Miracles

When we think of miracles, most of us would normally think of supernatural phenomena that affect positively our lives – or that of others. We may even think of the forces of the Universe acting together in the benefit of a certain individual, or a group of people – in ways that are beyond the human power.

In that regard, for example, we could think that if a person gets unexpectedly cured from a specific rare ailment – that constitutes a miracle. If an individual drives their car recklessly on the highway, crashes but escapes the incident unharmed – that is a miracle. If an athlete gets badly injured, but then they participate in a competition where their performance is better than what was expected of them and come out as a winner – that, also, is a miracle.

Are the situations in the examples miracles? Indeed they are. The individuals in the situations explained obtained unexpected good outcomes of their own particular circumstances, against all odds. With the help of nature, and under poorly understood (rather unknown) conditions, their seemingly bleak situation worked out in their favour.

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Now, if we think of our day to day lives, and the circumstances that we face on our everyday – from the moment that we wake up, experience the world outside our house, do our daily activities, interact with people, come back home to share time with those we love most, until the moment we tuck ourselves in bed and sleep -, do we get to realize the circumstances that allow us to make it through our routines? Do we appreciate the marvels of the world that surround us?

When we realize that every day we wake up to another day where forces beyond our human power interact in our benefit, our perception of what miracles are changes. If we consider that every day we wake up to another day enlightened and warmed up by the Sun, that we get to breath fresh air cleaned by photosynthesis performed by plants, that we get to eat fresh and nutritious food grown from rich grounds of the Earth, that we are able to utilize resources provided by nature in order to accomplish our goals… do we realize that all of those are here not because our human will made them happen, but because the Universe has made the circumstances turn in our favour?

If we consider that the very fact that we were born to experience the Universe, do we get to realize that our birth is a fortunate situation that worked in our favour? When we get to experience feelings like love, happiness, pleasure, even sadness… do we realize that experiencing such emotions, at the very root, is a process that we did not plan, but which the Universe has made possible for our full experiencing of life? Indeed, we experience miracles all the time. We, ourselves, as well as all the creatures of the world, are also miracles.

Whether we are aware of it every moment or not, we are continuously experiencing miracles. Every day and every night, every hour and every minute, there are phenomena happening within us and around us, over which we don’t have any control but they still yield positive outcomes for us. Our very existence in this life itself is a big miracle that we should have present day by day, and admire as we would do when witnessing any other miracle.

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The world did not end, but are we slowly ending with it? President Jose Mujica explains

December 21, 2012, will be remembered as yet another date when the always feared “end of the world” failed to happen. Theories ranging from massive earthquakes to floods, fire, and collision with massive asteroids and planets circulated proved to be wrong. It looks that the world is still spinning, and our duty to elevate this world to make it a better place is still valid and in place – and will remain as such for a while.

The rumours about the end of the world, then, turned out to be only that – rumours. But here is an interesting perspective to reflect upon: Why should the world end violently as a result of a natural disaster? Unfortunately, our species has taken a materialistic and selfish view of life, which has resulted in greed, war, and consumerism. Are we not, then, slowly contributing to the end of the world as it was meant to be?

On this regard, Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay, shared his views about this subject earlier this year during the Rio+20 conference. His views helped to deliver one of the most beautiful, memorable and thought-provoking speeches recorded. I invite you to analyze his speech not from a purely economical/political perspective, but from a humanistic point of view. What should be our life priorities, as individuals?

The speech is in Spanish and it’s worth to listen from beginning to end. I have translated the full speech further below.


“Authorities attending from every latitude and organization, thank you very much. And thanks very much as well to the people of Brazil and its President. And thank you to all preceding speakers for showing their likely good intentions.

We, as governments, express the most intimate will to support all agreements that this, our poor human kind, can sign. However, let us ask loudly to ourselves some questions. This whole evening we have been talking about sustainable development, and about rescuing immense masses of people from poverty. What do we have in our minds? The development-consumption economic model observed by rich nations?

I wonder, what would happen to this planet if people in India had the same ratio of cars per family than Germans do? How much oxygen would be left for us to breathe? To be clear: Does the world today have enough material elements to make possible that 7 or 8 billion people can have the same degree of consumerism and waste that the most affluent western societies have? Is it feasible, or we might have to have a different type of discussion someday? Because we have created a civilization that is product of markets, product of competition, which has doomed itself to a purely materialistic and explosive development.

What have been market economies have created market societies, and has led us to this globalization. But are  we ruling globalization, or is globalization ruling us? Is it possible to talk about solidarity and unity within an economic model that is based solely in ruthless competition? How far does our fraternity reach?

I don’t say any of this to deny the importance of this event. It’s all the opposite: The challenge that lies ahead of us is of a colossal magnitude, and the big crisis is not environmental, but political. Man does not rule today the forces that he has unleashed, but those forces that man has unleashed rule over man and life. Because we don’t come to this planet just to develop on general terms, we come to this life to be happy, because life is short and it goes by. No commodity is worth more than life, and this is basic. But life will pass by me while I work and work only to obtain a surplus, and the consumerist society is the engine -because, definitely, if demand is paralyzed or stopped, then economy is stopped, and if economy is stopped, the phantom of stagnation is all upon us.

