Monday, July 26, 2010

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

What are you waiting for? - by Nick van der Leek

You may have noticed the countdown to the Soccer World Cup.  The newspapers did it, some websites joined in.  It has come and gone and left something of a vacuum in its place.  Maybe you are counting down to the end of your work week, or to your next birthday, or the next time you see your loved one.  Perhaps its a countdown to payday, or to your next holiday.  Maybe you're waiting for a new phase in your life.  Or for someone to call.  Or for the economy to change.  Maybe you're waiting for an email or for permission.  But the truth is, there is a time for patience, and for action.  What do I mean?

There are many factors beyond our control.  And when whatever it is we are waiting for finally happens, or turns out different to how we expect, or doesn't happen at all - then we have merely invested ourselves in faith and hope.  If we love our lives, and if we're conscious of the fact that death is a certainty, then we should value time, and our time with each other.

What we all have control over is the work we do.  Preparation.  Think of it as training.  Then, when race day arrives one is best able to perform.  And if race day doesn't arrive, or comes along in a guise that is not quite what we expected, at least one is in a state of healthy readiness.

I am referring to many things of course.  Perhaps one fears the onset of an economic depression.  Or a divorce.  Or matric.  Or the onset of winter. Should one wait for it, or prepare?  How can one prepare?  What can one do?  The answer is, of course, a lot.  We can cut down our expenses, or stop wasting energy.  We can begin to transform our mindset beyond a 'growth at all costs' mindset, and focus on what we know is more effective.  We can pursue alternatives.  Whatever it is we are waiting for, I would like to encourage you not to wait.

A movie said it best: Get busy living, or get busy dying.  Action, doing, making decisions and acting on them - is how we live.  If you have no idea what you can do, do the most simple thing.  Move your body.  Exercise.  Often.  Because having your health counts for a lot in world where 28 million around the world are dying of cancer.  And what about them?  Do you wait to die?  Or do you get on your bike and somehow, through sheer act of will, through preparation, keep cancer at bay.

Because cancer is a good metaphor for entropy, for those unhealthy, unsustainable habits. Endless TV and movie watching, endless excuses.  Watching, learning, reading - none of that is living.  It is waiting.  It is a lethargic approach to one's body and mind.  In fact when the mind is filled with pernicious thoughts, and our habits are a cycle of non-activity, the body begins to respond in a way that simulates sickness. One of the reasons that drives this lethargy is loneliness, or isolation.  I know I am prone to this.  I can be a little anti-social, and let's face it, social media is making more and more of us more and more prone not only to being anti-social, but worse, not knowing how to interact with those around us.  Not knowing how to disagree,or how to have arguments, or how to resolve issues.  The result tends to be alienation.  This isn't good for anyone. Why?

Social connectedness is important to Ilardi. In The Depression Cure, he argues that the brain mistakenly interprets the pain of depression as an infection. Thinking that isolation is needed, it sends messages to the sufferer to "crawl into a hole and wait for it all to go away". This can be disastrous because what depressed people really need is the opposite: more human contact. More.

Exercise is the opposite.  It is a healthy and creative response that embraces the world and participates in it.  It's good for you. Please do not continue to waste your time.  Answer the question: what should you get busy with in order to be best living out your life?  Decide what you should do and do it. Go out there.  You have a gift to give the world.  Please give it.  Today.  Right now. If you can do this you stand to gain living a full life with all its joys and riches.  Whenever you choose to exercise your choice to involve yourself in the world, you stand to gain the experience that knocks on your door each and every moment.  Living.  So what are you waiting for?

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