In memory of Steven Sotloff, Journalist, who was brutally and senselessly slain at age 31.
We fuss about a lot of things in our lives. Then, every so often, we are reminded what life is—or should be—about, and we find out that what is truly important is rarely what we worry about, but most often comprises the things about which we don’t think enough…
***I planned on blogging on a different subject this week, but as I was writing tonight, a newswire crossed my screen about today’s memorial services honoring Steven Sotloff, a neighbor in Pinecrest, FL, held at Beth Am, an establishment I am very familiar with, as is every parent in our community. God rest Steven’s soul. At the reading of the news brief, I decided to pull out a discussion item I tabled a few weeks ago, because something in the brief struck a chord; a quote from the last letters Steven wrote to his family: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you have only one.”
I have always loved Nancy Sinatra, as well as her hit song and Sean Connery, and I am fascinated with Japan and Ian Fleming, who invented “Bond” and wrote the twelfth book of the series, titled “You Only Live Twice”, words that have captivated my imagination ever since I first heard them, when I was a teenager.
I remember, at age seventeen when I studied English as a foreign language, discussing philosophically with my dad the meaning behind the words of Nancy’s song. We thought it evoked the romantic and attractive notion that perhaps someday we discover something significant that gives our lives greater purpose and, as a result, pulls us in a direction we never imagined; a second life of sorts.
About a month ago, I was in the car with my oldest son, 19, who has been trying to make sense out of life and to reconcile what he would love to do with what he believes is achievable. Granted, he has put his sights on a rather difficult path to make a name for himself (producing electronic music and performing at major music festivals—Ultra perhaps), but he feels disheartened at the prospect of surmounting obstacles he believes are stacked against him from the start.
On the seldom occasions that I am in company of my children and can engage them in a conversation of substance, I love using allegories or metaphors to get my point across. It may not stick with them at first, but they remember the stories, and eventually the message reveals itself. Here is what I said.
We live in two worlds; a natural one and an artificial one. As such, we lead two separate and distinct lives; one that obeys the natural order of things and another that follows the artificial constructs that we created for our societies to thrive and sustain themselves.
In the one world, things are simple and straightforward, also beautiful and able to stir us at our core. In this place we seek food, water and shelter to survive, things that are natural to sustain our lives and our essences, and each other to relate to one another, give our lives purpose, share with others, express our feelings and emotions and enjoy the pleasures of giving and loving.
But in the other world, things are complicated and ambiguous, also often opaque and filled with conflict and opposition. In that place we must constantly learn and adapt, trade, compromise and remain guarded, heed the consequences of our mistakes and plan for our futures, save, invest and protect, and always think of—and never break—the rules.
The first world operates under the common laws of nature, according to which the world, all of nature and we, humans, evolved. The second world functions as a result of the structures, rules and regulations that we, humans, invented and put in place.
Now, which stands the greatest chance to be flawed, in all logic: the world that naturally evolved and in which we can find and share everything that we may ever need, or the world that we created and in which we must hoard and divide, conquer and protect, rule and legislate, command and enforce, and maintain or restore balance by means of battles, conflicts, debates, uprisings, organizations, indoctrinations and stabilization measures, yet never really elevating ourselves from our societies’ deplorable state of inequity?
While the latter provides many of us—in the “civilized” world— with comfort and productivity to support many to live on earth with higher standards of living, greater wealth, and under a chimerical blanket of security and stability, it doesn’t contain those things that give our lives meaning and purpose, reasons to live and be happy, essence to express our relationships, or love and ideals we believe are more valuable than our own lives, as those reside exclusively with the former. In the artificial world we may find the means to survive, but in the natural world we find reasons to exist, to love and to live.
My allegory, however, isn’t complete without explaining why—if it is this simple and straightforward—we are not always conscious of this. Why do we spend more time worrying about work, our wealth, our capabilities, our standing in society and our possessions, than caring about the reasons for which we live, which belong to the natural world where things are simple? This lack of consciousness stems from being trapped, and from spending most time and energy living, in and for the artificial world.
This suggests yet another split—dual—relationship; one I’ll reveal by quoting a passage inspired by the writing of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, and taken from the book Our X Factor: The Power to Achieve—Every Day—Success and Happiness.
“Eckhart Tolle talks about the concept of relationships with ourselves, as if, he implies, there were two of us. In a way, for many of us there are: there is a self who is at peace, often dormant, and of whom we have little or no consciousness; and then, there is an ego, who is at the forefront, constantly filling our minds with thoughts, lingering in the past, projecting in the future, creating and defending positions that in all likelihood have little relevance or bearing on the achievement of our success and happiness in the present. Our thoughts are solely responsible for emphasizing mistakes and regrets from our pasts and compounding our fears that lie in uncertain futures. When we turn off those inner voices—the constant reminiscing and calculating—we remove our ego from the equation and allow our inner selves to emerge and be fully conscious of the present moment, the now, the only moment that truly matters and in which we can act to fulfill our goals and enjoy our lives. We become one, again.”
Our X Factor, Chapter 7, page 75
Our artificial world serves a purpose, granted. It affords sustenance in relative comfort and safety to 7.1 billion humans, feat otherwise difficult to fathom. Yet, it doesn’t serve a purpose to life itself, which should be satisfying and rewarding for all, unless the things we do serve a higher purpose to the natural world. In other words, as long as we let our egos value our structures and institutions, our possessions and capabilities, our safety and comfort, our rules and regulations, our opinions and judgments and other fabrications of the artificial world above that for which we created it in the first place, then we haven’t addressed our higher purpose.
We all possess two lives, as Steven Sotloff suggested, and the second one begins when we start leading purposeful and meaningful lives—our true lives. We realize that we have only one life when we perceive that the artificial world, in which we were trapped and about which we constantly worried, doesn’t offer much of a life and doesn’t contain the answers to the meaning of life, nor the essence of that which we love and for which we live.
Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.
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Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.
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