Tuesday, October 04, 2016


“Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God: your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Nelson Mandela (1994)

Should you settle? Should you settle for a job that doesn't maximize your full potential, a relationship that leaves you wanting, a meal that is lukewarm? Should you settle for getting three wood for your two sheep when you really want wheat? (Should you settle for a half-hearted pun when you know you could write better?)

It's so easy for us all to say do not settle. You have this one life, this limited set of opportunities, all heart and ambition, so carpe diem. Who wasn't inspired by "Dead Poets Society"? We all remember being teenagers and thinking we could achieve anything, everything. Isn't that the American Dream? Work hard enough and life will be "better and richer and fuller" (James Adams, 1931).

Does it ever scare you that we will chase dream after dream and find them ephemeral, fleeting? That we will never be satisfied (still listening to "Hamilton"), that we will keep following the rainbow but emerge empty handed. I can always dream bigger dreams. I can always imagine something that just might make me happier. We live in a society where we always want more: the bigger house, the spiffier car, the latest phone. We want to show off our relationships, our kids, our jobs, our diplomas, our connections. We are always looking for the next big thing, trying to trade up, pursuing the unknowable, unattainable, and yet unspeakably coveted.

I worry about this. I worry that I want too much, that I have passed or will pass over something perfect in pursuit of a mirage. That settling isn't bad. That being content is more important than being fulfilled if by our very nature, we cannot be fulfilled. There are no bounds to human want, no bounds to human curiosity. "I burn, I pine, I perish" ("10 Things"). It is our obligation to ourselves not to succumb to the hubris of Greek tragedy. It's not to say we should want no more, but to say that in some facets of life, we accept the cards we are dealt with gratitude and find happiness in what we have.

I worry about the opposite as well. A life without purpose is like motion without moving. I should not settle to live in a world with injustice, suffering, immorality. I should not settle to live a personal life plagued by injustice, suffering, immorality. Idealism, even if I know it cannot be fulfilled, has a place. Humans were meant to dream.

Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

(FYI, being post-call tends to draw these types of posts out of me)

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