Play The Part Not The Result

Play The Part Not The Result

by Noah benShea

A few years back when the film “Titanic” was being sold to us via every media and beginning to annoy almost everyone some street vendor in New York made up ten thousand t-shirts that sold out in one day. The t-shirt read: “It sank. Get over it.”

I’m beginning to feel the same way about news of a new year. Let’s get over it. Let’s get on with it. We’re older. The planet’s older. Every moment matters but in cosmic or geological time it takes 250,000 years for the planet to sneeze. Gezundheit. Now can we go back to work?

If the idea of things returning to normal makes you crazy, don’t worry. Things aren’t going to be normal again. Ever. Because things have never ever been normal. Certainly not normal if you mean static. High thinking physicists have for while now been thinking about “chaos theory.” Maybe it’s a theory to them. To the rest of us it’s a normal Monday morning.

What’s normal is that there is no norm. Oh we may have thought there was a norm a few years ago. Or a hundred years ago. But the river only looks like it’s running straight when you’re standing right next to the shore. Pull back a bit, step back a few years, get some distance on anyone or anything we know or knew and we discover that everything and everyone has their bends, their twists, some go in their flow. And that’s normal.

Most of us can feel life’s current running under our feet – usually when we’re trying, unsuccessfully, to find our footing. If life is always running, and it is, most of us feel like we’re running to catch up. Forget-about-it! We less have to catch up than catch the drift. Little drowns a man faster than fighting the current. Women too. Reality is a memory ahead of its time.

The rate of change appears to be changing more quickly; things, however, usually look this way when our way of looking at things is unchanging. The world has never held still but an object in orbit, in its spin, isn’t spinning out of control. It is only our urge to control the world or the naïve notion that we can stand still and look at the world that makes things appear out of control. In reality it’s our perception that’s out of control. We are on a spinning ball observing a spinning universe. That’s it dude. To get on better with the world you’ve got to get with the program.

None of us are alone on this planet or alone in the misconception that we are on stable ground. Stability in the main is a state of mind, an accusation against those who don’t share our mind, a socially agreed upon or shared superstition of the senses. We often reinforce each other’s bias on what is normative because blindness likes company. It is the neighborly shadow-side of us all standing under one sun, us all being connected. If we like to agree on what we see, we love to agree on what we don’t see. Dumb question number one: Who can see what they don’t see? What we don’t see makes things look the same.

Any student of history quickly learns that a plurality isn’t necessarily visionary. Five hundred years ago the world would have voted that the world was flat but Columbus didn’t sail over the edge. When we have lost our way it is not “the way” which is lost. The biggest lie any of us ever tell is denying that little need to lie to ourselves. The social lie of all time is trading truth for company. Stability isn’t the absence of storms in one’s life but finding the quiet at the center of the storm.

Winds of change haven’t just started blowing. Change is the river we all sail on. We are each the source of the others river. Every river flows from God and to God. Everything being born is dying. And dying to be born. And a new year has just been born.

Some of us will have a tough time returning to the day to day because even though we didn’t believe much of the hoopla about the new year, the thought of something really exciting happening was exciting. Now that it’s another day, and the stuff we didn’t do still needs to get done, we may feel we’re in the doldrums and life is sorta ho-hum. But don’t yawn out loud. If you think life is ever going to be ho-hum again that ain’t just Santa’s retreating ho-ho-ho you’re hearing.

If there was ever a season of new beginnings this is it. I would say the world is exploding – oh, yeah – except there are some scientists out there who would point out that that’s exactly what’s happening. The era of the big bands may be over but the era of the Big Bang may be a déjà vu. Much that begins is beginning again.

In this season of new beginnings attitude is very important. Taking a moment expands time. Take it. If we begin anew but begin depressed the pressure will be immediate. If we begin anew and think that things are all going to work out the way we want we will soon want to cry. The only way to begin these days is to begin. Begin here. Begin now. Little digs us out of problems in life like digging in. “I’ll have a new day,” sang the poet Jim Croce, “if she’ll have me.” Ask the moment to marry you because you’re wed to it. For the moment.

This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t date before we marry. We should think about what we’re getting into. It’s just that thinking about what will happen might not do as much good as we might think. Much of what we’re thinking about is no longer what it was and the way we’re used to thinking often isn’t the way things are any longer working. More and more often we have to play life like a golf game – play it as it lays. But take your swings.

I don’t play golf. And I have no intention of taking up the game. To me, to borrow from Mark Twain, golf is a good walk ruined. I do have a lot of friends who play the game. Some of them play well. Some of them are driven nuts by their driver. But as I understand the game, even when we’ve taken a bad swing at things we can’t kick the ball back to where it was five thousand years or five minutes ago. And even if we could we can’t be sure that the grass or the politics of things that leaned to the left the last time for us won’t next time lean to the right. In life we just as often screw up short putts as long drives.

The first words in the bible are: “In the beginning….” It does not begin with “at the beginning.” Every beginning is part of a process. What we choose to call “the beginning” in anything is a point in a process that we have stop- framed so we can see what’s happening in an event that won’t sit still. Life doesn’t listen when the photographer tells a wiggling moment: “You have to sit still.”

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky was schooled early in the game by his father. “You can teach anticipation,” said Walter Gretzky, explaining Wayne’s uncanny ability to know not only where the puck is but where it would be. For the rest of us who aren’t Wayne Gretzky, practice helps. In almost everything. But we can only practice what we have experienced. Dumb question number two: Otherwise how would we know what to practice? With practice we can know what we’re supposed to say in almost any old script. But in that script we knew how the play turned out. Trust me, in the today-play no one knows how the play turns out – whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy or how many acts there will be. Knowing what we will say on stage only works when we know what has already been said. Beginning means walking on stage and playing our part. Play the part not the result. The best way to get a new part in life’s play is to stop rehearsing the past.

So here we are. There’s a brand new year in front of us with as many green flags as cautionary ones. Any of us heading down life’s highway knows that in every one’s life there are accidents. What we tend to forget is that character is the cosmic seat belt. So buckle up.

And along the way perhaps remember this: “We do not know whether the things afflicting us,” said the South American author Jorge Luis Borges, “are the secret beginning of our happiness or not.”

Because each of us is alone on our journey we sometimes pack our fears for company. Fear is a hitchhiker. Be cautious of who you pick up. Being where you are is the best way to get where you are going.

“What we anticipate seldom happens; what we least expect generally happens.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

© 2010 Noah benShea, All Rights Reserved