I am impressed by the following quote of F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” When we feel hopeless it seems impossible for us to even entertain the idea of hopefulness since they feel like they exclude one another! Life’s hopeless moments can seem to us like an unsolvable puzzle and at one time or another I’m sure all of us have wished that our life had come with a User’s Manual. And yet I think that the artist Al Hirschfeld was onto something when he said, “Living is an art, it’s not a science. You make it up as you go along.” The problem is: What if I feel that going any further in the journey is hopelessly pointless? If we are to continue, it seems to me that the answer is for us to cultivate a new mindset. Given the unpredictable nature of life, if we’re rigidly sure that we must follow our feelings… then we’re going to have a tough time of it since feelings can be affected by circumstance, too little sleep, too much caffeine, drugs, etc. If, as Hirschfeld suggests, we make up our life as we take the journey, then how do we deal with those hopeless moments which ambush us and leave our heart gasping for an answer? My suggestion is that we cultivate our inner bamboo!
Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, able to readily adapt to changing wind conditions; when stressed by strong winds bamboo easily bounces back. Bamboo is also always growing, which for our inner life means a commitment to growth no matter the hurricane of negative feelings blowing around our heart. But how do we cultivate a positive mindset if it does not come naturally to us when we don’t “feel like it”? Any growth occurs incrementally, step by little step, so when our feelings tell us that we should just give up… deliberately choose the opposite of these feelings: Don’t give up… go out! Go out and do something good for someone despite the thought of “I don’t FEEL like it!” Bring a shut-in a nice meal. Pick up trash in the neighborhood. Offer to do errands for someone who is disabled. The more that we deliberately work against the downward pull of hopelessness the more we grow in flexibility.
Because of the difficulties of life we sometimes wish that we were someone else, living someone else’s life; like hopelessness, however, this is not a thought to be rolled around in our mind and savored for too long. By wishing to be anywhere else than in our own life we fail to live the life right in front of us, and if we don’t know how to live where we are then we will not know how to live anywhere else! If we cultivate our inner bamboo then no matter the direction in which our emotional winds are blowing our heart will be able to be flexible since bamboo knows that bending is what life is about!