The other day a friend of mine stopped by to show me his new 2013 Dodge Challenger. It sported heated leather seats, keyless ignition, a speedometer that easily climbed to the triple digits and comfort that only an expensive car can offer.
Was this the same man who just a few years ago had struggled through a divorce, job loss and the short sale of his home? It was, and in the interim he has obtained a high paying job he loves and has an active social life.
Life goes in cycles. In the medieval world they called it the Wheel of Fortune. One day you’re up and the next day you’re down. Usually it has little to do with whether you deserve the good/bad fortune – it is the nature of life to go through changes.
I first noticed this in my own life when I was fifteen and my father had died. We lived across the street from the church and on Tuesday morning when I looked out the front door I saw his funeral procession forming. On Wednesday morning when I looked out the front door I saw the hearse drive up bearing the body of the father of a girl I knew at school. I remember thinking, yesterday it was my turn to grieve and today it is her turn.
Everyone has to take their turn experiencing hard times – there are no exceptions, even in the most wealthy, influential, intelligent, gifted families. Loss and sorrow, plenty and joy come to us all at one time or another.
I did not learn the second lesson about the Wheel of Fortune until I was in my thirties. I remember having a drink with friends while we discussed what our plans would be when ‘things settled down.’ By this we meant the time when we had the time and the money and the right circumstances. Something always seemed to be out of sync – we were either having a problem with money or jobs or relationships or creativity or something!
And that was the second lesson – you never get it all at the same time, or if you do it doesn’t last very long. Life, by its changeable nature, is also by nature unstable. We all seek to balance our lives but balance is not a real possibility; instead it is a process that requires continual adjustment.
Nothing that has form will last. Relationships will change or end; jobs will be taken up and left; health will come and go; fortunes will be made and lost. Life, because it is life, is slippery and fluid and malleable, like the pellet of mercury that cannot be grabbed.
We are asking for trouble and heartbreak is we expect life to be other than it is. Life is not meant to be controlled or stable or directed or overcome, it is meant to be experienced and that includes what we call good and what we term bad.
While we can bemoan this unpredictability it is more productive to celebrate it because it means that the bad times do not last forever, what goes up will come down – and go up again. It is a matter of being alert to the times and acting accordance with them. That is part of the great philosophy behind the Chinese classic work, the I Ching, or Book of Changes.
If we can identity what part of the cycle we are in we can accommodate ourselves to the current, take advantage of its direction and be ready when the next period of beneficial forces come into play.
When we can fully realize and understand this principle we remove any reason for despair or depression. Nothing bad lasts forever, – unless we allow it to. Likewise, nothing good lasts forever – so we must be ready for change when it comes. It’s like Joseph’s dream of the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
So this morning the sun is shining, the coffee is hot and the bread is in the oven. A day to eat, drink and be merry!