I was inspired by the human race yesterday.
I went to a woman’s leadership conference yesterday where I was surrounded by hundreds of like-minded, similarly-passionate people. It wasn’t just the feeling of being like a carb addict in a bakery. There was definitely that. It had more to do with seeing the abundant evidence of the human spirit striving for the divine.
Ironically, I spent a fairly sleepless night the evening preceding the conference, as I kept having dreams of not being prepared, not being good enough to guide the workshop participants toward the discovery of a healthier, more positive self- and world-view. It could be partly because I spent that evening feeling uncentered and unbalanced. Clearly, the teacher is also the student, learning just ahead of, but sometimes following the pupil.
To me, the concept of the reciprocal relationship between student and teacher reflects this amazingly wonderful and beautiful synergy – that we are all journeying together, stretching to do, to be, to feel, to act in a bigger, better, more creative, more authentic, more productive, more empathic (you name it) way. And that when we travel together, we can create symbiosis that is beyond gratifying.
I believe being a participant in, and hopefully a catalyst for, stretch or change is the reason I love teaching. The teaching can be with a group/class or individual, but in either case, the “student” is trying to inch the boundaries of their ability one idea or action at a time. They are also consenting to share that endeavor with me in some way, which I have come to realize is an incredible gift.
It is also something, I regret to say, I have somewhat taken for granted. The human ability and desire to push, pursue, to alter, to rearrange, to improve is itself a miracle. This ability has created the pyramids, the Great Wall, space flight, telecommunications, symphonies, athletic world records and innumerable other marvels. But this ability is also present in abundance in our daily lives, often overlooked.
I see it in my “students” who are pushing the boundaries of their knowledge, one lecture, sometimes one sentence at a time.
I see it in my colleagues who are moving the edges of the sphere of scientific knowledge, one hypothesis, or maybe one data point at a time.
I see it when I watch my son’s volleyball team attempting to inch their win record forward, one match or perhaps even one pass at a time.
I see it in the blogosphere, contributors reaching for originality, authenticity, clarity, insight, one blog or maybe even one word at a time.
It’s not even limited to people. I see it in my aging dog who, despite his painful arthritis, rises to come lick my hand. Or the flower that is blooming in the cracks of the asphalt.
(I can go on and on, but thankfully, I won’t.)
The human desire to stretch towards something better is ubiquitous. It’s mere existence inspires me to stretch and grow beyond what I can even envision. We are all in this human race, or more aptly, this universal human quest. In for a penny, in for a pound. And our respective journeys are enriched when we collaborate and share. But sometimes the human potential is wasted by stretching not towards improvement but towards negativity, destruction, obstruction, judgment, separation, division or nurturing feelings of fear, anger, hate, bigotry, revenge, jealousy, or bitterness. Instead of inspiring, negatively-directed effort is discouraging, depressing and destructive. Not to mention a big, fat waste of our precious resources of time and energy.
Even for those directing negative efforts, I also believe that such individuals are similarly on their own journey, and their journey is not for me to judge. A take home message from the women’s conference is that we’re all messed up inside, no matter how put together we appear on the surface. Every person has their own path to walk. That path is not always straight or pretty. We cannot know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes, as tempting as it might be to judge the choices. After all, at any given time we likewise may be unwittingly engaged in negativity without realizing it. We will then require patience and forgiveness as well. In the end, we are all striving and yearning for self-actualization, one day, or perhaps one minute at a time.
There are also those who do not appear to be stretching or doing anything at all. But like yin/yang, change can only happen where there is also stasis. Thus stability is necessary before change can occur. In other words, if change is constant, is there really change?
That being said, it is ultimately our responsibility to ensure, to the best of our ability, that we stretch ourselves and in a manner that is conducive with our authentic selves. Our evolution should bring us closer to the person we want to be, the person who is engaged, thriving and contributing in our unique way to our community or discipline. It takes real courage to honestly assess whether we are being or becoming that person. Are we pursuing our passions and desires, or just avoiding our fears or someone else’s disapproval? Are we resting between change, or just becoming complacent?
Are you reaching? If so, what are you reaching for, and why?
If not, why not?