Daniel Boorstin, the eminent American historian and Librarian of Congress, collected old maps. One wall of his home in suburban Maryland held a replica of a colored map of Africa drawn in perhaps the thirteenth century. In addition to some predictable geographical features, it showed a large number of griffins, dragons, and other oddities.
Boorstin was fond of showing guests this map, because, while proudly claiming to depict the known world, instead it highlighted thirteenth-century ignorance. Remembering this map, I have often wondered how information we accept without question today will be regarded in centuries to come.
Consider time, for instance. The past, the present, and the future all sit on a continuum. But this long line, like its three parts, is just something we humans have dreamed up. Unlike the sun, the moon, and trees, it has no physical presence. How would the world seem without time? Just imagine.
Some of the other things we know to be real, such as our thoughts and feelings, also seem to be physically absent. Which brain surgeon has plunged the scalpel in and found a thought?
Let’s get really weird and suppose that the invisible forces in our lives, like feelings and hunches, actually live outside our bodies. Maybe they just drop by intermittently, like spirits, when we make them welcome.
If so, then the secret to a good life might be to make the nicest visitors feel at home so that they will come more often. If you are willing to toy with this fantasy a bit longer, try on the ideas outlined below. Do they offer you a different perspective on yourself and your life?
Perhaps the hairy, sweaty person you see in the mirror is a temporary, abridged version that was created to last only a lifetime. Out of your sight there is a larger enduring, spiritual you that encompasses a number of ephemeral yous. The temporary you knows all about competing for a promotion, struggling to get money, fighting with enemies, and other familiar aspects of modern life. Not so the unabridged you.
Suppose the large, invisible you lives in a realm beyond time that is governed by love, acceptance, and positive energy rather than by mortal heads of state and by greed for land, wealth, and power. This place could be the headquarters various thinkers have in mind when they speak not of God but of “intelligence at work within the universe.”
Seen against this backdrop, many present-day earthly complaints would melt away as too trivial to warrant the trouble they cause. We are certainly all familiar with fear, doubt, blame, guilt, shame, hostility, disappointment, and the like. Petty frustrations and mundane negativity often make us irritable and spoil our waking moments.
To combat them—indulge me here—Local You will live most wisely by tapping into Cosmic You. In this way Local You can learn to accept each situation on earth as it occurs and to avoid passing judgment, taking mishaps personally, or otherwise making negative waves.
Local You is rather like a scout on assignment who will return eventually to the cosmic home base with a story to tell. Your report on your work will of course be just one of many that are being continuously incorporated into a sort of mega database comprising important principles and timeless values.
In this scenario, we do not know what cosmic assignments we might each be working on in our short lifetimes. Still, we remain responsible for our actions in this world. To avoid perpetuating bad stuff, we can choose to follow certain guidelines.
For instance, we can stop criticizing other people, about whose assigned tasks on earth we know no more than we do about our own. We can step back from any situation far enough so that we feel able to respond with compassion rather than contempt. We can even view our loneliness and sadness as ties that bind us to other humans.
We can carefully choose how we see. Why focus on this rather than on that? By concerning ourselves with positive forces and energy, we can discover opportunities for joy and prosperity that we might otherwise have missed.
We can focus our attention on the things we want, as if selecting blooms for a bouquet, rather than on what we do not want. We can steer clear of actions that reflect indignation, our own righteousness, or a need to retaliate. By staying mindful of our intentions, we can reshape our reality.
In the process we don’t let anyone off the hook for cosmic wrongdoing, if indeed there has been any. We simply assume that the eternal judiciary will take care of business. We recognize that this is not our job. We relieve ourselves of this self-imposed burden.
Now, this scenario is clearly pure fantasy, mere speculation. I find it inherently appealing because it places human struggles in a comforting perspective. We don’t know what we don’t know. But we don’t need to know. We need only to feel good about ourselves and our work in the world.
If you want to cultivate this mindset, you can take a number of steps. To increase your self-awareness and your ability to accept yourself, consider meditation. There are many kinds. Sample a few, and pick what you like.
You can also use tapping, or Emotional Freedom Techniques, which allow you to target all sorts of problems and to alter the way your nervous system responds. For more information, go to www.EFTUniverse.com.
It is always useful to know the difference between things that are yours to manage, over which you exert some control, and things that, being beyond your control, can bring you endless frustration if you attempt to change them. You can change only yourself. Boundaries safeguard your peace of mind.
Since you are human, everything that you feel is part of what it means to be human. Nothing needs to be concealed as shameful. Be open to yourself. Notice, accept, and let go. Make private opportunities to discharge anger and negativity. You can also use tapping for this purpose. Reflect before acting.
Celebrate yourself—your body, your energy, each day, this beautiful world, your accomplishments. Let your feelings and your intuition bring forth your creative impulses.
Allow your intuition and your passion to lead you. Build the scaffold for joy and purpose in your daily habits and your work in the world. If you look back over your journey to date, you may glimpse the lessons you have been asked to learn in this life.