Saturday, May 11, 2013

Beyond our natural default setting

When I take a walk around any university campus, I calm down. There is something magical about the winding, irregular paths, the trees and vast green spaces, the beauty of the well-designed original fifty-year plus buildings and the hustle and bustle of students, faculty, staff and visitors traversing the grounds in every direction. It’s a cocoon, a little enclave in the midst of that unpredictable, often uninviting world out there.

Memories past spring up when all I had to worry about was being a student. It was a glorious time and a stressful time. But little did I know how peaceful it really was in comparison to what was ahead. The journey of life is a series of pilot tests offering an opportunity to learn or fume.
Fuming seems to be an easier route to take because it’s easier. Something annoying happens. We react. Simple! To not get irritated requires effort.  To be calm means I have to stop, see the situation in a more benign light, let go of being ticked off and revel in a more positive world. Too many steps! It can be exhausting when life is a constant series of irritations!

Yet, with a bit of practice the switch to seeing others and the prickly situations in a better light can speed up reducing the drain on my brain. A bonus is having the pleasure of going down pathways that may never have been explored and enjoyed otherwise; thus, my motivation to be more “type B” in nature in the face of life’s pilot tests.

What better place to pick up on the “learn or fume” challenge than a commencement address? It may go in one ear and out the other in the moment but with the fullness of time it resonates. David Foster Wallace captured the story poignantly in his address to the 2005 graduating class of Kenyon College. I wish he had won the battle as he passed away in 2008 but his messages live on to inspire us to keep pushing the flywheel.