I was having a cup of coffee with a very good friend of mine the other morning. He was feeling down—actually, he said he was feeling a little ‘crazy’. On one level, his life has never been better, his work is satisfying and, best of all, according to him, he has a new Porsche that is requiring he move to the next level of performance in driving. Life is good.
Yet, amidst all his success (which includes a loving, happy marriage and new grandkids), he was in a deep ‘funk’. I say funk because he wasn’t quite depressed, but wasn’t feeling well either. He’d spent the better part of the last month trying to psychoanalyze himself to find the source of his malaise and achieved not much more than the usual circular reasoning that we get into when we become trapped in our own psyche.
I suggested the problem might be how he is relating to the future. From an ontological perspective, our experience in the present always is connected to how the future is occurring for us. When we are living into a possibility or a vision, our moods are naturally positive and when we are playing tapes from the past or are disconnected from ourselves and the world of possibility, then we generally have ‘bad moods’. In our conversation, he came to realize that whatever was going on for him psychologically was not the point. The fact was that he’d been living with the possibility of buying his new car for more than a year—doing research, consulting sources, considering options—and now that he’d made the plunge, there was a big let down…analogous to the post-partum syndrome some women experience after giving birth.
The point was that he’d fallen into the familiar trap of confusing his goals (buying a new Porsche) with his purpose in pursing the goal (pressing himself to a new level of learning and driving skill). The car was just a means to an end. Once he recovered his relationship with the future and the possibility that his new ‘toy’ could be in his life, his mood changed dramatically and instantaneously. He could see that possibilities are created and are never ‘there’ in the circumstances or the materiality of life. This is, of course, not new. We all know that the ‘juice’ of life is not in the ‘stuff’ we acquire, but in the less tangible and qualitative aspects of our living.
As I reflect on how this story relates to age, I wonder how many people in their later years suffer from the kind of ennui that comes when we’ve won the games we’re playing, we have all the stuff we need or are likely to use, and we lose touch with personal ambition and a relationship with the future as a possibility. All moods are biological in nature, but they also always connect us with our past and our future. Moreover, when we are experiencing negative moods, it is usually because something in our story has us hooked into a ‘should be’ relationship with the present and the future. Somehow we aren’t where we should be or doing what we should do or having what we think will make us happy. At the end of the day, it amounts to whining and blaming our circumstances for ‘the way it is’.
We can’t all buy Porsches—but we can appreciate that we each find our own way to learn the lesson that ‘stuff’ and our circumstances don’t make us happy. The essence of wisdom is in the awareness that life is always as it should be and we can choose to either accept it or resist it. When we accept and surrender to ‘what is’, then we are free and empowered to commit to and create new possibilities. As you’ve heard me ask many times before in this blog, “What if the last day of your life held as much possibility as the first?” At the end of the day (literally), why not?