a thing about things

So Morpheus: “You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

Remember — all I am offering is the truth, nothing more.” THE MATRIX- 1999

I’m giving you the opportunity to take the blue pill. To walk away from this talk right now, forget that you ever heard of me, and go about your life in mindless bliss. No? Okay, let’s do this thing.

I’m going to talk to you today about the choices that you have in life as a sentient being and the possibilities for the future. Since we are all here today, I guess we have at least one thing in common. After the next ten minutes I hope that we will have a few more things to talk about. I’m working on a new book called Slacker Revolutionary. It’s the story of my conversion to slacker and skeptic to seeker and peacemaker. It all started about the time I was beginning what I like to call my last great flirtation. I want to share with you is some ideas that I have adapted in the process in hopes that you will not waste a bunch of years like I have.

Contingency: Random choice and contingency rule our life from the time before our conception is even dreamed of. You’ve all heard the phrase “before you were a twinkle in your daddy’s eye.” That is exactly the moment that I’m talking about. So many variables and choices have factored into your lives that it is incalculable. Your parents hooked up. Only they know how many other times they thought they met that special someone before they found each other. But they hooked up and at one very specific moment in time, they conceived you. It was contingency that formed you. Had you been conceived at any other moment in time, you would not be exactly the same you as you are now. Your mother’s diet, her prenatal care and how well she took care of her body were choices that she made to help you get to where you are now. Had you been born two weeks earlier or two weeks later, it is possible you wouldn’t be in this room right now.

Butterfly Effect: Just as your parents choices and timing effect the way you turned out, your own choices effect everything around you. In science it is called the butterfly effect. It is said that a butterfly flapping its wings in Colorado can cause a tornado in Kansas. I’m not sure if that is true, but I can tell you that your choices directly effect the environment around you. Just by walking into this room you changed the temperature, humidity and even the aura of the place. The first person to take a seat affects all of the other people who sit down after. The fact that even one person chose to walk in and sit down changed my level of happiness. I thank you for that.

Connectedness: We are all connected. You can see evidence of that everywhere you look in the big little city of ours. We talk about it all the time. There are maybe four of five interconnected circles spinning in this city. I feel safe to say that with just the few of us here in this room, we are only two or three degrees away from the million people within a ten mile radius. The same can be said about our world. I have dated girls from Japan, Ethiopia, Lebanon and my last girl from the Philippines. She is now living in Australia. So how many degrees do you think I am removed from the rest of the world? The choices that I have made have literally affected people on four continents, and that is just counting my dating pool.

Choice.:Think about the choices that you have made to get to this point in your life. How many colleges did you choose from when you were leaving high school? How close were you to going to another school? Once you got to college did you join a fraternity or sorority? Did you live at home or in the dorms? Did you stick with the same roommate or did you move rooms until you found a good match? Did you party too much, study all the time, or find a good balance? Did you take classes every quarter or did you take some time off? Each of these choices factor into why you are here today. If you did one thing differently, you probably wouldn’t be here right now. I’m glad you chose the way you did.

I have made seemingly all the wrong choices. I have squandered lots of cash. I have screwed up many relationships with beautiful women. I have gone from job to job like George of the Jungle swinging through trees. I blew off college not once but three times. I should have died more than a few times along the way. I have done it all wrong, and yet I sit here right now feeling as good about life as I ever have. I feel like I have taken the red pill. At this late date I have awoken from a lifelong slumber and I’m itching to live.

But I don’t suggest that you try the Terry Way to find you happiness. Best to find you own way. I think you’ll get there a lot quicker. Here’s a place to start.

Mindfulness: Be mindful in how you spend your money. Think about where it is going. Think about the companies that produce the stuff that you consume. Do they share your values. Do they invest your money back into the things that you support, like your community? Every dollar that leaves your community is a dollar that benefits someone else.

Be mindful of what you put in your body. All you have to do is watch “Super Size Me” to know what I am talking about. I’m not say that you have to go vegetarian like me, or stop drinking and smoking. Just choose moderation, the middle way, and you won’t have to worry about short-term or long-term consequences.

