Everyone on Earth

Some inadequate thoughts on our connections to each other…
1. Everyone on Earth is here to entertain you. Enjoy the show.
2. Everyone on Earth is here to teach you something. Pay attention.
3. Everyone on Earth is here to give you an opportunity to love. Go for it.

Does everyone on Earth being here just for you sound pretty self-centered, or a bit crazy? Of course people have other jobs, too.  Perhaps I should tell a couple of stories to explain.

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Other People’s Joy

Here’s a hard attitude to learn: rejoicing over the good fortune of others.  If you get this habit, though, it can open your life in wonderful ways.

The Buddha called this attitude mudita, or unselfish joy. It’s the opposite of envy, a word which has no opposite in English.

From what I’ve seen, mudita is indeed rare. My two young friends: nine year old Leona and her six year old sister Lisa could certainly use some mudita. When someone does something nice for Leona, Lisa breaks down in tears.  When something good comes to Lisa, Leona tries to sabotage her good feelings with an insult or a boast.  I’m pretty sure they react negatively to each other’s infrequent good fortune because they feel deprived, mostly by their absent mother and fathers. Still, aren’t their reactions just juvenile versions of what most adults show?

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Celebrate Your Variance

One thing I learned from studying Statistics: everyone looks at the average — the mean or median — but the real story is in the variance.  The more the population varies, the less the mean means.  Statisticians have drowned; the saying goes, in rivers whose average depth was six inches.

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Unwanted Blessings

When painful things come to you, look deeper. They may be blessings in disguise.

When my friend Nora was 24, she married Fredrik, her tall, good-looking high school sweetheart. She supported him through medical school and residency in San Francisco, working as a counselor. When they returned to Wisconsin, she gave up her job to raise their son Arne; then aged two, now 12.

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The Truth and Its Opposite

“The opposite of a minor truth is an obvious falsehood.  The opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth.” – Niels Bohr

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The Happiest Man in the World

Long ago in what is now Kazakhstan, a man named Jameel reached middle age. His children were grown. He had some land and a little home; he was doing well by the standards of the time. But he wasn’t happy.

He felt there must be more, so he sought help from a series of teachers. He studied yoga, practiced meditation, learned philosophy, but he still wasn’t happy. Finally, he traveled over the mountains to see a renowned guru.

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Seeing People Right

Last week I went to a playground with my granddaughter Anaya on a rare sunny day in San Francisco. A mother came in with her seriously disabled nine or ten year old son. He had cerebral palsy, and his mother held him up with her hands lifting his underarms. That way he could take a few struggling steps at a time.

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The River of Creation

Look around the Web. Do you see the rushing river of visual art, impassioned writing, humor, and new ideas pouring out and spreading around social media and other sites?  True, a lot of garbage and poison comes with it, but there is still enough good work to keep anyone with access intrigued and uplifted.

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The Story of Your Life

Say you are a movie director shooting a film of your own life. How do you see the story unfolding? Is it a biopic, perhaps starting when your parents got together, and ending with a touching funeral?  Do you star in every scene?

Most of us see our lives that way. It’s all about us: “I did this; that happened to me, then this person came along, then I did that. I made these mistakes, and I did these other good things. I grew in such and such ways. All in all, I guess it’s been pretty OK.”
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Prepare to be Amazed

“To be awake is to live in a constant state of amazement.” – Jack Kornfield, paraphrasing the Buddha

Last month I was lucky enough to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a family event; there were eight of us ranging in age from 2 to 90. Tickets and motel were pricey but more than worth it.

We went for the new exhibit called “Tentacles,” displays of octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus.  I hope you get to see them. They absorb your attention; they are beautiful and intelligent, but I spent most of the visit watching the jellyfish instead. These creatures are so simple that they have no brain at all, but they show how wonderful life can be.

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