Netflix and DVR. Two wonderful inventions that save us from watching commercials and having to wait impatiently. In regards to consumption of whatever we deem to be entertainment, this is a luxury. We can do it on our time, opposed to real-time. We are not bound by the constraints of regularly scheduled programming.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re also trending more towards dealing with our emotions in a similar fashion. We push them down or aside until we feel we have the time to deal with them. We attempt to binge-process our emotions. The trouble here is that as our emotions pile up, they get harder to fathom how to deal with, like a pile of laundry spilling out of the hamper onto the floor. It gets overwhelming, so we continue to avoid. And, how do we avoid? We seek to be entertained. There’s an escapism attached to entertainment. We look to be entertained to take our minds off what’s bothersome to our lives. It’s indeed another attempt to avoid dealing with ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle.
We’ve all experienced moments in our lives when our performance has been optimal. When we are on top of our to-do lists. The times we attack our days like a dog attacks a squeaky toy: we break the neck! And, it feels good to do so! When we are in these modes, we feel powerful. We feel unstoppable, because that positive momentum is fueled by dealing effectively with each moment. Emotions don’t muddy our focus. What typically derails us? In a word: disappointment. Something or some “thing” blocks our path and causes an emotional reaction we choose not to deal with in the moment. It begins as a few pairs of socks, but not before long, the hamper is overflowing once more.
The more we choose to deal with our lives in the here and now, the more we choose to process our emotional responses as they arise, the less likely we’ll need to seek refuge in escapism. Where we hope that the laughter, tears, horror, disgust, or interest we seek from the hours of our uninterrupted entertainment consumption will be a fitting cure for what ails us. The reality is that the commercial breaks offered in real-time entertainment are the best time to get some laundry done.
“For now we live” can be interpreted two ways. We can read it as meaning we live for the present moment – for now. Or, we can read it as more of a declaration of our impermanence – for now, we live. A simple, yet powerful mantra for reflection.
It reminds us that no matter what challenges we face today, the Life we don’t know will be here tomorrow. If you purchased a plot of land to be used as a public cemetery for use in your community, you may in fact own that land, but the deed to the land grants you no ownership over death. Upon death, the land will inevitably own you.
Ledger is defined as “a book or other collection of financial accounts of a particular type.” We’re all likely familiar with this definition. However, it can also mean “a horizontal scaffolding pole,” or “a flat stone slab covering a grave.” The latter is sometimes referred to as a ledger stone or ledgerstone, which is usually found on the floor of churches with inscriptions about the deceased.
What’s interesting about the word “ledger” is that the essence of stoicism lies within all three of its definitions. To live stoically is to support (scaffold) our days by taking stock of what’s important in our lives and keeping our affairs in order, because we never know when the debt we all pay will come due.
We live soundly when we leave our days without loose ends. We sleep soundly when we are unburdened – when we leave nothing but rest undone. No pillow can support a head that carries the weight of the world.
When I first began reading Modern Drummer magazine in 1989, I recall there being an advertisement for a device that monitored a drummer’s rhythmic accuracy. It was cleverly called the Russian Dragon, because as it’s tag line suggested, it let drummers know when they were either rushin’ or “draggin’ their tempos.
If we look at our lives as songs, we each have our own song. Our songs have tempos. That tempo is not dictated by us. It’s dictated by time. We don’t always know how much time we have. We don’t know our songs’ duration. What we do know is that we have been known to attempt to rush through life by making unhealthy or unsafe choices. We’ve also been known to choose do to nothing for stretches of time as a means of falsely cheating time. The reality is that we have the choice to work on our timing; to develop a solid or deep pocket to use more drumming terminology. To be in the groove: the present.
When drummers are nervous about their meter (their ability to keep good time), they tend to rush. In non-drumming terms, this is anxiety. When we fear what comes next, we get anxious, and our minds rush with nervous anticipation. When drummers believe their meter sucks, perhaps playing a song while thinking about how much they’ve rushed the song in the past, they will drag their tempo. They play with a defeated cadence. In non-drumming terms, this is depression. When we are bummed about what’s happened before, while trying to be present. It will not work. There will be latency.
