The Examined Life

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Epiphany for Cows

This is my favorite Larson cartoon. I believe that the people (and cows) who are fortunate enough to experience a few of these moments in their lifetime are very fortunate indeed.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Parachute Lady

A friend of mine had invited me to a party. When I arrived, however, I discovered that my friend was the only person there that I knew and he was quite occupied being the host.

Determined to enjoy myself anyway, I proceeded to I approach people in hopes of finding someone with whom to strike up an interesting conversation. After several unsuccessful attempts I approached a young woman. She was considerably younger than I and at first seemed quite reticent to engage in conversation.

I finally got around to asking about her personal interests and was amazed to find she was an avid Parachutist. Although I considered myself somewhat athletic, my choice of sports had always allowed me to remain considerably closer to the ground than parachute jumping, so my first reaction was “How in the world do you do that?”

She looked directly at me and spoke the following words.

Well, when I am folding up my parachute, I say to myself “I am folding up my parachute because I am going to jump out of an airplane”.

When I am putting on my jump suit, I say to myself “I am putting on my jump suit because I am going to jump out of an airplane”.

When I am putting on my boots, I say to myself “I am putting on my boots because I am going to jump out of an airplane”.

When I am boarding the airplane, I say to myself “I am boarding this airplane because I am going to jump out”.

When I get up there, after all that, I’d feel pretty silly if I don’t jump out.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

What is it that we're looking for when we’re looking for love? We certainly spend a lot of time and energy in this activity so shouldn’t we know exactly what it is we are looking for and where to look before we start.

We look for love as though it is something someone else must give to us, and as though it‘s somehow missing or in short supply.

Is love something that we can only get from others? Is it something that people give to some but withhold from others? Is it something that is going to run out? Is there really not enough love to go around?

How is it that when people say they love us we still don't feel loved, or if we do feel loved, it never seems to be enough or to last. Why is it that no matter what people do to express their love for us there is always something missing, something more we need? How is possible that when people express their love for us instead of feeling love we can actually resent or envy them?

There are people that have thousands of people that love them, famous people, sports heroes for instance. Do they feel fulfilled because they have so much love from so many people? I don't think so. As a matter-of-fact I know that they don't. Many of them struggle with the same self-doubts and feelings of emptiness that we all do from time to time. It would seem that they would have love overflowing in their lives, after all thousands of people love them.

Could it be that we don’t really know what it is we are looking for? Could it be that we're looking in the wrong place? That could certainly explain the confusion.

Let’s start by considering that love is none of the things I mentioned above. After all, if it were, then we would feel satisfied when others express their love for us. It seems that love just doesen’t work that way.

Maybe they are not giving us anything at all but just expressing how they feel about us or even reflecting something they see in us that maybe we don't even see in ourselves.

So this is our first clue to this mystery, love is not a commodity that can be traded back and fourth. It is a feeling, an emotion.

And where is that emotion located? Well, it’s inside the person who feels it. And when others express their love for us in word or deed, where does the love go? The answer is nowhere! It stays with them. If we try to siphon off some of the essence of that emotion and give it to someone else, it just doesen’t work. No wonder we feel like we haven’t received anything, what we received was an expression of love when what we expected was to feel love (an emotion).

Emotions are personal things, we can express them but we can’t share them any more than we can share a sensation. For instance, we can order a pizza and share it with others but we can only guess at the emotions and sensations some one else may have eating his/her share. So the expression we often use, “share an experience” is unclear. We can physically be with others and have our own response to their presence and what is happening but we can’t really know or feel what another person is feeling.

Well, it should be coming clear now that our feelings albeit often inspired by others and circumstances come from inside ourselves, and in the case of love, our own heart. It should be coming clear why love is so illusive. We are just looking in the wrong place. We're looking outside of ourselves when we should be looking in our own hearts?

Love the something that we can choose to look for in others and express what we find there. When we do this, often our expression will inspire them to look in their hearts and find the love there. Love is not something that can run out because we're all capable of infinite love.

So we have narrowed down the search and found that there is only one place we need to look to find love. We need to look in our own hearts because that is where the love we feel ultimately lives. Even if a thousand people love you, you won't have that feeling. But if you love just one person for one moment in that moment you will feel love.

So what does this mean from a practical point of view? How is it possible to find love in our life by looking in our own hearts? First, start with the premise is that love is not something outside of us. It is not something that we can get from some other person or any object outside of ourselves.

When we look into our own hearts we will find the love that is and has always been there. When we express this love, this provides the catalyst for others to look in their own hearts to discover the love that is there. When two people have fallen in love they have inspired each other to look in their hearts to find the love that was already there.

When we find ourselves feeling without love we are often expecting love to come from outside of ourselves. What I am suggesting is that knowing that the love is already in our hearts, why wait for others to express their love for us. It is by tapping into the love we can inspire others to do likewise. This truth is probably behind the inspiration for the title of the 1950’s song "Everybody Loves a Lover".

So there is absolutely no reason to ever look outside of yourself for love. Instead understand that love cannot be given or taken away it can only be expressed and it lives forever in each of us.

What others can give us are expressions of their love and reflect back the love they see in us. What these expressions look like is their presence, their patience, their understanding, and their kind words. Practice giving these things to others and you will find and feel love in your heart and you will inspire others to do likewise.