Well, I am happy to say that my own copy of Pushups in the Prayer Room has arrived. It was greeting me Friday when I opened the mailbox and totally brightened up my day. If you haven’t followed the series, author Norm Schriever has contributed to thehouseoftrue answering questions about his year of traveling around the world. It is a fascinating read and only Norm can explain it in such a way where you are holding your breath at one point, laughing hysterically or completely speechless over what you are reading. It is a wild ride filled with every emotion, only he actually lived it. If you are in the market for a book that will be impossible to put down and one that you will be talking about with your significant others, friends, co-workers, this is the book for you.
As I was reading, I thought of three words immediately: happiness, humility and “happenstance”. I wanted to know what Norm thought about those words since traveling the world in the manner that he did. Here is what he thought.
Author Norm Schriever
I think happiness is a journey, a lifelong quest, not a perfect place that we can reach. I didn’t realize this for a long time. I was always chasing something that I couldn’t catch, that was always seemed one step ahead of me, like it was a trophy that was given to me and I could possess, instead of state of mind. But it never all clicked – if my work was going well, my relationship sucked, or I was out of shape but happy with some other piece of my life, etc. I was trying to get my external circumstances to all click, like a slot machine coming up all cherries, and then I thought I’d be happy. It took me a lot of time, frustration, and heartache to realize that just being on the path was the victory, and happiness was walking with me the whole time, like my shadow, not always out of reach.
All along I could have been happy by simply choosing to do so and enjoying the ride. No matter how fast or slow, if you are pointed in the direction of your dreams, then you will stumble forward toward what makes you happy. The easiest way to “choose” to be happy is to be grateful. Spend one night in a prison cell and believe me you’ll be happier than a pig in shit with your boring, everyday existence. Or see people starving in the streets and all of a sudden you’re very happy and blessed just to have food in your belly. For me happiness is the lack of desire. Desire is a sickness and infects everything in your life – “I want to make more money, I want to be in better shape, I want a better relationship,” etc. I, as much as anyone else, have been guilty of this, but I’ve found that when I just STOP, and breathe deeply, and look around and take account of all of the blessings in my life, and consciously feel filled up and without desire for anything else, I am truly happy. The more simple my life, the less possessions, the more I can stumble forward towards my dreams every day, the happier I am.
I saw some graffiti once on the side of a shoddy wall in a Third World slum – maybe it was San Jose, or Caracas – I’m not sure. It said “Soy nada.” Being a big fan of inner city graffiti as an outlet of expression for an otherwise voiceless populace, I took a picture of it, and contemplated it for a long time. Soy nada – “I am nothing.” To me those two words constitute one of the most profound truths, the wisest poem, I have ever read. We are all here for a flash of a millisecond in the eternal panorama of existence. We are mostly just important to ourselves, but before we can blink we will be gone forever. It goes so, so fast, and tomorrow is never guaranteed. The only thing that matters is what we leave behind for the world – our legacy. Our love, caring for other human beings, and positive energy will only resonate and grow, even after we are gone. We are nothing – just vessels to channel that energy; we do not own ourselves. So be important to someone else, not for yourself. That is humility. I, personally, have tried to completely surrender my life. I do not try to control my existence and it is not my place to say when the clock stops. But in the meantime the one thing I can control is purposely crafting the legacy that I want to leave the world. It’s not perfect, but I try every single day, because I have the chance, the honor and opportunity, to walk on this earth and serve others, and maybe, just maybe, leave it a better place than when I found it. I am nothing. Soy nada.
When you say “happenstance” I think of “fate.” I do not believe in Fate. That may surprise a lot of people. Or rather I believe you make your own fate – it is not predetermined. You know how people say, “Oh well, everything happens for a reason?” Well I think that’s bullshit – a cop out. I think “God” put us here with two arms, two legs, half a brain, and the gift of choice, and from there it’s up to us. Did the Holocaust happen for a reason? The Genocide in sub-Saharan Africa? Pain, suffering, starvation? I now it’s not meant to be a negative statement, but people give away ownership and accountability for their own lives way too easily, and that falsely disempowers them. That convenient complacency turns into complicity very quickly. We need to make conscious choices and accept the results, and take responsibility for the course of our lives. Yes, we can learn something from every experience, good or bad, but that is not the same as fate. Stand up and take full account for everything in your life, and instantly, magically, you’ll have to power to change it.