“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” ~ E. E. Cummings
Self-esteem is obviously important because it helps prevent you from eating sh**. Even when packaged in a sweet, candy-covered shell.
Self-esteem is important because as Chuck Reid remarked, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.” And self-esteem is what allows you to navigate reality, and your world, with authority beyond theory.
Self-esteem is important because it will make you feel safer than the love of any other human being you can come up with.
Because it lets both you and the Heavens know that you can be counted on. That you are dependable. And there are few things as exquisite as coming through when either of those call on you.
But self-esteem is also important because as E.E.Cummings points out, ‘once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.’ – Essentially, all the things that make being alive appetizing. That make the dark, the hard, the scary, and the brutal realities of life, worth reckoning with. Why – how – why would you climb Everest without ever picking your head up to look around, to breath the air, or to note the Nature around you? Miserable. But probably also impossible.
It takes self-esteem to enjoy the good things in life. By which of course I mean the good feelings in life.
And it takes self-esteem to take the emotional risk of engaging with the unknown and uncontrolled by you as unknown and uncontrolled by you. Which is pretty much everything, and definitely everyone, as they exist in reality.
The one best thing you could build this year is not your bank account, your career, or your body. It is your self-esteem. The others will expand with it. [If you need direction I’d recommend any of Caroline Myss’ work on the subject; The Anatomy of Your Health is a recent example. And if you need permission, I hope the essays in my philosophy for the people series help you find it. (Always, of course, your own.)]
As you build remember: the point of this image is not that the kitten sees himself as a lion. That would make the cat delusional; and the destructive, and incorrect, implication would be that self-esteem requires us to lie to ourselves about who we are. The point of the image is that the feelings that are evoked by the image of the lion – awe, respect, reverence, majesty, wonder, say – are evoked in the kitten by his own image. It is not that he imagines himself to be a lion, but that he reacts with the same awe, wonder, and reverence, to an accurate reflection of himself (a mirror). That is self-esteem. So may it be for you. And so may it be for all of us.
“The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.” ~ Henry Ford
Ah yes. Indeed. ‘Tis so.
I won’t pretend I can tell you how. How often spans the better part of a lifetime and usually involves most things and their opposite, for example: listen to yourself – listen to Life; own your strengths – now your weaknesses; sit still – move; dream – do; connect – retreat.
The only thing I think I would venture to say about the how – without a laundry list of conditions and qualifications – is: it will require courage in all the right places. (And I mean that not just for the ‘and then do it’ part – but equally for the ‘find[ing] out what is one’s destiny to do’ part.) And that’s about as helpful from the practical perspective as Ford’s remark, even if it is also true.
But it actually doesn’t matter that I can’t give you a script to follow and you can’t give me one. Because it is enough to remember what we’re looking for. What we’re going for.
The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it. Don’t forget!
‘I mean, you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.'” ~ Louis C.K.
Question: Real or magic? Answer: Both.
Question: Do miracles actually exist? Answer: Definitely.
Question: How do you know this? Answer: you just read the Louis C.K. bit above and/or On Magic and Miracles. Or Walking Through a Land of Wonders, Unwondering. the latest in my philosophy for the people ebook series, On Life and Living. Or Conversations Between Me, Me, and You. The following is an excerpt. Enjoy!
❖ ❖ ❖ V. SWALLOWING THE WARM, SOFT TRUTH ❖ ❖ ❖
It might be a frightening pill to swallow but it’s certainly not a bitter one: Miracles have happened.
We are a miracle, and we are definitely sustained by a number of preceding miracles. The cosmic, the quantum, existence – all miracles. Every human conception, given that a sperm has to swim a distance equivalent to from here to the moon, uphill, in total darkness, at breakneck speed, without dying of starvation or attack, just to have a chance at an egg – every human conception is a miracle. (Seriously, I think the mathematical probability that a sperm would successful jump through every hoop and avoid every sniper involved in fertilizing an egg is smaller than a bumblebee being able to fly – which is calculated to be physically impossible.) Of course pregnancies and conceptions happen all the time, as do flying bumblebees. We need to stop interpreting their frequency to mean that they are easy and/or that no magic or miracle is involved. Magic and miracle are definitely involved.
And that means they definitely exist.
Now that might feel scary, but I’d like to suggest that what you’re feeling is not fear, but the feeling of being alive. This feeling is, to be fair, in part scary; but, to be equally fair, it also ambrosia. It is a nectar without which, should you not consume it regularly, you will undoubtedly wither and waste away. Like it or not, there is more to the laws of reality than Newtonian mechanics. – And who are we kidding? We all definitely like it.
