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WRITING

Words I put in order. Check out this page for links to more of my writing

Filtering by Category: Pretentious Muttering

Burritos and Rock Piles

Cy Whitling

Random people on a random pile of rocks

Random people on a random pile of rocks

Once I thought I was having a mountaintop moment, but then I realized the burrito I had for breakfast may have just been a little too authentic. That’s sort of been a common theme in my life, both the burritos, and the lack of mountaintop moments.

I used to imagine that just the fact that you were standing on top of a really big pile of rocks meant that you would find some sort of inner peace, some kind of enlightenment, some affirmation of the motivation for your life. I thought if you walked up a mountain and took a picture at the top, you probably had it all figured out.

When I first climbed up a mountain, I was sort of expecting that feeling, hoping for an initiation to some sort of spiritual club.

Instead I got to the top of the (very small) mountain, and realized I’d left my extra candy bar in the car, and that it was probably melted. I walked down, ate my soggy Snickers, and then remembered I was supposed to be enlightened.

I wasn’t though. I didn’t have some grand moment of triumph. Instead I just wondered if that gas station with the $3 hot dog and slurpee special was still open.

Since that first mountaintop I’ve had a lot of good moments. A lot of moments that have shaped my life, my story as a person. A few moments that have felt like a taste of heaven, a taste of completion, a taste of perfection. But so far none of them have happened on top of mountains. Part way up mountains? At the base of mountains? Looking at mountains? Nowhere near mountains? All of the above, and more!

In noisy restaurants. On freezing chairlifts. In Walmart bathrooms. Around smoky campfires. In a crowded airplane. In my parents’ front yard. In the kidney-shaped swimming pool of a Las Vegas hotel that looked like a castle. On a long car ride that smelled like ski boots. Really everywhere, everywhere but mountaintops.

As I’ve started to notice this severe lack of enlightenment when standing on relatively higher bits of the earth, I’ve realized that it’s just another brand of shortsighted discontentment.

Everybody knows the kid that just wants to be a celebrity. They don’t want to do interesting things, they just want everyone to be interested in them. It’s that subtle distinction between “be” and “do.”

Much smarter people than I have pointed this out before, do you want to be a photographer, or do you actually want to take pictures? Do you want to be Michael Jordan, or do you want to play basketball? Do you want to be in heaven, or do you want to glorify and enjoy God? Do you want to be on top of mountains, or do you want to climb them?

A wise man once told me that everyone wants to save the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.

 

I’d tweak that a bit, I think everyone wants to have saved the world, but nobody wants to actually do it. Because sometimes saving the world involves doing the dishes. And it’s easier to just let them soak while you admire how good that cape looks in the mirror.

So stop telling everyone what you’re going to be, and instead figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. And then go do it. Because yes, standing on top of things is fun, but putting in the time, doing the dishes is what actually changes you.

 

 

 

Uncomfortable Paths

Cy Whitling

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

 I took the one less traveled by,

 And that has made all the difference.”

 

We’ve all heard Frost’s poem a million times and understand its meaning. That comfort with the poem means that we are too likely to disregard its significance. Often the things that we think we know are the ones that we most need to be reminded of.

I was reminded of Frost’s words when I watched Cory Richards’ video, A Tribute to Discomfort.  In the video Richards talks about how taking the path less traveled, the unknown, the more dangerous path has shaped his life and work. 

This isn't some new theory or idea. We are constantly being told to get out of our comfort zone. We have gotten so used to this advice that we have become incredibly adept at ignoring it.  Ironically many companies use this advice as an advertisement for products designed to bring normally uncomfortable things into your comfort zone.

 Success isn't natural. Practice, training, dedication, fortitude, none of these things come easily. We are fallen people, weak and flawed. The path most traveled, the comfortable path is one of laziness and complacency that leads nowhere.  

The path less traveled can lead anywhere, it can involve anything. The only thing we know for certain about it is that it wont be easy.

New York Times writer Karen Crouse summed it up when she told students to take the path that scares them. Others have advised us to do one thing every day that scares us. We all know that we should be facing our fears, that we should welcome adversity but it is hard to live this out in the little things.

Often we feel prepared to tackle any task or obstacle as long as it is big. I’m totally down to climb Everest but doing homework sucks. I’ll gladly drive through the night if its for the Baja 1000 but staying up late to study is too hard. As Doug Wilson likes to say “Everyone wants to save the world but no one wants to do the dishes. We like to puff out our chests and throw out broad challenges but when it comes to the day to day decisions we drop the ball.

Don’t let your grand dreams overshadow your day to day life. Don't focus on the big goals and assume the little ones will come with them. Instead focus on your next task, do it well, take the road less traveled and the big goals will follow.

Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing right. The view is only as good as the climb that leads to it. A journey without hardship is not an adventure. Take the road less traveled. Who knows? It might just make all the difference.

Complacency and the perfect marshmallow

Cy Whitling

As children we didn't know what complacency was and we very rarely succumbed to it. We lived life and tried to roast the perfect marshmallow and loved it all. We never settled, we fought boredom instead of embracing it. We lived our happy little lives unencumbered with the dreary, inevitable despair that is that word. 

Complacency is not failure, complacency is the inability to learn from that failure. Complacency is the absence of reaction, engagement, movement and contribution. Complacency is not contentment, it is the ultimate anti-contentment, the biggest obstacle to true contentment. To be content we must at some level fail, accept that failure, learn from it and succeed. To be complacent all we need to do is fail and then avoid any situation that could potentially lead to further failure.

Complacency hinders the cycle of failure that leads to success. Complacency addresses failure by accepting it. This sentiment is the enemy of growth, knowledge and success. Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Winston Churchill agrees, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

So what stands between us and the motivational posters? Why do we so often settle for failure and stop growing? It’s part of man’s imperfect nature that we take the path of least resistance. Complacency with failure is that path.

Complacency is the path most traveled. Complacency is the belief that we can succeed, that we can be happy, without failing. Complacency is the easy way out, the natural choice, the obvious decision.

So how do we fight that, how do we avoid the unavoidable? We can’t simply fight complacency by being successful or working hard or making a lot of money. Instead, the only real way to fight complacency is to strive for true contentment, the kind of contentment that comes with confidence, the kind of contentment that comes from failure.

Only by failing over and over and over again can we succeed. Only by learning from our failures and taking our motivation from them can we be content. Contentment doesn't mean you have won or that you are successful or that you have the “right” job or that you make enough money. Contentment means that you love life, that you love your neighbors and that you are always pushing, working, running, always moving “Further up and Further in.”

Contentment means that you are glad to be sitting at the campfire, you are not afraid of adversity or failure and you would not trade your place for anything. Complacency is sitting at home, complaining about the long drive, the painful hike, the cold tent and the high sugar content of S’mores. Contentment is cooking the perfect marshmallow and isn't going to settle with a burnt one.

Cook the perfect marshmallow.