Nature Red In Tooth And Claw

No pictures.  No snappy attempts at humor, no funny graphs, no internet cats, no illustrations.

Not today.

Today is all about delivering a message: let it all happen.  Let the world do its thing.  Let reality go its merry way, with or without your input.  Let it form and change on its own since there’s very little if anything that you can do about it.

Does that sound a little defeatist?  Maybe to you.  For me, it’s a requirement.  I cannot change anything but what I do, how I react, how I think, how I feel in the present.  Beyond that, I have no control.  And anyone that believes they can control outcomes that involve others is sadly mistaken.

This is not doom and gloom.  For example, I’m waiting for word on two job interviews that I believe went very well.  I’m hopeful but not ecstatic nor unrealistic about the possible outcome.  I can see myself working in both places, and I’m suited to both very well when it comes to talent and ability.

But the stark reality is that I have little to nothing to do with a life-altering decision that I have placed in the hands of others by applying to those jobs.  And now it has nothing to do with my wants, needs, beliefs or hopes because the outcome is completely out of my hands.

In this example it is hope that causes the most potential damage.  I go on hoping even though hope may be dangerous to me.  I don’t spend too much of my emotional capital on the outcome of a given thing and that includes interviews.

When I was at my worst I would have been staring at the phone for hours waiting for it to ring, to put an end to my anticipation in one way or another.  I hate not knowing an outcome.  I despise being left in the dark about anything with which I am involved.  And that’s exactly why I wish to learn to ignore possible outcome and let reality work itself out; I’d rather take the results as they come, not as I hope or fear.

Not that I’m too crazy about waiting, mind you.  But there you are.

It is the same with most things upon which I have expended energy.  The expended energy creates expectation, and I have said many times, expectation is a core issue.  I do not want to form expectations but I inevitably do.  It’s a human thing, a thing I cannot escape.  But I can do my best to bring those expectations to a lesser emotional version of themselves rather than making them overly dramatic.

I have learned to some degree that expectation is hollow.  It is not good for you in a great many ways.  Expectation is one of many triggers that creates anxiety, a trigger that can set off emotions both good or bad but nonetheless very powerful ones that have a life all their own.

You may believe it is perhaps silly to say that hope is a cause of anxiety but I think it’s true.  Anxiety can be a very big problem for people.  If you claim not to have anxiety in your life then either you are an enlightened Buddha or you’re in a coma, either of which are unlikely.  Everyone has anxieties and everyone hates them.

Hope is a double-edged sword.  It’s important to have a sense of hope but it is useless to allow hope to develop into excessive expectation.  It’s dangerous to foster anxiety.  And it is most important to remember that you have no say in the eventual outcome of anything but your own immediate actions and the subsequent form of reality you make based upon those actions.

Oh, well.  I suppose I should be grateful to understand that the development of expectation and its attendant anxiety is simply not helpful.  But I’m not grateful, I’m anxious and I can’t deny it.  After all, as I’ve said, I’m only human.  I want to have a better life.  I want to be involved, to be helpful, to be challenged and to be satisfied with a job well done.  I want to be optimistic about the future.

I want.  I need, I deserve, I should.  Worst of all is I must.

I am reminded of a quote by Elizabeth I: ‘The word must is not used to Princes.”  You can’t tell the Queen of England what she must or must not do or think or feel or tell her just about anything at all.  But it is unfortunate that we merely mortal humans who are not kings or queens all too often use that word when it comes to ourselves.

Must is something that really spends a lot of emotional coinage.  You’re really on the line if you think you must do a thing.  But the idea of must is tempered by reality now, and for me, that reality means there is no must.  There is only, as Yoda would say, do or do not.  There is no must.

The definition of must highlights these examples of the use of the word: it means being obliged, compelled, forced.  It means that you are expected to do something.  And you can’t be compelled in this sense.  You cannot be forced; things must happen because you are willing, not compelled.  You must want to change; you cannot be forced to change.

What matters is that I give everything I do my best effort so that I can be an optimist about possibility, not a slave to the words must, should, deserve, need, want.  I don’t believe that an optimist has a claim to hope; I believe an optimist does the best at each and every moment in the present.  And giving my best in the moment makes me a definitive optimist.

Tennyson famously coined the phrase ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw’.  But we choose whether to be the victor or the victim, as is our nature, and our nature is a construct of our realities.  It is we that shape those realities.  We choose to be victor or victim.

I choose to be a victor, but I am a victor only in the moment at hand, not of ultimate outcome that I cannot control.  Victors are optimists; they are opportunistic in the moment and they act completely and totally in the present.  The victorious deal only with that which is presented to them and don’t develop anxiety over the future.  They do not submit as that is not their nature; instead, they are the winners in the moment, they face the challenges of the now, the challenges at hand, not the imagined idea of challenges to come.

A truly victorious person does not project victory into future events they cannot control.  The truly victorious don’t rest on their laurels.  They don’t wait for opportunities.  They deal with the present, and it is the present that is the door to other opportunities.

There are only doors to open in the now.  We can’t see the futures behind those doors.


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