One of my favorite ponders is how the rest of the world fills in the blank, Life is .
I have a friend who really believes life is simple. Roberto Benigni poignantly reminds us that life is beautiful. Forrest Gump says it’s like a box of chocolates. And the first page of a google search says that life is good, life is crap, and life is short.
I am always hearing new responses to fill in the blank, Life is . And people I talk to are consistently surprised that not everyone answers the question the same as they do. (Which is rather fascinating in its own right, but perhaps for another post.)
I certainly don’t disagree with any of the Life is statements I’ve heard. Life is varied enough to give us glimpses of a full spectrum of experience and emotion. But I’m interested in a person’s most fundamental relationship to this statement. What adjective stands between them and life?
My M.O. is that life is effort, usually a lot of it. It doesn’t mean I never experience life as adventure, or joy, or anything else, but that my primary experience of life is through the lens of effort.
I recently read Seth Godin’s latest book, The Icarus Deception, for the Hillhurst Review and was struck by this quote:
If you want to, you can be never finished. And that’s the dance. Facing a sea of infinity, it’s easy to despair, sure that you will never reach dry land, never have the sense of accomplishment of saying, “I’m done.” At the same time, to be finished, done, complete – this is a bit like being dead. The silence and the feeling that maybe that’s all.
I’ve often thought my life would be better if it didn’t feel so effortful; if I wasn’t consumed (or cursed) with this particular disposition towards life. But I am becoming convinced that no one can change their blank, you can only change the way you relate to it.
Life is effort is not necessarily a battle I must overcome, as if I could somehow reach a point in which I was finished and life could now be easy and enjoyable. Rather the effort is what enables me to dance. My life is actually in my relationship to the effort itself, not as a reason for despair, but as a dance to be practiced and hopefully enjoyed. According to Seth, the alternative – to destroy or defeat or accomplish the effort – would end up feeling like a kind of death.
What’s your blank? How can you learn to dance with it?