To Know the Difference

photo by Daan Spijer

What are you willing to give up for a perfect world? Careful… this is a trick question.

Before you even think about answering, think about this one: What is a perfect world?

Does a perfect world for you include the absence of grief, perfect security, everything you want, good health and being left to get on with it? In your dreams! Otherwise forget it.

A perfect world may be one in which you can live out Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer: to accept what cannot be changed, work at changing that which can, and knowing the difference.

If you lived in a world without grief and insecurity, where you could have everything you desired, you would be living in a hell. It is partly the challenges in life which make us who we are, and who we are largely dictates how we deal with those challenges.

Life is neither fair nor unfair. It is what it is and we make of it what we can. There are no guarantees and if you let someone convince you otherwise, you have been misled. There are various ways of expressing this with humour. One unattributed aphorism is: There are those who make things happen; there are those who watch things happen; there are those who wake up and exclaim, “What happened?”

Helen Keller was an excellent example of someone who dealt with her challenges head-on. She was born blind and deaf, yet rose above this. She said: “Security is mostly a superstition… It does not exist in nature… Life is either a glorious adventure or nothing.”

Who do you rely on to shape your life? Your parents or teachers? The government? Your boss? Chance?

If you have a clear sense of how you want your life to be, then you are well equipped to sort out what you can change and what it is better to accept and not waste effort on. The wisdom to know the difference comes with experience.

There are modern examples of people who surmounted their circumstances or bent them to something greater than most of us might have the courage to try. Clare Oliver used her situation with skin cancer to be a living (and dying) warning to (especially) young women about the likely dangers of too much solarium use.

A bit further back, Aron Ralston showed how an apparently hopeless situation could be overcome, because he had a ‘vision’ of his future (non-yet-born) son. He cut off his own hand in order to get free from a climbing mishap and save himself from imminent death. The loss of his hand has in itself become a challenge for him.

Nelson Mandela is another modern example. Despite years of incarceration and torture because of his fervent struggle to change the terrible situation in South Africa, he determinedly survived, with his sense of justice and humour intact. In his inaugural Presidential speech, he quoted Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Identify your fears and find the courage to liberate yourself from them. Then go forth and live.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.