Two young fish swimming along happened to pass an older fish swimming the other way. He nodded at them and yelled out, “Morning boys. How’s the water?”
The two young fish swam on for a bit, and then one of them looked over at the other and said, “Hey, what the heck is water?”
The moral of the fish story: Fish are the last one’s to recognise water.
In other words, the most obvious, important realities in our lives are the hardest to see, and the most difficult to talk about. Knowledge is nothing, awareness is everything. Awareness of what is real and essential, yet so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over that’s it’s there.
“Hey, how’s the water!”
A violinist was busking at a metro station in Washington DC on a cold January morning during rush hour.
He played six Bach pieces, lasting around 45 minutes. During his performance, 1097 people passed him by. Of that total 7 stopped to listen, and 19 gave him money. He collected $32 in total. When he finished playing nobody applauded; no one even noticed he had stopped playing.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, former child prodigy and now one of the world’s great violinists. He had just played six of the most intricate pieces of music ever written, on his $3.5 million violin. Two days before Joshua Bell had given a sell out performance in Boston at $100.00 a ticket.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by The Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.
For me it raises one interesting and fundamental question: Like the kid who films the paper bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty, how many beautiful things do you pass on the street every day of your life without ever noticing one of them?
A six year old girl, running around on Manly beach with her mother, suddenly points and cries out “Look Mum, a fairy”.
Her mother, seemingly at the end of her domestic tether, snaps “Don’t be silly”. And then she delivers the crunch line: “There’s no such thing as fairies.”
So the child, a stray in the backwoods of rationality, is brought up to see the world in the prosaic terms of grown-ups, and forgets she ever saw a fairy.
Eventually fairies walk around unseen any more.
Try this quiz:
- Name the 3 highest paid CEO’s in Australia.
- Name the last 3 Australian Open winners.
- Name the last 3 Australians Of The Year.
- Name the last 3 Academy Award winners for best actress.
- Name 3 people who have won the Pulitzer prize.
How did you do? Not too well I imagine.
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields.But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List 3 teachers who made your journey through school awesome.
- Name 3 friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name 3 people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of 3 people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of 3 people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? You bet. And that’s because the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that give a shit, and who have made a difference to YOU.
So why not share this post with some of them … :)
Just be who you are and don’t give a fuck about what others may think or say. Then you will feel tremendous relaxation and a deep peace within your self.
This is what Zen people call your “original face” — relaxed, without tensions, without pretense, without hypocrisy, without the so-called ‘conventional wisdom’ of how you should be and behave.
The original face is non-judgemental, does not think poorly of others, and does not think you are inferior or better than anyone else.
The original face simply means that you are not being ruled or dominated by any kind of morality, religion, social norm, parent, teacher, or boss. Instead you are just living your life according to your own inner sense and sensibility.
You may spend your days happily fitting in with the crowd. But at the end of the day nobody can come home with the crowd. The person you come home with is YOU.
And the person who’s face appears in the mirror when you brush your teeth before going to bed at night is YOURS. Make sure it’s your original face that stares back at you.
Horrible Bosses 2 is due for release this month. Which got me thinking about bosses, and work, and stuff.
A popular belief is that the main reason people quit their jobs is because of pay. Not so according to just about every study done in the past decade, including the massive State Of The Global Workplace survey by Gallup [the same survey that reports worldwide employee engagement at a whopping 13%].
A bad boss is the number one reason people quit their job. As the saying goes, “People quit their boss, not their job”. So I guess Horrible Bosses is a pretty good premise for a movie, since it’s probably effected every one of us at some time in our working careers.
There is, however, another way of looking at this whole boss thing. Sure, you may have a boss at work. But is he or she really the boss of you?
You manage your day, your time, where you work, and your career. You manage how you do your job, how you sell your services, the way you talk to others, and the way others think of you.
The only person who’s seen every performance you’ve ever done is you. The only person who has seen every email you’ve written, and every meeting you’ve been to, is you.
