How many different ways can you find to end a sentence that starts with “I am…”?
Many of us would end it with our name, our job title, or perhaps a description of how we see ourselves in the present moment, such as “…happy”, “…tired”, “…worried”, “…young”, “…energetic”, “…bored”, “…successful” “…kind”, “…a failure”. But really, however you end the sentence, you’ll be ending it with something that is, at best, transient.
A famous quote from Herodotus‘ Histories (I. xxxii) illustrates the point. When the great Athenian lawgiver Solon visited Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of Lydia, the latter asked Solon: who was the happiest man he had ever seen? Of course, he expected that the answer would be himself. Solon’s reply? “Call no man happy until he is dead.”
Morbid as that may sound, it is in fact a liberating thought. Who knows the sum of a life, until that life is over? The best we can hope for while we’re alive is to keep moving, and to be true to ourselves in the moment. This is why I advise people to seek out what they love, and to live it; because how we spend our moments is how we spend our lives.
With that in mind, I’m confident in saying that no one is a failure. No doubt we all feel that we are, at some point or another, but it’s just not possible. The things we do may or may not work out; but what we are can never be a permanent failure, because it’s always subject to the only constant in life: change.
It’s also why I counsel against the pursuit of happiness for happiness’ sake. Happiness is a feeling which, along with many others, will come and go like the weather. Can you order the sun to shine? No. You’ll have as much hope of ordering yourself to be sunny all the time, too. Don’t strive for happiness – strive to be more of who you are, moment by moment, and let happiness arise spontaneously when it’s time. Perhaps the contentment that comes from expressing who you really are is the best kind of happiness to have, anyway.
© Brian Cormack Carr, 2011