite ourselves.  By our ability to perform amazing miracles of forgiveness for example the Lancaster Amish community's response to the school massacre in 2006.  I'm constantly inspired by our ability to rise from the depths of utter selfishness and be great…to redeem ourselves.

I don't subscribe to the beautiful Shakespearean quote of, "What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason…" To the contrary, I really think that people are all crazy.  Not completely crazy…we do have logic and we practice religion or spirituality and we have ideals.  But I think mostly we stumble through life taking actions and trying to avoid consequences.  In the moment after we act, we often pause to figure out how our actions are consistent with our logic or our religion or our values.  Don't misunderstand, I don't believe we always act that way, we do occasionally act deliberately, but I do believe that generally, we are deluded into thinking that we act with intention to a far greater degree than is actually the case.

The beauty of humanity lies in our ability to occasionally transcend this inherently messy and sometimes bloody process of stumbling through life.  That despite ourselves and our own shortcomings, we aspire to realize in this world beautiful ideals...more than two hundred years ago, we formed a nation with its genesis containing these words: We hold these truths to be self evident…that all men (people) are created equal, they we are endowed by our creator (in my belief evolution) with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

I suppose that if I have anything to offer at this moment, it would be a pleading that we all stop for a moment (perhaps several moments…maybe on a regular basis) and consider our individual and collective positions.  That we examine our actions and rather than looking for how our actions are consistent with our values, we look for how those same actions contradict our values.  That we hold in our minds and hearts the horror and ugliness of humanity while simultaneously praising the beauty of being human.  We aren't unlike those "Founding Fathers," who drafted our Declaration of Independence, who proclaimed the equality of all men while institutionalizing slavery.  We are as a species self contradicting and our beauty comes from our occasional ability to stand tall and recognize our hypocrisy, to bravely acknowledge our despicableness and change course.

Happy Holidays Everyone…especially to those of you who follow my blog, all zero of you!  ;-)