Be mindful in choosing your friends. They say that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. Are you friends lifting you up or dragging you down? Are they positive or negative? Do they do things that you are sometimes reluctant to do? It is your mindful decision whether or not to participate.

Be mindful in choosing your mate. I am the wrong person to ask for relationship advice, but I can tell you one thing. It is the easiest thing in the world to get laid. Sex feels good. Sex with the right person feels great. In my opinion, your body is the most precious thing that you can share with someone. Sex with the wrong person is a waste of time or worse, it can send your life spinning in the wrong direction. Not only can it knock your life out of kilter, but it impacts the other person and people in both of your networks. We are all connected.

Impact: Once we realize that we are all connected and that everything that we do has an effect all other beings, we begin to make mindful choices that have a positive impact on our community, city, nation and world. I want you to take a second and think of the one thing that you would change in this world if you dug up the genie in the bottle. I will give you the blueprint. It is up for you to apply it. If I dug up the genie in the bottle, I would ask for world peace. I don’t think that this is unrealistic in the least. So how do I accomplish this when at any given time there are thirty or forty conflicts going on in the world? The first step is to have peace in your heart. I am talking about inner peace, freedom from the little wars that try to invade your psyche every day.

Buzzy Bees and Fishy Hooks: You have a supercomputer residing inside your skull. There are millions of electrical connections inside that computer. Most of the time the firing these synapses is orderly, much like docile bees flying quietly over a field of clover pollinating ideas and storing knowledge. This is what Marcus Aurelius called equanimity. As you go about your daily life there are million little fishy hooks waiting for you along the way. They hide in plain sight waiting to spoil your equanimity. It could be as simple as running late for work or missing a traffic light, or as difficult as having the transmission go out on your car or having an illness in the family. Your docile pollinating bees begin to loudly buzz and attack with their stingers. You are thrown off balance. Or you can choose the middle way.

The Middle Way: The only thing that you can control is this very moment in time. There is nothing that you can do change the past. You can try to shape the future, but you cannot control it. The middle way tells us to be the very best we can in the present, and the future will take care of itself. You have the ability to control how you react to those fishy hooks. If you accept them as life little contingencies, you can use mindful solutions to move past them and maintain your equanimity. Your inner peace.

Practice: Once you begin to see life’s obstacles for what they are, the natural :low of things, you can begin the process of mindfully dealing with them. This is what Marcus Aurelius called this the equanimity game. Any time he felt himself falling out of balance, he stopped and righted the ship immediately. Think of it like the washing machine that is loaded out of balance. It spins wildly and makes a lot of noise. You might have to reload it a few times to get it right, but you learn not to overload it, to spread out the clothes evenly, and eventually you will never make that same mistake again. It is possible through practice to never lose your equanimity again. Or at the very least to lessen the effects.

Inner Peace: So you have your balance. You take compassion in your heart and you apply it to every interaction that you have. You accept that some people are going to do hurtful things and those things have nothing to do with you. You accept that life will throw you an occasional curveball and you resolve it with a smile. You realize that anger will take you to no good place, but that it can take you to many awful ones. You eliminate the negative Nancys from your life and surround yourself with people who embrace the same inner peace. And you inspire others to do the same. We build our peaceful network and help others to find the middle way. Soon we are the buzzy bees that pollinate a peaceful earth.

Grassroots Activism: Once you have started your personal peace movement, you can go out and cultivate your network, make honey like the good bee that you are. We’ve learned from my example that the good bee is the one that stays on task, not the angry one that demands attention. You will attract more supporters by talking calmly and rationally than by shouting. Soon the wave of peaceful people will begin to influence the equanimity of the world. There are forces out there that attempt to create chaos in order to further their agendas. Nothing is more effective against chaos than rational thought.

Next Steps: Search for your mindfulness. Focus on this very moment and take in all of the sensations around you. Thrill in the sights and tastes and smells of NOW. And then repeat. Practice this until you can repeat it over and over and over again. Look inside your closet to where the angry bees and fishy hooks and negative Nancys reside. Begin your spring cleaning. Then help your friends do the same. And repeat. Thank you for listening.

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