Fear doesn’t like it. Establishment and bureaucracy don’t like it. Status quo doesn’t like it. But each human individually has to like it. For some it is the only real hope of living somewhere and being something other than the inhuman situation they were born into. For all of us it is the best shot we have at getting out of our own personal cells and hells. Not as a patriarchy obviously, but as people – we have to like being closer to having power and efficacy over our lives than what the secular world gives us according to our race, age, gender and marital status, sexual orientation and socio-economic position. Most of us anyway. What is it, 80-90% now?
For all of us, egos not included, it is really good news that, unless the laws of the universe radically change, the fact is: miracles do actually happen and they are definitely possible. I’m going to repeat because it’s a significantly reality-altering piece of information: Not only are miracles possible, but they are actual. Magic happens too. You could say that magic makes them happen, or that magic is the(ir) happening. Or you can say that genetics, electro-magnetism, or ‘the laws of physics’ make them happen. You can say whatever you want – and even describe to me in scientific detail the means by which light enters my eye and my brain reconstructs the entire external world, and one cell transforms into an entire human being, and a universe with an incomprehensible number of galaxies and 5-10 times more stars than there are grains of sand on this planet not only exists, but was formed in an instant from nothing – you could tell me all this and still not make a dent in taking the wonder and magic out of what is. In fact with every detail you’d probably see a little more drool drop off the corner of my mouth. (‘And then what happens? Whaa –whhaaaat?! – For real?’)
The answer is always: ‘Yes, for real.’ – And that is the point.
How do we even get by allowing ourselves to be told, and allowing ourselves to pretend, that the reality in which we live is not magical? Because the world we live in is insanely magical. (Oh wait – drugs, right! Now I remember.) The reality we live in is fantastical to a degree that far exceeds my, or your, or Prince’s (rest in peace), or Einstein’s (you too!), unbridled imagination. Literally. Recognizing this does not make me a freak, it makes me observant.
This was an excerpt from On Magic and Miracles. Or Walking Through A Land Of Wonders, Unwondering. Click here to purchase On Magic and read more about why mysticism is the only reasonable response to reality.
Why are we waiting for scientists to tell us that life exists outside Earth in order to believe that it does?
As if simple mathematical probabilities are not enough.
The probability that Earth is and has been the only suitable environment for life in the Universe is statistically smaller than that your gender will just up and switch itself tomorrow. Literally. It is smaller than the probability that you exist in multiple realities at the same time; and smaller than the probability that the future has already happened. If simple humility and imagination aren’t enough to accept the real possibility that extra-terrestrial life and lifeforms exist (and/or have existed and/or will exist), then how about just some pure math:
That isn’t the solar system. It’s – wait for the technical term – a bajillion solar systems with 100 billion galaxies and as many stars as there are grains of sand on this planet times three. (26 Pictures that will make you re-evaluate your entire existence from BuzzFeed has some great images that help to bring the incomprehensible numbers somewhere closer to home.) Seems a bit foolhardy to presume we could have an ultimate, catch-all image of everything that exists, but there it is: the Universe, a.k.a. the entirety of the cosmos and all existence.
Now, take all the grains of sand on Earth and multiple that by a factor of 3. Then consider how special one single grain would have to be to be able to claim that there is not one other grain like it. Like it – not the same, but like it. Think about. What a remarkable single grain of sand. Super Chosen, right? Now multiply that by some average number of satellites (planets, moons, etc.) per star, and you’re nearing how special humans claim to be when we act like the existence of aliens would be a miracle. Ummm, okay – but we’re a miracle. Life on Earth is a miracle. So maybe, but not in any way that’s problematic. How about we not up the ante by insisting that Earth (and humans) are the only instance of intelligent life in all universe(s) in all space-time? Do we really have to be that special? Do we have to be Chosen – or can we finally just have enough self-esteem and integrity to be okay with being on par with other forms of life?
I don’t think we need to wait for an extra-terrestrial encounter where at least one party is a scientist’s robot to accept what is obvious and true: we are not that special. (Don’t get me wrong, being a living, conscious being in a Universe which is in large part comprised of unimaginably vast expanses of ’empty’ space is special. It’s super special. And a privilege we should really consider doing something with, deliberately and creatively. But being special, even super duper whooper special, doesn’t mean that nothing else can be special, even that special, too.) Nor do we need to wait for soil samples or radio waves to make the paradigm shift: to go from assuming that all earnest talk of extra-terrestrial life belongs to science fiction, fantasy or mental breakdown; to assuming that non-Earthly life is actually and definitely happening out there somewhere. A photo would be majestic but do we really need one to accept that this, or something like this, is, has been, or will be, somewhere out there in the unfathomable expanse above?
