Irving Berlin once said that ‘Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it‘. I want to talk about perspective. What does it really mean? How do we get it. Everyone says think Big Picture, but how do we do this when we’re flailing around in modern day life?
I want you to think about your body, in the space it is in right now. It might be a bus, or a bedroom or an office or a park. Now expand your mind to take in the scale of it within this suburb. Within your city, and then within out to encompass your whole country. Now think of the earth, with your country within it. You are one of 7.1 billion people on Earth, all busy, up to something. Worrying about this, engaged in that. Someone just completed their Year Three homework at a kitchen table whilst eating a snack. Someone is right now looking through a telescope developing ways in which to cure cancer. Someone right now is having chemicals injected into their arm to fight cancer in a hospital ward. Someone right this second is walking their dog. Someone just got shot with a gun. Someone just proposed to their girlfriend.
All of this is occurring on our little tiny planet Earth. Right now there are stars one million times bigger than Earth. That star is in a galaxy made up of a billion stars. That galaxy will pass through another galaxy with a million stars. These stars and the space between them is so large that not a single star will collide. So on this tiny planet of ours with our minuscule life spans of around 80 years in a universe that has existed for 13.8 billion years, what are we doing every day? Currently us Western workers spend over 60% of their work day on email. In the world’s poorest countries 200 million work hours are spent by women all over the world collecting water for their families. EACH DAY. This is the equivalent work hours as building 28 State Empire Buildings each and every day.
Do you think you are wealthy? Do you find yourself shocked at how much money you earn? That you have so much you don’t know what to do with it? Or perhaps you feel constantly in the red. Lacking, that there is never enough money. You might feel sorry for yourself that you can’t do the things you desire, travel the places you want to go and buy the things you wish to buy. To get some perspective on money, did you know that last year, in 2013 Jeff Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon made $US11.3 billion. Amazon made $US17.1 billion in net sales in the third quarter. Warren Buffett personally made $US37 million a day in 2013. There are currently 67 people that are as wealthy as the world’s poorest 3.4 billion people put together. 3.4 million people die each year from a lack of access to clean drinking water. That’s the equivalent of the entire of Los Angeles.
This big, bold information is available to us at all times. Yet we seem to forget it. We crack it as the traffic is heavy and we run late for a meeting. Or our email server is down. Or someone stood us up and wasted our time. Our boss pisses us off by asking us to stay late. A friend said something to upset us. Our parents did something that nagged us. Our kids can’t get ready quickly enough in the mornings, and the coffee shop we go to is out of organic almond milk. And we think that life is tough.
It all though comes down to perspective. All of this ‘stuff’ falls away in the moment of a real crisis. Your overflowing inbox doesn’t mean a thing to you when at 6.45am you’re having a delightful shower on A Saturday morning surrounded by steam, you have an awesome day planned and as you’re washing yourself you find a large lump in your breast. Your car rego being due and your being unable to find the paperwork for the green slip pales when you get a phone call from your child’s school saying your kid has had a fit of sorts and is now on their way via an ambulance to the local hospital Intensive Care. Whether or not you quit sugar doesn’t mean a thing when you get a call from the love of your life, and they say that they got the tests without telling you because they didn’t want you to stress out, and they’re at the doctors and they have just been told they have a rare brain tumour.
Why is it that we need shocking events to happen for us to gain perspective and not lose the plot with the little day to day happenings? Why do we sweat the small stuff so very much? It all falls away when something bigger takes its place. Now let’s keep in mind that keeping an eye on your diet and wanting to be organised with your car rego is important. But it’s not THE most important thing in our lives. So why do we let it get to us the way we do? Why do we let it dominate?
The Vedic view is that this is all just stuff happening, and it’s all aiding evolution. That everything is happening for a reason. When you meditate your sense of perspective grows. You become accustomed to tuning into nature and going with the flow more. But we can fast track the process by working each day on staying tuned in, and choosing what is important and what’s not important.
So let’s try this in order to keep perspective.
– accept that the life we have right now as we know it is fragile
– every day practice gratitude for what we do have and not focus on what we don’t have
– that right here, right now, with all the ‘good news’ and all the ‘bad news’ it’s all just news, it’s all just information, and it’s what we do with it that is important
– accept that how we live each day is how we live our lives, and simply focus our attention on each and every day, and every hour within it, and being as gracious and as elegant as we can within it, as happy and as joyful, as vibrant and as compassionate as we possibly can. Be as expansive and as broad as we can be. And from only that place, gain perspective on everything else.
‘Everything we hear is an opinion not a fact, everything we see a perspective, not a truth’ Marcus Aurelius
If you would like to be inspired for a few minutes, watch this beautiful little video with Alan Watts speaking here.