“You know what the secret of life is?” “No, what?” “This,” Curly holds up one finger. “Your finger?” Mitch was perplexed. “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.” “That’s great, but what’s the one thing?” Mitch asks also holding up one finger. “That’s what you gotta figure out.”
When I saw that scene in City Slickers with Jack Palance as Curly and Billy Crystal playing Mitch Robbins, something inside me clicked, like getting an answer to a question I didn’t realize I had. Curly was one of the last of a dying breed of true cowboys and Mitch was a city slicker turning 40 and in the grips of a mid-life crisis. He and his friends decided to take an adventure vacation driving cattle with Curly to find some answers.
Mitch was puzzled by Curly’s advice about figuring out what his “just one thing” was, but I wasn’t. I knew instantly. Curly’s one thing was cattle rustling. He loved it. Mine was God. At the time, I attended church regularly and was a good, Bible-reading Christian. “Just one thing” was simply turning to God. I believed in and witnessed the miracles being preached. I was a seeker of the true meaning of the Scriptures. Turning within, I found moments of enlightenment to surpass anything that was going on in my world, moments of clarity and peace that words could not describe. It was the only thing truly important to me.
Now, having left fundamentalism behind many years ago, I love all things spiritual. I’ve tasted a little of many teachings, loved and believed them all and know that there really is no separation from “God,” however we understand him/her/it to be. Energy, Higher Power, Holy Spirit, Buddha, Universe, Allah, any one of a variety of Names will support a One Source teaching where ineffable Truth or Enlightenment provides freedom from the worldly experiences that can, at times, be too big to handle.
There are those moments in time when life’s demands pile up and I, like everyone else, become so frazzled, I don’t know what to do next. Stopping in my tracks and focusing on the one thing that I need to do right now helps to get the momentum of my day going again. Or a problem so big arises that it seems impossible to solve, yet, responsibility lies directly with me. I want to throw in the towel. I want to give up. Then, there it is; at least a pinhole of light, always just one thing, no matter how tiny, that I cling to as it pulls me forward into my next step until this larger-than-life problem is behind me.
But it’s the daily life where happiness can be elusive. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety in the past and learned I could choose peace and joy through techniques like mindfulness. Mindfulness provides a more continual peace, no matter what I’m going through. It’s a state that can be brought on by meditation or simply shifting my focus from the current, uneasy feelings into a more detached yet blissful place – the ineffable kind mentioned above. Spiritual leaders know and teach it by various names like Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” (also the name of his book) and Loch Kelly’s “awake awareness.”
So, when I find myself on a mental journey I’d rather not be on, I stop and shift my awareness, stepping out of the discomfort and looking at it from a detached space. From there, I can learn what’s next, the why that might be missing or simply “be” in the pleasantness that is always there with me… for me. Always the “just one thing” I need.
There’s only one voice worth listening to. ~ Alan Cohen
I used to wonder why my brainy, business-minded dad would rent his properties to the underprivileged who couldn’t pay their rent and would leave his properties a disaster. He clearly chose not to follow the standard background and reference checks and he complained every time they caused him problems. After a while, I just chalked it up to mercy given the fact that he grew up underprivileged himself in tents and shacks because his family was so poor.
Later in life, the manager at the small company where I worked had studied up on using employee’s strengths to better manage a company. She had all employees take the StrengthsFinder Gallup Poll so we could identify our own strengths and work toward them for better productivity and satisfaction. I was surprised to learn my top five strengths, one of which was empathy. It explained a lot about me like how I came to be an injustice collector and sometimes cared deeply for someone’s plight as though I knew exactly what they were going through. It also explained dad – he had empathy for those less fortunate than him.
Even later in life, I discovered I wanted to write but felt deterred for many years (see my previous blog post). I’d turned my social media sites into educational and personal-interest vehicles and followed several groups and members devoted to writing. Inspiration began growing in time, especially with quotes like “The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all,” by Frederick Buechner.
Then I ran across a word I hadn’t heard of before – compathy. Compathy is, according to CatholicCulture.org, “A sense of compassion among people who experience in common the same sorrow, [joy] or affliction. It is a with-each-other sharing of [delight or] spiritual pain.” Kat Myrman efficiently outlined the difference between sympathy, empathy and compathy in her blog, Like Mercury Colliding. “To have compathy means to feel the intense emotions of another with that other person or persons as if you share the same heart.”
Our shared feelings and experiences connect us. We are not alone, and others are undergoing the same experiences bringing pain, happiness, grief, etc. The way to know that we are connected to others in this way is to hear their stories and tell them ours. Dad didn’t just have sympathy for or empathize with those less fortunate than him. He had been in it right there with them.
Hearing other people’s stories helped me with my own healing process. I realized others are experiencing what I’ve experienced and that gave me courage to move forward. Just one thing is all that is needed sometimes to bring us out of a sense of isolation and aloneness – learning that someone else is right there with us. Do I even have the right not to write my story? Probably not. Just ask songwriter, Benjamin Michael Lee, “We’re all in this together, I started smiling cause you were smiling. And were all in this together.”
Stories are Light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Make some Light. ~ Kate DiCamillo[Top]