Especially since we already have these:
It seems more like a simple straightening than a real stretch to go from an image like this one taken from the surface of the moon:
to imagining that this, or something like this, is more fact than fiction:
Needed or not, the truth is that the evidences are coming. They are coming. As the TED videos below show, some have arrived and some are arriving as we speak. My question to you is: What are you going to do when they tell you that there is life on other planets?
Seriously, think about it. What are you going to do when they tell you that alien life, and alien lifeforms, exist? Tell me your heart won’t skip a beat. You know it will. Of course it will. Extra-terrestrial life changes everything.
Okay, maybe not everything – you’ll probably still go to work the next day, come home to the same place, buy things with money. – And yet, it could change everything: what would work look and feel like the next day? What would the conversations you’d be having be like? Your children, partner or home might not change but the way you see them and yourself might. You’d still use money and need to use it, at least for a long while, but you might also imagine an alien looking at your bills and catch your first real glimpse of understanding that a thing can have meaning and significance solely because of collective agreement.
Proof of extra-terrestrial life could simply deliver a new subject to quickly turn into a new object for our narcissism and impulse to relate through control, decimation and domination. Or it could effect a real schism in our anthropocentric reverie and an opening to life in all of its largess. In all of us unfathomable cosmic-ness. It could and should reorient the orbit of the Heavens just as Copernicus’ revolution did: neither the Earth, nor the human patriarchy, are the center of the universe. They just aren’t. It’s okay. But they aren’t. And given the way things are going on this super-special grain of sand, especially since super-duper-special humans extricated themselves from the food-chain, it’s probably for the best that we aren’t the pinnacle of creation.
What scares me most about alien (a.k.a. extra-terrestrial, a.k.a. non-Earthly) life is not that it could be human-hostile, but that the admission of it by humans could change next to nothing when it could also change close to everything. From how you personally feel about your life to what we, collectively, do with ours. Please don’t let it change nothing. Don’t let them let it change nothing. It should be business-as-usual shattering news, Earth-shattering even. No human-hostile spin necessary.
We are climbing out of an age where I would be committed for believing that aliens exist and, even more, for behaving and living like they exist; but the day it is taken for granted is – cue princess Jasmine wide-eyed and clutching her breast – a whole new world. Humility and math are enough for me to take it for granted. Literally, to assume that Earth is not the only celestial body in the universe, apparently not the only one in the solar system (see James Green’s talk below), on which there exists or has existed or will exist intelligent life. Also that Earth is not the only living celestial body in the universe.
What happens to your world, to your mind, brain and life, when you take these as facts not fiction? The day is coming. You may be alive for it, you may not. But the fact is you don’t have to wait the photo, the sound bite, or the molecular formula. Please don’t make yourself: it seems so unnecessary and way too awesome to wait. The universe – and reality – we actually live in is insanely magical, don’t deprive yourself of knowing it. Life is so much more boring, and awkward, and – most importantly – off, without it.
Speaking of Magic and Miracles …
The latest essay in my philosophy for the people series, On Being Confused. Or Conversations Between Me, Me, and You., is coming out soon!
On Magic and Miracles. Or Walking Through a Land of Wonders, Unwondering. will be available next month. Click here to view other titles in the series.
ET-life related TED Talks for those interested
Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov brings the news that our galaxy is rich in Earth-like planets – to the order of 100 million. Around the 16th minute he does a really helpful visual with his tie that demonstrates how infinitesimal life on Earth is when compared to the rest of the universe in spatial terms: ‘Unimaginably small,’ he says, ‘you can’t imagine it,’ being, as it is, equivalent to a single atom of his tie. But compare them temporally, and life on Earth’s age, in relation to that of the universe, is a third of the tie – a pretty significant chunk. Life on Earth, Sasselov points out, may be insignificant in size, but not in time. This gives rise to what appears intractably paradoxical but is nonetheless true: you can be genuinely insignificant and significant; special and totally common; a blip in eternity and something that changes eternity forever. In fact you’re all of these things. We all are.
