At the end of the day we may tend to feel all washed up; that our potential and talents have been used to their utmost but we haven’t seemed to accomplish much – and we know we have to start again and do it all over again, to the best of our abilities, tomorrow. We can end up feeling used, even by ourselves, and that life’s lustre has become dull; that life itself is dull. We’ve been tossed to and fro, with no apparent control of the situations where find ourselves and left immobile and unable to put a coherent thought together. It is possible to avoid at least some of these feelings, though a good wallow in woe can be valuable at times, through our own self-directed thoughts, that can lead to action, that leads to more thinking and planning. Instead of letting circumstances toss us like a salad, we can look around to see where we are, choose a direction, and go. Instead of abrogating all responsibility for ourselves we can choose to speak up about how we feel and what we want. Instead of lying empty and used like a shell on a beach we can choose interest in the world around us and make a specific place for ourselves. Shouldn’t we be making our own choices for our own selves?
While asserting ourselves, carving out a place for ourselves, or pursuing our goals and dreams with a vengeance we sometimes forget that there may be a softer, gentler way of achieving the outcome we desire. It appears, and very often is, a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog world we live in that will leap on and exploit any weakness or hesitation perceived. The most common, instant reaction to those actions is to attempt to take the offensive route and seize the advantage for ourselves. This may not be the most efficacious route to take; slowing the pace of events, so that actions and reactions need not occur rapidly, can allow for real strategizing instead of reactive tactics. Moderation can be a vital tool in the push and shove of academic, professional, and interpersonal conflicts; when you give a little instead of instantly reacting defensively or offensively, using quiet language and really listen to your opponent you’ll find your stress level reduced and, incidentally, find less aggressive behavior aimed in your direction. If you don’t respond to words or actions designed to trigger your anger, fear, or resentment but remain outwardly calm and relaxed you will have taken the wind out of your opposite’s fiery sails. Isn’t it worth trying to walk more softly, if only for your own peace of mind?
Sometimes we must be reminded of the big picture: we focus so entirely on the minutiae of our daily lives that we tend to forget that there is a bigger picture and that we have a part in it. To become so insular that you lose sight of everything but the microcosm that is you, your family and work and leisure friends is to deny that anything can affect you but those relatively few people. Whether you like it or not everyone is affected to activities of their larger community: city, region, and country among others. These entities can have an influence on even the food you eat. But we cannot forget that the little picture matters fully as much as the big one. Without keeping some focus on our little pictures we run the risk of alienating and losing the support of family and friends, or losing sight of the fact that we actually do need food and shelter, or miss out on the small pleasures that keep us going day-to-day. The key is maintain a sense of balance and to take a regular look at how we are responding to all of our environment, not just a part of it. Don’t you feel more completely aware when you are seeing both the big and little pictures of your life?
Symbols are valuable as grounding and unifying objects; when groups of people are thrown together or choose to join in a common cause or purpose it is essential to choose a symbol that all can identify with and that can mark each person as a member of that particular group: a school or a competitive team, a state or a nation, a group protesting or advocating for a joint cause. One must be careful, however, not to identify too closely with a symbol, be it an animal or plant, a song or a document, or a leader or a slogan because if one becomes very closely identified with a symbol, one tends to lose their own identity and believe things about themselves that are not true. One must retain one’s own identity to remain an effective member of a group; to add anything new and innovative to the group one must preserve perspective. symbols, by their very presence, affect emotions in a mostly positive way and promote a feeling of community that we sorely miss in these times. A symbol, thoughtfully recognized and not abused, is a powerful tool for groups to have, not for individuals to cling to. Do you respect and get moved by the symbols in your life?
There are times when we feel that the only thing sharp about us is our shadow. Clear thinking, incisive judgments, emotional clarity, and even sharp dressing, have all been swept away by fatigue, ceaseless monotony, dull repetitiveness, lack of initiative, or pain. Perhaps, though, we can use our shadows to alleviate some of these symptoms and the resultant enervation. Just a glance at your shadow shows you that there is something incisive about you – your solid, sharply defined contours. Your shadow is just as unique as yourself and can serve as a reminder of that uniqueness; that you may be observing and remarking on it in your head, or maybe even aloud, can easily serve to remove your mind from your mundane or troubled existence. Looking at yourself without actually looking at your physical body can also allow for observation without the sense of vanity, the sense of self-absorption, or the sense of self-denigration some may feel when looking in a mirror or at a picture of themselves. A sharp silhouette can sharpen us up simply by being a reminder that we are real and substantial, or we couldn’t be interrupting the light. And shadows are fun to play with too, don’t you think?
There are times when we just don’t want to hurry, we want to slow our neck-breaking pace to be able to look around, we want to take our time and feel comfortable. we don’t want to go to sleep right now, we want to wander around and relax; doing, reading, or thinking just one more thing. Dawdling is usually associated with children who lag when you are trying to get somewhere, pull your hand while they try to examine something to the side, or whine about going to bed. Though it doesn’t seem so dawdling is most often a function of curiosity, not of laziness or whining dislike of whatever is to hand. If we weren’t curious about the world around us or inside us we wouldn’t be tempted to slow down and observe things closely enough to understand them and ponder them in a leisurely way. It can be a real pleasure to relax with one’s own thoughts and not be hurry, hurry, hurrying to accomplish so much in the limited time we believe have, but it can also be difficult to slow down. It’s odd that a lot of the time we must make an effort to look around and truly see what we are looking at and allow ourselves to have complete thoughts about it. Don’t you think dawdling could help us slow down a bit and observe a bit more?
Occasionally we find that the only way to get some attention paid to us or to a cause we are currently espousing is to stir things up a bit. To speak loudly or constantly or insistently enough that in frustration or weariness or defense others stop to actually listen to our message. These methods may work to some extent but they often engender only an apathetic agreement with no real commitment to our ideas or pleas for action. To effectively catch people’s attention and to motivate them to positive and productive action making small, consistent waves in their worlds can be much more to the point than making tsunami sized waves directionless, stormy waves that overwhelm and destroy our objectives or the goals we’re trying to meet. We can more easily set aside obstacles and make progress with a group of small, but consistent waves that meld together and conquer by working together and thus growing in strength and power and inexorably in the same direction. Small persuasions using logic and reachable, small steps are less intimidating and more satisfying by their successful achievement than large, flashy stabs toward unreasonable objectives. Isn’t it more satisfying to be effective with less effort than more?