“We cannot achieve our wildest dreams by remaining who we are.”

Having a purpose gives our life value

Before my run yesterday, I was looking forward to getting outside and looking at the colors of the autumn leaves and enjoying time with my girlfriend. After a couple of miles, my environment became the beautiful background while a purpose materialized: To drive myself forward, head up, until the trail ended. I felt good for getting through the hilly terrain and accomplishing my goal.

Happiness requires acceptance first, purpose second

At one point, I wanted to stop running, but I pressed on and finished. The idea of stopping was resistance coming from my mind. One of the most pleasurable feelings in my life is when I push through resistance. However, if I had stopped, I would have accepted it, because I accept myself. Happiness starts with accepting yourself. If our value was defined by things outside of ourselves, we would need other people to be happy, and society’s standards for our values. As I ran the trail, I knew my value without the trail telling me or comparing myself to other runners.

Accepting ourselves is not enough to be happy, because we need a purpose

Accepting ourselves is not enough to be happy, because it is a human trait to want to accomplish something. Paradoxically, a person becomes a Buddhist monk when he learns it is human neediness that makes everyone unhappy, but when he becomes a monk, he tries to eliminate all of the mind’s needs expect for one: the need for happiness. He continues searching in an effort to be happy because he wants to grow as a person. Even a Buddhist monk knows we cannot stop striving.

Purpose is about doing something valuable

So we all must grow and learn from the foundation of acceptance of ourselves. Running faster and farther, learning how a cell phone works or a car runs, writing a story, or being a good friend, parent, or lover requires us to accept who we are and set goals to grow. John C. Maxwell said:

“We cannot achieve our wildest dreams by remaining who we are.”

Who do you want to be?

Dr. King fought against the majority and today we have the same fight

In Washington DC yesterday there was a commemoration of a monument to honor Martin Luther King Jr. A number of speakers talked about Dr. King…about his words and how they inspired so many, but also spoke of his actions. And the mention of action made me hopeful. Dr. King once said: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.” And so, today, we too, must sacrifice to take control of our lives once again. We must fight to utilize the consumer power of the majority against the concentration of power in the corporation.

Dr. King fought against the apathy of the white majority and today we also fight against the apathy of a majority

Dr King inspired others to face the powerful and established practice of discrimination. The discrimination which Dr King fought against was based on race, but it didn’t affect the mostly white US population.  Society went about its business, just like today, but today our apathy led us to a recession that almost resulted in the total economic collapse of our country.

A corporate system without consumer oversight is a system that will promote inequality

Today we have a cultural acceptance of our powerful financial system, which has slowly grown and allows us to spend less and have more money in our bank accounts.  The benefits of this system are for everyone, from the corporation to the consumer.  Still, the situation threatens the very structure of our free society.

Power follows money, and today we see a movement of power from elected officials to a corporate minority.  This concentration of power has grown so large that when the existence of a few banking and automobile corporations was threatened, the whole country was affected: Regardless if you were rich or poor, we lost businesses, jobs, and retirement savings.

We can reclaim power over the institutions if we follow Dr. King’s advice: Sacrifice

A sacrifice of personal financial growth. As Dr King sacrificed, we too must sacrifice our way of life to correct the injustices of today: We must turn away the money that trickles down from Wall Street and the corporations. We must control our own finances and earnings to take back the power we are giving the Wall Street bankers and the corporations. We must move our money to local banks and credit unions. Institutions should be dependent on us. Not us on them.

Race cannot be used to determine who is given opportunity, and neither can capital

Today, as in the past, we have a grave danger that cannot be ignored.  We cannot continue to be apathetic about the division of the country into rich and poor, just as the population before the 1960s was apathetic about the division of the country by race.  We cannot continue to watch our capital accumulate in the hands of the minority. The future of our society depends on our capacity to sacrifice and to recognize the power we have as consumers. Perhaps Dr King’s quote should be amended slightly:

We shall match OUR capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.

The Occupy Wall Street protests and fear

The protests that began several week ago have spread from NYC to several cities across the nation. I was thinking about why people are protesting now, but not before the market crashed in 2008.  As I puzzled over it, a friend answered my questions simply: “Fear. They’re afraid now.”

We are driven by confidence

For at least the last 10 years, people bought homes and invested in housing loans, because they had confidence that home values would go up. In fact, there was so much confidence, that three things happened:

  1. There were loans that shouldn’t have been taken or given
  2. A lot of investments were bets (derivatives) that home values would increase. Investment banks bet so much, in fact, that they went into debt!
  3. And lastly, but maybe most importantly, investment banks started cheating. They combined the risky derivatives, called subprime, with the more stable derivatives, called AAA, and called them all AAA.

Fear is useful

Everyone bet on house loans because there was no fear, because there were no negative consequences to our actions. The banks didn’t care when someone couldn’t pay their home loan, because the value of homes was always going up.  If someone walked away from the loan, the bank took over an investment that was increasing in value.  Still, bank debt continued to grow, and fear set in that banks didn’t have enough money to pay their account holders. Fear is useful to balance out the belief that we cannot fail. In fact, failure is good.

Failure is a learning opportunity, not a time for retribution

Occupy Wall Street has an opportunity to recognize the failure of the US: Of our government in promoting irresponsible housing loans. Of the banks that chose to go into debt so they could continue giving out housing loans, good loans or bad. Of the people who accepted loans but couldn’t really pay them. Of the people who allowed their banker  to bet their money in the housing market without knowing how they were going into debt?

Occupy Wall Street is not a time for class warfare

Occupy Wall Street needs to show us that our failure is a chance for hope. Hope that we can hold people accountable: The people in government, the people in the corporations, and people like you and me. The protest is a call to take responsibility. To realize that we have the power. The power to do the right thing. When the government or corporation has become too big for us to control, it’s time for us to reign them back to represent our interests. Not the interests of money, but the interests of people.

How do you think the Occupy Wall Street protests can bring about this change?

The opposite of happiness is not sadness. It’s emptiness.

Over a recent weekend, I had an interesting mix of experiences, one sad and one happy. One was surrounding a loss, and the other a celebration. But I realize at the end of the weekend that the two experiences are related. I came to the surprising realization that loss, the feeling of emptiness, is the opposite of true happiness, and how that knowledge can help me improve my life.

I took part in a friend’s charity run for his brother who died of cancer. As I talked with his parents, I was struck by their feeling of absence for their son. I saw a family that lost a brother, a son, a lover. I then felt that emptiness in myself as well. I felt the absence of my uncle who I had lost to cancer years ago.

The next day, I was at a community festival. It was a celebration. Music was being created as food was cooked and drinks that had been fermented were poured. I met new people and the connection I already had with my friends, who were with me, grew. I was surrounded by creation. I was happy.

We are here to create and connect

Happiness and sadness are states of feeling. Sadness isn’t in any way less than happy. Their opposite is not feeling at all. We aren’t here to live in a state of nothingness, in apathy, observing life go by. We are here to create something and forge personal relationships. But the first step, before creation, is individual acceptance.  

Creation, taking risks, loss, making a stand, connecting with others, and doing something we value is what life’s all about. And these things require sadness and pain, in addition to happiness. The alternative is existing in a state of neutrality, a stagnation in which the only movement is towards death.

We were meant to live it to the fullest.

When are you your happiest? What are you doing?