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…”

Non-Linear Living

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?

courtesy wwarby via FlickrCC

6 thoughts on “LifeSpiral”

  1. You have me thinking of a conversation with you very early on when we first met; talking about how signs of life tended to be circular and dynamic, while non-living signs were linear and static. The beautiful image of the shell fits perfectly.
    Thanks for the reminder, Gray.

    1. Yeah, the idea of our lives as “whirlpools” was one I got way back in the USMC when reading zen buddhist philosophy from Charlotte Joko Beck. It’s stuck, sometimes frustratingly so. Glad you liked it!

  2. I have encountered the same type of man two years in a row at almost the exact same time: in early January of 2012 & 2013, I met an educated, intelligent, work oriented, attractive black man… who doesn’t want a relationship.

    When this realization hit me, I was a bit upset. I’d “done it again” or “made the same misstake”. I had found myself in the same situation, I thought.

    I examined my actions. I was open and honest from the start; so we’re they.

    And then I thought about my current situation more deeply. Because I had experienced guy A, I am not letting myself go down the same path with guy B. It all feels the same (frustration, annoyance, wondering if I even want a friendship from this new person when I am specifically looking for more).

    But I am not the same. There is no false hope, no grand dream. I know what we have (occasional great sex and laughs), and I’m not expecting more than that.

    Both men are/were bad with communication, so instead of getting angry like I did with guy A, I’m not caring with guy B, accepting that since this is not a “relationship”, and even just barely a friendship, his actions are showing me how much I matter to him (or, more to the point, how little).

    I’m still looking for the “right” guy, with the description from above, just minus a few letters. Maybe this makes me insane. Maybe this shows I have perseverance, or faith, that someday I will find him.

    For me, though, it just feels like something I have to do, because to not do it would be to give up on the life I want, and, struggle or no struggle, I am not willing to do that.

    Maybe 2014 will be the year for me…

    1. It’s interesting reading your comment in context with Don’s comment above – sounds like this time you are taking the result and enjoying it, rather than trying to fit it into something else. You certainly are one of the more self-reflective and philosophical people I know, so I’m not surprised.

      Here’s hoping 2014 will be, if not everything you hope, at least a lot of things you can enjoy as much…

  3. Even in science we do not accept the first resault as proof of anything. To say that I did something and it didn’t work so it will not work in the future is a bit short sighted. I always have had this belief but until right now I always believed in and said the phrase “doing the same thing and expecting a different results is stupid”. But what we don’t take into account is that there are veriables that we have no control over or sometimes knowledge of.

    Instead of looking at why am I getting the same result. Why not look at the result and ask yourself why is it not acceptable? Maybe instead of changing what you are doing you just need to change your expectation of the result.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *