If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kind of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security; we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us.-Nena O’Neil
Are we unique individuals who are living our own, unique lives, or are we a part of a herd, doing what the herd does, following the will of others who are telling us what to do, how to live, what to think, what to feel? Does life toss us about, leaving us happy one day, sad the next, depressed and exhausted the next, and joyous the next? Or do we look at life and say, “Thank you for all that you offer me, but please keep in mind that I’m going to take you on my own terms”?
Stepping up and taking charge of our lives may sound like a control-freak type of thing to try, and it seems to go completely against ways of life such as Zen, but it really is necessary if we’re going to get what we can out of our lives. The Zen concept of letting things be and allowing the river of life to flow unmolested is actually the height of control over our own selves, for those who are able to accept life as it is have found enough control over themselves and their impulses to be able to let go of the need to try to control life.
We don’t have to do anything in particular in life. We don’t have to learn anything specific, and we don’t have to act in any certain way. We do owe ourselves the effort it takes to shape our own lives, to find our own interests and follow them, and to do our best to live lives that are fulfilling to us, no matter what anyone else may say about the way that we are living.
You are truly unique, but the question is, do you act it? Or do you act like everyone else, talking about the same things rather than about your true interests, making decisions based on what you know other people will find good and acceptable, and finding change to be frightening and threatening? Are you a part of a herd, or are you truly yourself, living your unique version of life?
Questions to consider:
What does it mean to say, “our unique capacity to shape our lives”?
In what ways are you a follower rather than a doer?
How can we go about defining our unique lives and truly living them?
For further thought:
Whoever refuses to take risks pays the penalty of loss of life in one form or another.