When we choose to focus our energy on either pushing or pulling, it’s extra effort – for our bodies and our minds. It’s best to lock into the groove. That’s where life innately want us to be, and yet for some reason, it’s also a paradox, because it’s also quite difficult to achieve. Perhaps when our minds race with thoughts or get bogged down by negative self-talk, what we sacrifice most is our ability to listen to the music. Sometimes we just need to take a moment to find the pulse: our pulse. Our pulse to our song.
In music, Ghost Notes hold a rhythmic value, but are intended to be dynamically subliminal. They are meant to be felt more than heard. They provide momentum and support to music whilst remaining anonymous. Remove them and suddenly the music has lost that certain Je ne sais quoi.
This serves as a good analogy for the purpose of right action in our lives. Sometimes we focus too much on the discernible notes. Are we playing enough notes? Am I playing loud enough? Am I doing enough? Am I busy enough? Are my actions making me visible enough? Am I being heard?
The real question to ponder then becomes: Does being loud about how busy we are for the purpose of making sure we are being heard make the quality of all we do any better?
Good leadership, good living, good action is a series of ghost notes. May we all aim to be felt more than heard!
Wearing a full Medieval suit of armor every day may offer us protection from some harm, but it’s certainly not practical. Our mobility would be sacrificed, our sight would be limited, no one would be able to see us, and we would still be susceptible to emotional harm. It’s a great deal of effort for a false sense of security. Although we’d be concealed by this shell of armor, it’s really only protect us from a small variety of threats. Life is neither a joust nor a sword fight. But, it’s a battle nonetheless. The emotional susceptibility is our metaphoric Achilles’ heel. We are most vulnerable where no weapon can harm us. One cannot be stabbed in their sadness, loneliness, anxiousness, insecurity, shame, guilt, etc.
The goal is to be completely visible. To allow others to see us as we are. The protection we seek is found in the daily practice of doing right. Not worrying about being right – just doing right. Focusing on our choices, which when made with reason provide the best protection. The confidence of knowing we are unable to be harmed by what’s outside of our control, unless we choose to be.
Let us look to a freshly waxed car for a better metaphor for armor. We all know the feeling of driving away after going through the car wash. Car is clean and waxed, tires are shiny, RainX on the windshield. Confidence is boosted. We’re looking good! We’re even secretly excited for the next time it rains. We want to see the rain bead-up and roll-off. That’s a life goal, isn’t it? Living with the knowledge we are protected by our reasoned choice to the point where daily obstacles simply bead-up and roll-off. Like wax, it’s an invisible top coat. Challenges still come at us – they will happen. The goal is not to learn to either avoid problems or invite harm, but to live without fear that what’s outside our control can penetrate to an emotional nerve. To get excited when we face challenges, because we know we will learn from our mistake and let the bothersome simply bead-up and roll-off.
“Anger is a gift” is a lyric from Rage Against the Machine’s song “Freedom.” True, since the ability to feel a wide spectrum of emotions is a gift of being human. However, like all emotions, it’s what we choose to do with it that speaks more to whether or not it is a gift. It’s situational. If we are using anger to motivate our own actions in opposition of what angers us, then yes, it is a gift. Anger can give us the gift of perspective to see how we don’t want to be, because we get to see how others whom habitually act in anger truly are. But is anger a gift we long to receive? Anger is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” Who wants this gift…other than Batman? I’m not speaking of extreme situations where anger blurs the line between law and justice. If anger is used to fuel our actions against others, this is not a gift. The true gift is learning how we can choose to not energize the anger because we know it will not enhance our day. This is not weakness. Choosing to avoid what knowingly makes you angry is the same as choosing to walk around a giant puddle. It’s a healthy avoidance tactic. Anger is as much an inconvenience as a soaking wet sock.