Surviving the Rip Tides

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell

“Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.” – W. C. Fields

“Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Alva Edison

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson

There are so many metaphors that can be used for striving, and surviving in life. The ‘current’ of the ‘river of life’, ‘arms like wings’ riding the currents of wind, etc. All these metaphors are just ways of translating ideas, ideals, and concepts to aid us in this blind journey through life. And it is a blind journey as none of us can see into the future. Oh sure we can plan, and prepare for what we see as the most potential dangers that beset us. But all of life really is an assessment of the dangers of the present. This ‘risk assessment’ is something that we all do, though mostly subconsciously. When you are at an intersection you (hopefully!) look both ways before you pull out. So you see a car coming, immediately you assess; how fast it’s going, and knowing the performance your car you determine the odds of successfully negotiating the action. You may not realize you are doing this, but you are. Here’s another example:

Let’s say you are using a riding lawn mower on a yard that you are not quite familiar with. Going across the yard you encounter a rather steep slope of which you will be crossing perpendicularly. You stop, and assess the slope, and thinking of your mower you make a mental decision whether to go ahead, or to stop and do something different. This is where life’s decisions come to a head. You go forward and one of three things can happen: one is that there is no problem; the second is that you roll over and tumble down the slope, and the third is that the mower tilts up and to ‘that point’ and pauses. At that time, your mind is racing, and you realize you are in terrible danger. So either the mower continues over and you tumble down, or it slowly lowers back to the ground. At this point you have learned a valuable lesson. Well hopefully you have learned a lesson. And this will affect how you make future decisions.

Often we make decisions for the absolutely wrong reasons: In the lawnmower example (which is anecdotal by the way) perhaps it’s laziness, thinking “I just want to get this over and done”, and merely changing your mowing pattern takes too long, so you don’t. When negotiating traffic perhaps it’s that you need to be somewhere and didn’t allow enough time. Whatever, sometimes we don’t always think things through. And often times this is all based on our attitude. The bar fight started because one guy just didn’t “like” another guy. (See Abe’s quote above.) I could continue on with coming up with examples, but really it should be obvious that it is our ‘attitude’ that affects our decision making skills.

Attitude, the psychological term not the geometrical orientation along a plane (as in the attitude of the lawnmower about to tip over in the example above), is what I think affects so much of our decision making processes. Jung defined attitude as the “readiness of the psyche to act or react in a certain way”, which fits this hypothesis perfectly. I have always considered the ‘frame of mind’ as the fulcrum of the decision making scale, but Jung’s definition of attitude relates this concept to attitude. There have been many arguments and theories about what affects attitude, and perhaps one’s attitude is based on social, environmental, and genetic influences. I know that I have recognized that my attitude has been influenced by all of these factors. Growing up I had certain factors that were both experience and environment based that affected my attitude; both my decision making ability, and my opinions about the things in my life. In retrospect I can look at how I’ve lived my life and I can clearly see that my decision making paradigm was completely influenced by my attitude at the time. And that is a bit scary, because, though my attitude has changed radically in my lifetime, there are parts of my attitude that I see haven’t changed. I would like to think that I am an erudite person who calmly calculates the risks with everything that comes into and through the purview of my life… but I can assure you that many decisions I make are purely gut decisions. So generally I am nothing more than one big dumb muscle blindly responding to whatever stimuli happens to come within my reach. But… one thing that a big dumb muscle doesn’t have is introspection and awareness, and though I do not claim to be an intellect, I do try to judge myself and be aware. This is the biggest step to monitoring and trying to keep your attitude trimmed. (I’m using ‘trim’ as the spatial term here.) I have heard the phrase “your attitude affects your altitude”, and this is how trimming your attitude comes into play. Keeping one’s attitude positive is how we do this. Now on to this topic…

Maintaining a positive attitude is much easier said than done. I do believe that the attitude is built out of social, environmental and genetic influences. Genetic influence to attitude is something that we cannot modify. Sorry. Social and environmental influences are what we have to work with. Social is the easiest, if you hang around positive people then your attitude (especially when you are with them) will tend to be positive. For me, I tend to shy away from people who live at the ends of the spectrum; tea partiers, and ultra-liberal hate mongers always ‘bring me down’. Sorry Eeyore, but you’re bringing me down man. My mom used to call it “dwelling” as in “don’t dwell on that for too long or you’ll just want to cry.” So let’s not hang around cave ‘dwellers’. This leaves us with environmental influences, which is much harder to define. It is possible to argue that environmental and social are the same, but I feel that social more directly deals with the people you associate with and environmental is more the ‘situations’ you get into. But I do agree that social and environmental are closely related, the environmental situations you get yourself into will often either be driven by the people you hang around, and conversely, the people you hang around will often get you into situations! But I’m using environmental to define specifically one’s; financial situation, living situation, romantic situation, and etc. All of these are generally easy to ferret out. If you are upside in your car or home, your attitude will most definitely be negatively affected. Marry the wrong person… Standby by my friend, by you are going for an attitude ride. I’ll leave you all to fill in all the other examples for yourself.

So, what do we do? How do we proceed? Well, my friend, Tony Robbins I’m not. I can’t tell you what to do or how to do it. But I can say that here is what I’ve come up with: Think about what you are doing, and what you are going to do. Use risk assessment like I described above. Be careful who you associate with, or if you have certain friends or relatives who are ‘negative Neds/Nellies’ don’t subscribe to their attitudes. If you have negative friends or relatives who are argumentative, don’t argue. Be true to yourself, and be honest with yourself. Is it really important to get so worked up over a football game, or which cell phone carrier you use? Seriously, not a single multi-millionaire football player cares about you, and for the love of God not one damn company in the universe actually cares about you, you are nothing more than a tiny blip on a spreadsheet on someone’s computer.

Now this is what drove me to write this article… Do your best to adhere to a Zen mind.  To minimize; wants, desires, and cravings. To completely get into whatever it is you are doing, ‘walk while walking’. When you drive, drive. (Don’t text, daydream, or argue with the wife/husband.) I am new to this Zen idea, but am completely enthralled with the concept. What a way to become an empty vessel, and if you’re ‘empty’ then how can there be turmoil? Feel free to leave (hopefully constructive) comments. But if you think I’m just another idiot with a blog… ummm that will negatively affect my attitude. Sorry.

As you were.

One response to “Surviving the Rip Tides”

  1. I thought this was going to be about the new Beirut album.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: