I’m always shaken up when this happens. When one of my core beliefs get thrown into the blazing bonfire of life.
It is not a philosophical debate.
It is not a “what if?…” scenario.
It is life throwing reality right up in my face and telling me that something I believe, fundamentally, is flawed, inconsistent, or just plain wrong.
I hate being wrong.
I have always appreciated the Dilbert comic. I remember a book that Scott Adams released back in the early 1990’s entitled “Shave The Whales…” It’s about how messages can often get lost in translation when you start with a good intention, but your words get mixed up.
But that’s not my core challenge today. My challenge comes from the original message. Saving the whales… Or more to the point Saving anyone. Well even more to the point it’s about control, and letting go.
I remember a comedy special by Dennis Miller that I listened to in the 90s. I laughed a lot and I recall he was very sarcastic and embittered… But I don’t remember exactly what he said. Except for one thing. It struck me in my core and while I laughed and laughed, and I’ve even quoted him several times over the years, it is also an idea that I’ve struggled with, ever since I heard it.
“You can’t save everyone — just try not to be living next to them when they go off.”
— Dennis Miller, April 27, 1995
I think the power of this humor is that it both comforts me and makes me uncomfortable.
I am comforted by the release, that it’s not my job, nor even within my capabilities, to save everyone. This removes a terrible burden that my idealism has placed upon my psyche. It lets me off the hook.
At the same time it makes me uncomfortable, because a fundamental concept at my core, part of my upbringing and belief system, is that everyone can be saved. I have idealistically believed that everyone could be saved, and with enough time and initiative, I could be the one that does that saving.
It’s a terrible burden that I have held onto and in many ways, at times, it has frozen me to inaction. The daunting prospect of saving the world is such an insurmountable task as to be quickly dismissed by the mind as impossible, therefore impractical, therefore, let’s just watch some TV…
So as I interact with people that are so different from me and so out of my experience that the mere thought of connecting with them is comical, let alone the thought of connecting in such a meaningful way as to “save them”. It highlights for me that I have taken on, in my mind, a responsibility that is simply unreasonable.
More to the point, what am I “saving” them from? What do I see as the threat that is so sinister that they must be saved. And what leveraging idea, saving solution, do I have, that would result in their being “saved”.
It’s a logic path that I must face to come to peace with the fact that my core is being dismantled. This has happened in the past, and the results are usually liberating and freeing… After the pain is over… Right now, I am in the pain. So I can only comfort myself with past experience and remind myself of another favorite quote.
“You have survived the past. Odds are, you will survive the future.”
And so I must deepen my practice of letting go, and letting the universe guide my path. I am here to experience life and to live in the fullest. Sometimes this means that I must lose notions that hold me back, so I can continue to be propelled forward. Baggage is only useful if you need what you store in it. Lose the baggage and free your mind.
So as I write this to myself, and find a few people reading over my shoulder, I remind myself in a calm soothing voice. “You can’t shave everyone…”