One of my guilty pleasures is clicking on links that promise things like “Three Easy Steps to Happiness” or “The Six Lessons Everyone Should Learn” or “Ten Reasons You’re Wrong About Everything.” Part of it is research of course – I’m working on an article entitled “Ten Things About Life That Cannot Be Simplified Into Ten Things (or Less)” – and part of it is because there amidst the dross there are, occasionally, nifty little gems that make one go “Hmmm…”
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use making a damn fool of yourself about it.
– W.C. Fields
For example, in a recent LifeHack post, Bobbi Emel wrote about how the idea that life is linear is in fact a pretty dumb idea. This whole idea that we will be constantly progressing, or that there is a precise cause and effect going on in life is just lazy thinking. The myriad coincidences and cumulative factors that had to lead to you reading these words right now is so mind-boggling as to defy imagination. There are side stories and backstories and overarching stories and that one side comment you made out of the corner of your mouth can be the thing that ends up deciding another person’s life choice. And vice versa.
Rather, this article speculated that life is more like a spiral, in that we often seem to come around to the same thing again and again. For some, this can be frustrating, either in themselves or in each other. That’s because they’re making the mistake of thinking that things are the same.
Something has always changed. You are a different person, or the others involved are, or the circumstances surrounding it have changed. It may not be a matter of “Oh no, not this again!” but more a “Ah, another chance to learn something else from this situation.” Perhaps, he suggests, you’re not stuck in a cycle, but rather you are in a spiral, moving along a path that, layer by layer, eventually grows broad and strong. It’s not that you didn’t learn your lesson; rather, it’s time to add a new lesson, and have another beautiful experience layered on your life.
It’s Never the Same Thing
A while back, I said “If doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same result is insanity, perhaps doing the same thing over and over knowing you’ll get the same bad result is stupidity.”
I think there might be something more to that: Believing that things are the same every time you do them is short-sighted. Doing the same thing even when you can’t tell whether things are changing or not – that’s faith. Or persistence. Or, stupidity.
It takes a while to figure out which. Let me know how you tell the difference, ok?