Give Your Life Away, It May Not Be Worth Much

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
– Albert Einstein

Do you wonder sometimes if Einstein didn’t get sucked into a black hole somewhere and spewed out covered in some of the strange stuff he talks about other than physics?

Who can’t see with their own eyes and feel with their own heart?

As it turns out, most of us.

Most of what we value in life–including what we do with the precious hours allotted to us in our own lives–we adopt from what we have hard from others. We eat more or less the same things as our neighbours and family eat. We subscribe to spiritual beliefs somewhat similar to those of others we know. We wear similar clothing to work, on the golf course, playing a sport or shopping.

Would you not think a down-and-outer bum from the street would be clearly out of place in the same pew as you at church? Yet for all you know, the “bum” may lead a more spiritually pure life than you, may help others more often than you, may even have a personal net worth far in excess of yours.

So why would the bum not belong beside you in church? Likely because you think he may embarrass you by embarrassing himself, meaning that you care what others think about you when you sit in the same church pew as a bum in ragged, dirty and smelly clothing.

Surely when we fall in love we feel with our own heart more clearly than we do with emotions at other times in our lives. That’s a one-to-one thing that only involves two people (only one if the love is unrequited, but let’s consider two the norm). Two people who love each other deeply care only about themselves. It’s not selfish so much as self centred, or a universe of only two people.

Yet how do we find and choose such a person? Most often we use standards or guidelines passed on to us from others. Most times we won’t get involved with someone our friends or family can’t stand. Because their opinion matters. We use other standards to measure potential mates, but we usually acquire them from others.

The “deeply in love” stage is limited in most long term relationships. It’s known as the romantic phase. It usually lasts from six weeks to eight months, depending on the people involved and circumstances. By the time a year has passed in any relationship, the romantic phase is over and a couple has moved on to a deeply bonded relationship. Romantic gestures may continue, but the hormonal rush of romance will have tapered off to something more manageable. If the relationship continues, both members will be sizing up where they want it to go and where the other may be prepared to have it go.

The act of sizing up where we want a relationship to go is largely determined by what others tell us. Nothing in nature tells us it’s time to evaluate. Lots of effects in our lives do just that. I’m reminded of how often that happened in the popular television series Friends, where relationships ended because one couldn’t meet the evaluation tests of the other.

When do we act on our own, using our own eyes to provide independent evidence to our brain so that it can make up its mind (pun noted) without influence from outside? When do we act only according to the dictates of our heart, without letting anyone else express their opinions, however well intentioned? In fact, not that often.

We are not just social animals who require the attention and approval of others in our social circle, we are also individuals who need others in our lives to provide validation, approval, love and other aspects of social intercourse. We are not rock or islands in the stream. Nor can we be for long. We each function within a particular social milieu. Stepping outside of it by making totally independent choices may jeopardize our membership in the group.

Einstein was right. We rarely make independent decisions, with our eyes or out hearts. Usually it’s because we can’t afford to be so independent.

So are well all slaves to each other? Or to someone who is effectively our master? No. Slavery today, in the free world, is a matter of choice.

What we must do sometimes is balance off what others want us to do and think with what we believe is best for us. When we decide to act independent of the wishes and advice of others who care about us, we need good communication skills to express our feelings in ways that will not offend or alienate them.

Sure it’s hard. So was relativity for Einstein. But what else have you got to do with your life than to get better at it?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want children to be able to make wise decisions as they grow up, to be able to balance the intricacies of life so that they can be happy and get along well with those they want to hold dear.
Learn more at http://billallin.com/

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