Sunday, January 11, 2015

Jumping Up and Not Coming Down

What if you could jump up and stay up for three seconds?  Not zero gravity, but a gravity that allows you to feel like you are floating for several seconds before you come down?  A few weeks ago there was a posting on Facebook that appeared to come from NASA that said this was going to happen for five minutes at the beginning of January due to a rare planetary alignment.  I knew better intellectually, but I was momentarily so overcome with the thought that it was possible that I felt more excited than I have in a very long time.  I was overjoyed by a sense of the magical, the awe-inspiring sense of wonder that we have as children when we believe almost anything is possible.

What happens to us as adults? Someone dear to me wrote recently, "By expecting less or nothing, you'll never be disappointed..." I have given this a great deal of thought over many years. I even lived that way for a number of years. I would expect nothing good, but surprisingly, I was still disappointed when I discovered that "nothing good" was what I got a lot of the time. And my low expectations attitude brought me down pretty low. What was the point of anything? Maybe my friend and I do it differently, but I was expecting nothing in a very negative way. I did it so I wouldn't be disappointed because it seemed I was let down by life so often. Trouble was, that kind of low expectation made life pretty miserable. It seems realistic because by the time we are adults most of us have had plenty of letdowns. We have had many expectations that have not worked out. We have seen injustices that make us wonder if there is any law but the law of the jungle.
Further, we value "knowledge."  We want to know what's "real," not be fooled by fantasy. We "grow up."  Being a child is equated with being foolish, being ignorant, being "too young to understand."  Unfortunately that attitude also wipes out that sense of wonder, the sense of magic, the sense of possibilities.

Years ago my family went to Disney World in Florida every year.  One year we bought year passes (even though we were from out of state) because we lived in our RV at Fort Wilderness for several weeks at a time and went into the theme parks almost daily.  I wasn't a fan to begin with and by the end of that stay I knew where all of the exit stairs were on the rides, figured out how exhibits were lit, saw all the non-magical things that made up what appears rather magical the first time through.  In short, rather than letting the exhibit transport me into magical realms, I was looking for all the behind the scenes information to entertain me, and rather than see the talent and imagination it took to create the rides, I used it to take away the "magic."  It is a little like that in life.  In the name of being smarter, of not getting fooled, of entertainment we look for knowledge-- and not just any knowledge, the knowledge that supports the cynical views that are so easy to come by.

There is no doubt we can be bombarded by crap at every turn, if we let it land on us (and even more if we go out seeking it!)  On the other hand if we look for it, there is an amazing universe all around us.  If we have the intelligence to approach it like a child we can experience that sense of wonder and excitement that seems to disappear as we "grow up."  Accepting that things may not go the way we'd hope, not counting on plans dependent  on others, on weather, on things we can not control (which is a good deal of life) is wise.  But this is a far cry from "expecting less or nothing." We can expect good, expect wonder, look for beauty, adventure, and fun without planning how it all is going to go. 

Is that "realistic," some will ask?  Well, what do you mean by realistic?  If you mean based on fact, I would say, "yes!"  Expecting good, looking for the wonder and adventure and fun will rarely leave you disappointed.  For every situation that looks less than that there is another way to see it.  It isn't to say that you won't see the tragedy or the problem, it is just to say when you see deeper and wider you will see much more and it will include plenty of good. 
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.  Einstein 
Annette Herfkens in an interview on CNN (on YouTube) speaks of her survival of a plane crash in the mountains of Vietnam in 1992.  She was the only survivor;  thirty died, including the man to whom she was engaged.  She was severely injured including broken legs, hip, etc.  How did she manage?  "I listened to my heart... did not get emotional.  I didn't let my mind run off... just focused on what was right in front of me. I did what had to be done... I focused on the beauty of the jungle." Was that realistic?  Apparently, because she survived and went on with her life.  I'm sure she had every reason to dwell on the hellish nightmare all around her and in her body.  But she chose to focus on the beauty of the jungle.

Let's go back to the idea of jumping up and not coming down.  When I thought about how it couldn't happen, I was pretty disappointed. But when I widened my perception I realized that this did me a great favor by awakening me to the dearth of things that bring me a sense of wonder and excitement.  When I recognized this I made an intention to look for things that brought back those senses.  What looked like a let down was a catalyst for something good. 

Can this work across the board?  It can if you want it to.  There are tougher times than others to do it. Surviving in the jungle for eight days with a list of broken bones and your loved one dead nearby must be one of them.  And it doesn't mean you won't get caught in the web of hoping for a certain outcome and being disappointed.  But the more you "jump up," making the stand to expect good and look for it, you'll be surprised how long you stay up!  And the trip down will merely be a springboard to bounce you higher.   So go ahead-   JUMP!

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