NASA’s director of planetary science, James Green, presents some of the latest finds in the search for extra-terrestrial life in our solar system. Water – check; organic matter – check; energy – yup; time – well, yes … . Green estimates we’ll get our encounter within the next 10 years. And he contends: if we find it once it’s everywhere.
Jill Tarter 2009 TED prize winner explains why extra-terrestrial intelligence is not only possible – but statistically probable. She also points out that the vast distances between Earth and its cosmic companions mean that what we detect, should we succeed in detecting something, will be ancient. (Because of the speed it takes light to travel an image from the nearest star beyond our sun would be 4.2 years old; from the edge of our galaxy, 75,000 years old; and 2.5 million years old from the galaxy nearest ours. Just to put that in context, humans weren’t yet standing on two legs 2.5 million years ago.) She also describes the existence of non-Earthly life as a real opportunity to break the spell of humanity’s current solipsistic, anthropocentric ‘naturalism’.
“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
What a remarkable admission.
Whether you believe him or not, whether you want to rattle off the dozen character traits, innate or otherwise, you consider responsible for Lincoln’s success – consider that a distraction at the moment. From this: acknowledging how much good we can do in each others’ lives. That we could make this much of a difference in another’s life.
Maybe it is you who, in your lifetime, will give someone else this unspeakable gift. [May they not need it.]
Maybe it is someone else who will give, and play this role for you. [May you not need it.]
And while I would guess we are meant to play this role for ourselves, at least once, in our lifetime, I am certain that it is one of the most exquisite acts toward ourselves we could perform. That we might say about something, at some point in our journey: ‘I am a success today because there was a part of me that believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him/her down.’ [As beloved Dr. Pinkola-Estes says, ‘May it be so for you. And may it be so for me. May it be so for all of us.’]
“The grass is greener where you water it.” ~Neil Barringham
The grass is greener where you water it.
It may always be greener on the other side because human beings are irrevocably dissatisfied and fickle – maybe; but it is definitely always greener where it’s been watered.
Remember that, when you find yourself coveting another patch: someone’s evidently been watering it.
And if your patch feeling is feeling dry or looking blanched to you: try some water.
Grass needs water to grow, to be vibrant and healthy and green. It simply will not amount to much on a diet of entitlement (“It should just be green and awesome.”) and neglect (“What, water it again? But I did that last month.”). Give it a respectable amount of TLC and you may still find that you don’t want your patch, that perhaps you want somebody else’s; but you will at least you will find it to be something prettier, greener, and more comfortable to sit on as you figure out how to make your way there.
It seems fair that if the NRA can use the adage, ‘Guns don’t kill people. – People kill people.’, God should be able to use it too. And of course we might want to say, in both cases, ‘Yeah, maybe – but they’d have a much more difficult time doing it without you. [Thank you very much.]’ And of course that’s true.
Because the truth is not that faith is dangerous, but that faith is powerful. And anything that is powerful can be dangerous – or at least scary, especially if you’re insecure about your own power.
Faith is inherently powerful. So powerful even, that it can cause a man to give up all his power. (!) And that is what’s actually dangerous: a disempowered human being. Precisely because he, or she, is so much more easily influenced and manipulated by anyone willing to oblige. Hatred and darkness, of course, love to oblige. If the right, or rather the wrong ego gets a hold of them, the person becomes about as innocuous as the sawed-off shotguns and ammo innocently supplied by your local store (here in the U.S.).
This is why the only kind of faith worth investing in is faith in oneself.
Crucially, in order to have this (i.e. genuine faith in oneself), you have to find more to yourself than your ego. For the ego knows the truth about its own power – which is why it is, incessantly, so desperate. Think about all the power and control you have, egoically, effected in your life – all the things you made happen, and all the things you effed up. It’s actually a lot of power and control right? It is. And it truly is. – But now think about how even with all this power, little control you have over what will happen tomorrow, or two hours from now: whether your partner will cheat on you; whether your kid will get sick; whether you lose all your savings because a clique of millionaire-billionaires played virtual games with your money that had the consequence of you losing it all in reality; whether the sun will actually come up.
The ego’s got a lot of bravado (which can and does serve us well in some ways) – but mostly because it knows that at the end of the day, what it has got still doesn’t mean sh*t. So to have real faith, of the genuinely secure, approaching profound and unwavering variety, you need to find something within yourself beyond your ego.
This kind of faith – faith in yourself that leads to faith in something more than yourself – is not dangerous because you are not dealing with a disempowered (human) being. Neither are you dealing with an egomaniacal one – for this human being has precisely detached from the ego’s claim to authority in discovering and embracing an alternate Source.
