Remember that life is short. You did not choose to wake up from your sleep last night, nor will you be able to choose whether you will awaken from it tomorrow. You do not even get to choose whether you will make it to bedtime today. Excluding suicide, of course; but this reminder is aimed at those among the living who wish to remain such. As for those who may be contemplating that path shrouded in shadows, remember this: that it literally is a path shrouded in shadows. Death is a country we all must pass through one day, but about which we know next to nothing. It is vain to hurry to meet it. If life has left you reeling from cruel blows and if circumstances have thrown you into despair, look around you, friend. You are not the worst of the lot. There are always those ahead of us and those behind. There are always those better off and those worse off. It is vain to dwell upon comparisons. Instead, may I encourage you to reflect on something else: no life in this world is anything less than exceedingly precious. No existence is inconsequential. Even if it feels or seems that way. Remember there is meaning in YOUR existence. There are people who hold YOU dear, even if you can’t see them right away. In life we must remember never to become blinded by the seen, the visible. Often it is enough to throw angels into despair. Look instead at the things we are apt to ignore because they are not tangible or visible to the naked eye. Indeed we often find they matter far more than the visible. When you are feeling as lost as a leaf in a whirlwind, look around and offer one kind word to someone you see who needs it. Make one tiny gesture of concern toward someone in a tight spot. You never know — you may just be throwing that person a lifeline; and you may just find yours in the process as well!
Remember that time marches on. Relentlessly. Unfeelingly, even. Nothing in this world, good or bad, lasts forever. The freedom and innocence of childhood passes quickly. So, too, does the springtime of youth. That first, uncomfortable day on the job is soon long gone and forgotten. That first kiss cannot be prolonged. The moment passes. We don’t get to eat that amazing ice cream cone for any longer than we actually do, no matter how we nurse it or how slowly we go. On the other hand, taking too long will cause it to melt, thus spoiling it for us (and making a sticky mess, besides); and at the end of it all, the pleasant flavour and the pleasure we get from having eaten that ice cream fades into memory. The pain of the injection needle and the dread we feel before the moment in question both ebb away into forgetfulness. Eventually that peerless love relationship between yourself and your amazing spouse will vanish too. If nothing life throws at you both can break you apart and dissolve your love and happiness, you will find soon enough that death can and will! The marriage vows themselves say it…
This means a few things. Firstly — that, tragically, pleasure is fleeting and impermanent. You will lose the things and the ones you love. That is inalienable truth. Objective Truth, even. Sex lasts but a few moments. It has to end sometime. The high from drugs are no different. (I’m not here saying that abusing drugs falls into the category of “Good”. The high is the focus here.) Nor are the highs from love and romance or from winning that big game or earning that promotion or being the life of the party. But secondly, it also means pain is fleeting and impermanent too! Eventually we learn to smile again after the death of a loved one. Eventually the horrible birth pangs of an exhausted mother come to term and thrown into labour for hours on end fade into mere memory. Depression doesn’t last forever. There is a way out, a time at which the clouds must disperse. Joblessness is also but for a time. Fear ebbs away. Fatigue vanishes with time. Joy comes in the morning! The lesson here is this: there is always hope. That is also inalienable, objective truth. Life is a series of ebbs and flows. The water is never still. Life is more like a raging sea than a tiny pond or a basin of water. The march of time robs us of so many things but it also makes newness possible. New mercies every morning are possible only because time marches on. New opportunities, new love, new happiness, new circumstances, new jobs, new friends, new perspectives are possible only because time is always on the march. So hang on to hope. It’s a big part of what makes us human!
Remember that you did not always know and that you did not have to know. Be patient with those who lack your knowledge and experience and wisdom, knowing that all your knowledge, experience and wisdom was gifted to you. You did not teach yourself your ABCs nor did you teach yourself to count. You did not teach yourself to cook. You did not teach yourself how to read and respond to social context. You did not teach yourself how to dance or walk or speak. You did not teach yourself to spell or to write or to sing or to play a sport or an instrument. You did not teach yourself how to do your job. You did not teach yourself anything you now know how to do. You may think you did. You may tell me about the difficult past you had where you had to do everything “on your own”, or how you just had an interest in something and decided to “teach yourself”. I promise you that you wouldn’t be the first, nor will you be the last. But remember: even if no one sat you down and directly instructed you on how to do any of those things you had to learn on your own, you had to have a template to follow. There had to be someone or something to copy. And even if it was harsh or disinterested, you received some form of criticism or feedback from somewhere. Otherwise, how could you have even known what to do or whether you were doing it properly or were even on the right track? Somewhere along the line you had to have interacted with people either directly or through books or videos in order to learn anything you now know. It matters not that you did not have direct or, shall we say, deliberate or wilful or intentional instruction from anyone. It does matter that you did have this instruction, indirect though it may be. Besides which, it is impossible that for every single thing you now know you have never had deliberate instruction. Some things, sure; but all things? Not possible.
So it is settled: you and I and everyone else who has ever lived has had to learn everything they know from people, from someone else. Directly or indirectly. So you did not teach yourself. It would be more accurate to say that you used your faculties of intuition and observation and understanding to pick up on the important details that enabled you to get to the level you now have attained. You were able to put the pieces together. And, indeed, what is special about that? All humans have that ability. Moreover, you do not know it all. There are things you have yet to know and understand. For these reasons, remain humble in all your knowings. Do not ridicule or disparage another person for his lack of knowledge. He is simply where you once were not too long ago regarding that same subject, and indeed where you still are now regarding another subject.
More than all this, though, it is principally important to remember the following little-observed fact: you did not make your mind or your brain. You did not give yourself the faculty of understanding or intuition or observation. Everybody has these, yet each person is born with them, not knowing whence they came. In the end it all comes down to this: “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24). All of man’s ways come from God. All of your ways come from God. He both directs your actual steps and and is the originator of all those mysteries of human existence we are no closer to understanding now than when the first thinkers among mankind set their minds to work to understand themselves and their brothers around them untold ages ago. “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The only reason you and I are able to know or understand or appreciate anything is because God has given us that ability. Better still, He is constantly directly and actively coordinating these faculties for us. That’s what it means to wake up in one’s right mind. Not only do we owe all our knowledge to other people, we owe it all primarily to God. Furthermore, we do not choose the circumstances of our lives and where we are born and who we meet and when and where. These factors play a very important part in how we learn, what we learn and when. But they are all in the hands of God once again. The only thing we get to do is choose how to react to these things, and thus we can speed up or slow down the process of how and what and when we learn. That is all we get to do: we get to decide some of what we learn, some of when we learn and some of how we learn. But in the end, all our learning is dependent on others, chiefly God.
So the next time you are thinking of ridiculing someone’s lack of information, stop and think for a second, or twenty. Reflect on the fact that you really are no different from that person in the big scheme of things. Remember the fact that you are privileged to know. Remember that this is due to a host of circumstances that you cannot fathom and often do not even care to fathom. Remember that most of this host are things way beyond the scope of your ability to control. So teach and correct with humility and grace and patience.