Friday, February 24, 2012

Life is Risk

"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Emerson.

I once worked with a tremendously talented artist. He was the guy who painted those huge outdoor murals on buildings that you can see from miles away. He was bohemian, intense and passionate about his work. His sole criteria for accepting work, and his mission statement, was this: "It has to have meaning." We once sold some downtown wall space to Nike during their Shaq phase. It was a big job and we we're happy to be partnering with one of the most recognizable names (brands) in the world. We naturally turned to James for the production work. He said, politely, no thanks and gave us the contact info of one of his apprentices who could, he assured us, do the job just as well, and a whole lot cheaper.

Seems James had some personal issues with American conglomerates exploiting Third World labor to pimp $100 shoes to inner city kids. We tried to talk some sense into him, the old consensus morality and sustainable commerce propaganda pitch, but he wasn't buying, his passion sleeved like a neon chevron.

I always think about James when my mojo runs low. He would climb a skyscraper with a paintbrush in his teeth to paint a message in which he believed. Likewise there wasn't enough gold in Ft. Knox to get him involved with a meaningless gig.

Several times yesterday I though about this. It seemed to be an topic running through my day, a recurring theme, abstract and demanding of my attention. Something big enough that I needed to get to the other side of the koan, establish some sort of physical, emotional and intellectually balanced understanding. Some common ground or temporary consent. Where is the meaning? What is the meaning? Why the unrest and consternation? What part of THIS puzzle am I missing?

As the day progressed, it became apparent that I was again flirting with gray-tones. This wasn't another binary issue, neither black or white. I considered pain, suffering, love, loss, attachment, freedom, purpose, design, challenge, effort, happiness, reward, failure, cost, ego, respect, humor, gratitude, momentum, inspiration, motivation, value and art. I looked for the meaning of each, an inquiry towards inertia. I closed my eyes to see clearer the path with heart.

And found this: I want to live freely, with enthusiasm and vibrancy, an active participant in the discovery of meaning. And that starts with me. The meaning of me. These daily challenges are nothing but ways to materialize this, make it tangible, something to touch. There will be suffering. Suffering caused by attachment. I never had ownership of it and never will. It is a meteor shower of joy. The highest, greatest, grandest most dangerous and exciting show to date. But its tents have been packed and I am left with the sad ticket stub of memory. If there is to be growth this process must come and go. The biggest issue we face as a society today is that of the comfort zone. There is no growth in easy. It has to be ridiculously hard. Impossible. Outrageous. It has to have meaning. It must contain love. It has to show yourself to you. We must respond with enthusiasm, gumption, passion and joy. We must move towards this glowing light of change. Relentlessly. The meaning is life. And I want all of it and I want all of it all the time. That includes now. Now being the what and the where.

When you do a thing, as Ralph suggests in his quote above, put everything you have into it. Find a way then, to add some more. Maybe that means duration. Maybe that means repetition, maybe that means patience in practice. Maybe that means abstinence. If that thing is physical, use it as a bridge. Make it the bridge of mindfulness. Use it to cross into the soul of beauty and truth. There is power there. Don't let it go. The path of least resistance is the path with least potential.

I think we can practice passion and refine our meaning. Start now, today. Look at what you are doing. If it isn't jam packed with passion and meaning, quit it. Just walk away. Stop, cease and desist. Ask your body, your mind and your soul where the meaning is and what provides the spark of passion. And then move towards it. Move towards life. Say yes. Shout it out. Embrace. Share. Support.

The meaning is passion. Ralph Waldo was right, James was right. And you are right. Life is risk.

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