The real boss of you is YOU. You are in charge. And chances are that you’re not doing a very good job at being your own boss. That the boss of you reckons you’re not good enough, not talented enough, and not clever enough. That the boss of you reckons you’re a bit of a fraud, is seldom proud of your work, and is often really hard on you for not being as good as the others. That the boss of you really is the worst boss in the world.
And just in case you’re not sure, pause for a moment to listen, and hear what the boss of you is saying [hint: it’s the voice in your head].
Being a good boss is a choice. If you and your boss – the boss of you – choose to agree that you are really good at what you do; that you do have a whole heap of talent; and that you do have much to contribute to the conversation, then that’s just how it will be.
And there may not be a thousand people giving you a standing ovation as you leave your desk at the end of your Monday. That’s okay. At least you’re working for a great boss.
The Pillow Book
It used to be the custom that Japanese parents gave young people who were about to be married a ‘pillow book’. This was a small volume of wood-block prints, showing all the details of sexual intercourse. It spared parents the embarrassment of having to explain ‘the facts of life’ face-to-face.
Today we can get easy access to such information online, in Cleo or Cosmopolitan magazine, in a sex shop, or in a book shop. The bottom line is that sex is no longer a taboo, like it used to be. And young people these days usually know a lot more about sex that their parents do anyway.
But if sex is no longer the BIG taboo, what is? Surely there is always something taboo, something repressed, something unadmitted. What would be The Book that fathers and mothers might slip to their sons and daughters, without ever admitting it openly?
I reckon The Book would be called ‘The Alien From Inner Space’. This is a book that tells our children how we have forgotten who we really are – the real YOU – as we live and hide behind a mask; as we never trust our instincts or intuition; as we blindly follow where all others go because we don’t have a sense of our self, or what makes us unique and different.
This is, in my view, the BIG taboo today. The taboo against knowing and being who you really are. We never talk about it. “So, where do you live?” we ask the person we’ve just met at a dinner party. The real, Brand You question would be “So, what do you live for?”, and yet we never go there. It just feels awkward. Unnatural. Pretentious perhaps. Taboo actually.
Who we are becomes alien to us – ‘The Alien From Inner Space’ – as we get nibbled to death by ducks and distracted by tiny [yet seemingly VERY important] sideshows such as looking good, being successful, being popular, being busy, getting ahead, and not missing out on anything.
And suppose you did, for a moment, manage to find the confidence and sense of self to walk the road less travelled – your road – everyone else would immediately stick a label on your back that says different, or weird, or radical, even fanatical. And before long you’ll start being like everyone else again, because you just can’t bear being so different.
Jim Morrison said it like this:
The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.
Now Jim may have been messed up in some ways, and his flame did burn out at a young age. That was Jim. And the taboo against knowing and being who you are sure wasn’t one of Jim’s problems.
Like Jim, the book I pass on to my children – ‘The Alien From Inner Space’ – contains no sermons, no shoulds and no oughts. Instead it reminds them to feel, encourages them to look on the inside before the outside, and prompts them to trust and put store in their own experiences as the basis for living their life.
Bad news is relentless. The media brings one turmoil after another into our living rooms and our lives. There is no escape as we get nibbled to death by ducks, slowly but surely [unless, like my friend Carl, you never listen to or read the news].
No longer high on dreams or possibilities, we have settled for less. We have given up on optimism. We have resigned ourselves to the fact that this is just the way it is, and this is just the way it always will be. “Hey, it’s a fucked up, crazy world.”
And so we exist, in survival mode – making it nervously, cautiously, and safely from one day to the next. Resolved to carve out our own safety zones, and keep our heads down as we try and keep out of harm’s way, and not care too much.
Every now and then we do take out the dreams that are stashed away in the tiny corner of our heart. We hold them in our hands, look at them wistfully, shake our head at our youthful idealism [because we are older and wiser and know better], put them back in their tiny corner, and go back to playing it safe.
But not everybody has given up. In the middle of the evening edition of The World News, there is a movement. There are people want to thrive, not just survive. There are people who want to be part of something bigger, something greater, something beyond the limits of playing it safe in a world of bad news.
If that’s you, “Three cheers for you!” Now get out there and start changing shit …