Walt Whitman said it in four simple words: "Be curious, not judgmental."
Some years later, George Carlin had the same sentiment with a little more flare: "When you're born in this world, you're given a ticket to the freak show. And when you're born in America, you're given a front-row seat. And some of us get to sit there with notebooks."
There is never a dull moment. The world is always throwing new acts, new numbers, new explosions our way. Whether we're in the freak show or observing it, we're always moving together. It is a lesson to be learned from Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. Sometimes described as "the happiest man in the world", Ricard explains that because our minds are always moving, we should focus not on permanent change for stability, but focus on the flow. Ricard said, "Mind training is on the idea that two opposite mental factors can't happen at the same time...You cannot in the same gesture shake a hand and give a blow...There are natural antidotes to emotions that are destructive to our well-being."
Worse than trying to shake your hand and throwing a punch is the idea that you can easily juggle thoughts about yourself and thoughts about others in the same instant. There is only one path. You can switch on and off as quick as a computer circuit, but the truth remains that there is a limitation.
And how often do you flip that switch, sit back and enjoy? When was the last time you asked what was up and meant it?
We're not just ourselves. While it's easy to think only our minds determine the outcomes, there is no denying that every collision we endure morphs us some more. As Dale Carnegie says in How to Win Friends and Influence People, "You deserve very little credit for being what you are." Your world of conversations, education, friends, fights, family, battle scars and late-night snacks and dance parties is only the surface of your identity. We are a different person, molded and shaped, to everyone we meet because of how our lives have been crafted by the swirling mass of influences.
Because no one is alone, for that matter, life is a conversation. Imagine the worst kind of conversation - the selfish, talkative type, the boring dribble, the complainer, the insulting patronizing type - and flow away from it. Keep your mind open to the world that shapes you and flow to be curious, not judgmental. Be interested to be interesting. Or think of it in terms of how Carnegie imagines author Elbert Hubbard would weather a disagreement: "Come to think it over, I don't entirely agree with it myself. Not everything I wrote yesterday applies to me today. I am glad to learn what you think on the subject."
Forget the fear of being misunderstood or unaccepted. It may be meant to be. Your life is always on a collision course. Just remember to slow down enough to appreciate the roadbumps here and there, and keep on rolling.
Until next time...
I explode into space.