But that hyper consumerism, in turn, is an aggressor to our planet, and in that model of hyper consumerism we need to produce goods that last short because we have to sell lots of them. Then a lightbulb cannot last longer than 1000 hours on – even when we have developed lightbulbs that can last 100,000 or 200,000 hours on. But those ones cannot be manufactured because market is an issue, because we have to work and we have to sustain a use-and-dump civilization. We are in a vicious cycle. These are political problems that tell us about the need to start fighting for a different culture.

This is not about coming back to becoming cavemen, nor to build a monument to backward mentalities. It is just that we cannot continue to be ruled by the markets indefinitely. It is us who have to rule the markets. That’s why I say that this is a political issue in my humble way of thinking. Because ancient thinkers -Epicurus, Seneca, the Aymara people- defined that “a poor person is not he who has few goods, a real poor person is he who needs infinitely a lot”, and wants and needs more and more and more. This is a cultural key, then.

I salute the efforts and agreements that are made, and as a head of state, I will support them, because I know that a few of the things I am saying here are “creaking”. But we need to realize that the crisis of water, the crisis of aggression to the environment are not the causes of the problem. The cause is the civilization model that we have shaped, and what we need to revise is our lifestyle.

Why? I am from a tiny country blessed with natural resources to live. In my country, there are 3 million inhabitants – slightly more, 3.2 million. But there are some 13 million cows, some of the best in the world, and some 8 or 10 million sheep. My country exports food, dairy products, meat. Almost 90% of its territory is arable.  My worker fellows fought a lot to get 8 hours of work per day, nowadays they are getting 6 hours per day! But he who gets 6 hours of work a day is also getting an additional job and, therefore, works more than he did before. Why? Because he has to pay numerous bills: the little scooter he bought, the little car he bought, and he pays installments, and he pays more installments, and when he wants to change that… he realizes that he has become a rheumatic old man like myself, and his life is begone. And the immediate question comes to mind: Is that the fate of being a human?

These concepts are very basic, development cannot go against happiness. It has to work in favour of happiness, of love, of human relations, of looking after our children, of having friends, of having the very basic! Precisely, because that is the most important treasure that we have. When we fight for environment, the first element in the environment is called ‘Human Happiness’. Thank you.”

Rio de Janeiro, June 22, 2012

Regina Brett: The 45 lessons life taught me

Back in May 28, 2012, a local Cleveland newspaper named “The Plain Dealer” posted a column by Regina Brett. The article was named “The 45 lessons life has taught me and 5 to grow on“. Her column, which I transcribe textually below (and which is available via the link provided) is full of wisdom and inspiration for us to enjoy a more meaningful life, and to empower ourselves to take control over aspects of our own persona. It is worth sharing and remembering these simple suggestions.

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Regina Brett’s 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on


By Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer

 

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I’ve ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here’s an update:

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: “In five years, will this matter?”

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative – dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Photo: Gus Chan / The Plain Dealer

Controlling our Self-bias

When talking about colours, it is not uncommon to hear that white is the absence of all colours, while black is the mix of all colours. In other words, we could say that white is the nothing while black is the everything. They are so distant, so opposite. And yet, both are inevitably dependent on all other colours, and their existence  – or non-existence thereof.

Ying Yang

This analogy applies wonderfully when we speak about our perception of the world – and our power to influence it: good and bad, right and wrong, success and failure, everything and nothing. In a way, the concept of all of them is the absolute “presence” or “absence” of a certain element. For example, based on the dictionary definition of success, the concepts of success and failure can be understood as the absolute presence of a favourable outcome or the absolute lack of it. The same rationale would apply for all other seemingly opposing forces in our world.

But since they depend on common attributes, they can’t totally oppose each other. Rather, we can understand them from a brand new perspective: Just as the existence of black and white is dependent on the existence or non existence or other colours, the existence or non existence of forces like success-failure, good-bad, rich-poor, happy-miserable, and so forth, depends on our own perception – and the degree of positivity or negativity that we apply to them – what we can dub the self-bias.

On that note, if we reflect upon us and try to determine whether we are happy or unhappy – it will depend entirely on what factors we consider to measure our happiness. The absolute lack of positivity when judging ourselves self-biased (thoughts like “I’m not good enough at doing this or that, I’m not intelligent enough, I have unpaid debts, I haven’t accomplished my new-year resolutions, and so forth) will have a very different outcome than the absolute presence of it (I have food to eat at my table every day, I have shelter and clothing to protect myself of the weather, I live in a peaceful community, I have good health, etc), which of course makes every one of us owners of our own perception and our own happiness.

The power to be happy and to shape your world is in your hands – and in your mind! Awaken it and live a full life from now!