What Matters In a Person's Existence

When I take a long look at my life, as though from the outside, it does not appear particularly happy. Yet I am even less justified in calling it unhappy, despite all its mistakes. After all, it is foolish to keep probing for happiness or unhappiness, for it seems to me it would be hard to exchange the unhappiest days of my life for all the happy ones. If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and the bad to the full and to make for oneself a more individual, unaccidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless. Even if, as it is decreed by the gods, fate has inexorably trod over my external existence as it does with everyone, my inner life has been of my own making. I deserve its sweetness and bitterness and accept full responsibility for it.
— from "Gertrude" by Herman Hesse

The Pen's Failure to Capture Everything

After my death, no one will find in my papers (this is my consolation) the least information about what has really fulfilled my life, find the inscription in my innermost being which explains everything and what, more often than not, makes what the world would call trifles into, for me, events of immense importance, and which I too consider of no significance once I take away the secret note which explains it.
— from "Papers and Journals: A Selection" by Søren Kierkegaard

In Search for the Perfect Response

 
Untitled  by Martin Kippenberger (1990)

Untitled by Martin Kippenberger (1990)

Last week, I found myself in a bit of a pickle. I had to pick up a few packages from the post office, but none of the parking spots nearby were open. It was drizzly and I didn't want to carry an armful of boxes in the rain.

My eyes settled on the handicap parking spot across the street, clearly painted blue with a handicap sign posted in front of it. I'll just park there and do a quick in-and-out, I reasoned. I figured it'd take no more than five minutes. So, I parked the Jeep, ran across the street, asked for my packages and ran back out. 

As I was packing the backseat of the car, I noticed an old woman staring at me from her parked car. I hurried along and ran to the driver's door. 

"You're parked in the handicap spot! Can't you read?!" she screamed at me. 

"Yes, I'm just about to leave," I said, flustered. 

"You've been parked there for a while!" she screamed back angrily, "Next time, READ!"

Her car screeched off. 

The level of hostility that was spewed at me in that brief moment shocked me to the core. I mean, it really disturbed me. It continued to bother me for the next hour or so as I drove. 

What a mean old lady, I thought. If the situation were flipped, would I have behaved the same toward her? Certainly not. And, given the chance, how should I have responded? "Sorry you're having a bad day"? That would've been patronizing and sarcastic. No, no, I wasn't prepared enough for a response. It was probably a blessing that I was bewildered and tongue-tied.

I had a stomachache the whole time I thought about it. Her message was indeed warranted–her delivery of it, however, was not.  Don't let this ruin your day, I told myself. Nothing that came through my mind made me feel any better. I just couldn't fathom directing that sort of anger towards a complete stranger. After being involved in that awful exchange, I had an even stronger conviction never to inflict such a behavior on anyone else. It was the ultimate reminder that, while you can never control the circumstances, you can always control how you react to it. Eventually, as I went about my errands, the angst subsided. 

As I got back into the car to drive home, I thought about it again. Truth was, I knew I shouldn't have parked in the handicap spot. I could've parked further away and walked to the post office. Maybe she was handicapped and I had robbed her of her spot.

Then, the perfect disarming response came to me.

I should've said: "You're right. I'm sorry. Thank you for pointing that out. I'll be more aware next time."

Thoughts on My Time at the Ranch

Moving from the ranch.jpg

When we bid farewell to the ranch this past summer, I felt like I was exhaling for the first time in four years. What a strange, transformative time it had been for me. It was there where I discovered just how adaptable I was. It was there where I cultivated a rich internal life for myself. It was there where I connected with Nature. It was there where the literature I chose to read resonated like never before. It was there where everything I thought I knew about science, religion, philosophy and politics was turned upside-down. It was there where I experienced a relationship that kept stretching itself to varying degrees before snapping back again.

The unknown contains infinite possibilities.