Yes, I said ‘Source’. Which smells a lot like a ‘G-o-d’. Which is s-c-a-r-y. Be afraid, then, if we must: because turning away will not change the fact that we all end up with some Gods anyway. They are the places we put our faith. And where we put our faith decides whether it will be dangerous in addition to powerful. All the more reason to take a look, have a conversation or ten, and consciously, courageously and deliberately decide what we want to put our faith in. Join me. Click here to read more from On Faith. Or Why You Don’t Live Without It. now.
“Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.” ~ Frank Tyger
Good news and bad news right?
Nah, just good news.
Well okay, maybe not just good news. Maybe a little hard news, too.
Because it means we have to get involved – a lot. Especially when ‘the rubber meets the road’, when we’ve failed 1, 3, 500 times already, when no one else believes in us – yeah, especially then too.
Basically, at and in all those deep, dark corners and nights in the journey we call our life. That’s exactly when we’re asked to get involved. Balls. (By which I mean The Big Balls on Wipeout, of course.)
But, truth be told, that our future so depends on us is a good thing, even if a hard thing.
Because, of the innumerable things, including people, that we try to have control over and really have no shot in hell of controlling – this one very, very important thing we do. You might still think it just a shot in hell, but at least it’s something. It’s possible.
Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you. Be glad. Or at least – try (to be).
Arbutus Compoundis: the tree that grows money.
This is what we’ve all been told money doesn’t do, but wish it would do: grow on trees. We’d all love a tree that grows money. But we’re told they don’t exist, so we dream instead of second best: winning the lottery. (The odds are better, we think – at least there are odds; and with a big enough windfall of money, we wouldn’t need a tree to grow, find, or earn, any more anyway.)
But in fact money trees, trees that grow money, do exist – they’re called Arbutus Compoundis. (By no one of course but myself.) They are trees that are watered, fed, and grow, on compound interest.
Here’s how it works: plant that short stack on the left (below) in some interest bearing account that continues to add the interest you earn to the principle you put in, and your money will generate money. It will grow in your absence. If you wait long enough, refrain from peeking, fixing, fiddling and generally messing with it at all – you come back to the nice increased stack on the right:
The ‘money magnet’ we thought was a new-age fantasy turns out to be – our money. And it’s magnetism is called compounding interest. In case you aren’t yet sure: it’s not boring, it’s super-sexy. Even Einstein batted a few eyelashes at it: “Compounding is mankind’s greatest invention because it allows for the reliable, systematic accumulation of wealth.”
Want to have money that grows on trees? Here are the principles to remember as you plant your own Arbutus Compoundis:
1. Plant your money in an appropriate account = any interest bearing account where you can and do choose to keep adding the interest you accrue to the principal amount.
2. Leave it alone. Like a terrarrium, consider it a fully functioning self-contained ecosystem: setting it up right means setting it up to leave it alone. Precisely the magic of the thing is that, once set up, it does not need your help to grow and thrive. The fragility of the thing is that touching and tweaking, grooming and generally disturbing the brilliance of the system itself – is just interference. You’re not helping.
3. Don’t forget to leave it alone. Let your money hang out in its biodome. The longer you let it hang out, the bigger it will be the next time you turn around. The bigger it grows, the greater its magnetism – i.e. the more money it calls unto itself, by itself, at a steadily increasing rate.
4. Finally, leave it alone. Because in order for your tree to really bear the fruit that it can, you don’t harvest until it is ripe (e.g. retirement accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs). This is why you should plant an orchard: ensuring different trees will be ready for harvesting at different times, whenever you might be in need.
Learn to make your money work for you, teach it to grow on its own. – Where ‘teach’ means as little as procuring its little biodome or terrarium (the account, you can get one for free); planting the seed of your principle in there; and adding ‘compound interest please!’ to the ecosphere; and then, trusting it to do its thing. Its growing-on-its-own thing. Its using-the-resources-already-contained-within-the-system-to-sprout-more-and-more-money-leaves thing.
Start small if you have to, but start compounding. Time is the yeast in this recipe, not the principal amount you put in. Small stack leads to bigger stack; and yes, bigger stack leads to even bigger stack; but waiting for a big stack to start with leads to no growing stack at all.
Plant some trees that grow money – they do exist. Plant one today. If you need help planting your orchard, I can recommend the following as wonderful resources on how to start:
I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi
Transforming Your Relationship With Money by Joe Dominguez