The Stream of Life

If there’s a lesson to be learned in the year 2020 it can be put in simple terms we have surely heard before, “Life doesn’t always go according to plan”. There are those of us that say “Well it does, just not ours,” but regardless we have to treat our lives in the same way because even if there is plan, we surely don’t know it. The stream of life can be best defined as ‘the way things happen.’ Just like a river flows toward the ocean with ever so many turns, our lives inevitably flow toward the mystery of death. The turns in our own lives consist of choices we make, and events that have nothing to do with our choice but affect us nonetheless. Often it is the events of this second kind, which can push us into a negative head space. 

When we feel we aren’t responsible for our current situation it becomes easier to see ourselves as a passenger, riding along, being pushed by the stream of life. We see others float by us on their floaties and relate to them as a poker player relates to an opponent being dealt a better or a worse hand, “Oh look, that ones smiling over there, must be nice to be them.” This idea is a result of a notion that we are something like pawns in a cause and effect game. Consider though, a game such as poker which is often seen to be a game of luck. The best players understand there are influences they have on the game that are a result of being able to read the game as a whole, not just the cards directly in their hand.

Poker at its core is a game. In a way, the skilled poker player extends their hand to the entire game. When another player discards, this is just as valuable information as their own draw. There is less of a line between their own actions and the actions of the other players, they are of equal importance. This mentality has the potential to be beneficial to our lives. When an event occurs in life that has more influence than our own personal effort. It is necessary to change course in accord with those influences and use our energy in a new way. In life, we cannot fold as in a poker game and still continue to play. We’re required to play along, even if we lost the last hand.

Many of us were told as children that we could do whatever we wanted in life, which is a wonderful thing to hear as a child. We begin to learn as we grow older that although we can set off on a path toward a desired destination, there is the likelihood that we will never get to where we think we’re headed. At least in a way which we predicted. Likewise, there are myriads of things that happen which are worth being thankful for that we never thought would happen. It’s sort of a never-ending trade off as we grow older. We can intend to go one way, and eventually see that our lives moved in a way that inclined us to pursue another path. One of less resistance. 

This is where the difference lies between the skilled player and the person who plays on luck. To the player who plays based only upon their own hand and is ignorant to the importance of the rest of the game. It’s a miracle that a 4-of-a-kind is ever drawn. That’s not to say these players never win, sometimes they do. But this limited view of the game has less options and is not as flexible. The skilled player is open to other moves, they can read other hands, and are not attached to any particular outcome. They do not hope for much when it comes to the next card, at least not the same kind of hope. Their hope is informed, and is validated by success in the game. If something doesn’t go their way in the deck, it is not due to a lack of favor. It is rather reflective of their ability to recognize the flow of the game. In other words, the skilled take some responsibility for what others consider complete chance.

Back to us, the swimmers, what does this mean for us in life? Well, if you notice that things quite aren’t working out as planned and you’re kinda lost as to what to do. Change course, drop the plan for a moment, and look at the game rather than the current hand. Don’t be too invested in the way things have been, and instead become aware of the way things are going. Those other floats on the river are not opponents to envy or other swimmers to laud it over. The less time we spend missing what could have been the more we have to focus on what matters, the current situation. The more practice we have in being more observant of the current situation, adjusting accordingly to the entire situation and not just our part in it. We find that it becomes a more joyful ride that is inclusive rather than exclusive.

 

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