1) the universe is governed by a series of immutable laws with no consciousness (no God), and
2) the universe is conspiring to teach me something during my time on Earth.
I’m intimately aware of the cognitive dissonance this requires. But I can’t seem to pin down what I believe.
At the beginning of the new year, I declared that it would be very hard for 2013 to be worse than 2012.
The Disclaimer: this is NOT to be construed as a challenge to the universe.
It’s an arrogant statement, to be sure. (Hence the disclaimer, which I said aloud while looking up and shaking my index finger at the sky). I personally knew 5 people who died in 2012, and my family members knew others. My aunt told me she knew 7 people who lost a parent and 5 couples who got separated or divorced during the year. A record.
But of course, statistically speaking, all of this 2012 heartache doesn’t have any impact on the likelihood that someone I know will break up, or get hurt, or die in 2013. Each of us has our own unique probability of having something bad happen to us that none of us can accurately predict. Since I was not the person most affected by any of these losses (although I certainly have losses to mourn), the is an infinite number of ways in which 2013 can be worse than 2012.
I don’t believe in a God in the traditional sense, so why am I superstitious about making that declaration? Only a conscious God or universal force could conspire to punish me for arrogance:
“What, you think that was bad? Check out THIS year!”
And now, we’re a mere 10 days into January, and a longtime couple I know in France is breaking up and my father-in-law is in the hospital.
Even though I don’t necessarily believe in a conscious universe, I can’t help but worry that one exists. What if It’s trying to teach me something, and I’m not paying attention? Am I doomed to keep repeating the same lessons until I finally get it?
I was thinking about this idea this morning while I was in the shower.
As part of my new year’s resolutions, I’m trying to start a daily meditation. For 10 minutes, I sit on the couch and focus on my breath. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Right now, it’s about as much time as I can handle. I was doing a pretty good job of meditating and NOT running my brain this morning when a thought popped into my head in the middle of the session.
That was it. And it got me to think. Where do we invest love’s dividends? What if that’s the lesson I’m supposed to figure out? To be honest, as much time as I spend thinking about the world (I’ve spent about 4 hours now ruminating on those words alone – if philosophy were a legitimate career choice, I would have done well), I usually don’t have thoughts like this. Not to be self-deprecating, but I don’t actually think this came from me.
Unless there’s some mystic, hippie Allie inside of me somewhere trying to claw her way out, I’m way too cynical to come up with this sort of thing on my own.
So where did it come from?
Before I started meditating, I was thinking about a friend of mine who lost her husband during the carnage of 2012. I’ve been calling her every week to check in on her, and I haven’t called her since we got back to France on Sunday. And because I’m writing my memoir about my own grief when my best friend Laura died almost 12 years ago, I’ve been thinking about what happens inside of a peon when you love someone and they’re suddenly taken away from you.
What happens to love when the object of that love is gone? Or when you’re no longer getting love from one of your major sources? I know the wrong answer is to turn inward and become a black hole of woe-is-me self-centeredness and despair. That happened to me for a while, and I DID have to claw my way out of that. But what’s the right answer?
Take all the love and do something with it. Not into a replacement best friend or husband. Not into something superficial.
But into an idea, or a cause, or a project. Believe in something other than yourself. You’ll feel needed. You’ll feel like you have a purpose. And the love you invest will pay dividends that will help the healing process.
And when you’re already surrounded by love, invest its dividends.
Use the love that surrounds you to give something back to the world.
Picking your investment, of course, is another matter entirely.