Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And Then, The World Ended

After years of ceaseless struggle, thousands of sleepless nights drenched in cold sweat, countless days of life-force sapping Herculean effort... it happened. Floodgates gave way... Roofs collapsed... Resistance failed... the world ended.

So now what?

Well, at least it didn't just kind of end. If it only half ended, then I suppose we'd be trying to figure out how to get it back. Nope, this time it really ended. No kidding.

There's no going back. There's no recapturing what was. It's done... finito... caput... asta la vista!

So now what?

I guess we could start with: Hallelujah, the world ended! Thank God she ended it completely. At least we can set out with clarity, without looking back, without regret, without second thoughts, without if-only's. If she'd only kinda ended it, I might have got myself stuck in the moment of world's end, forever looking back at what was or might have been. Thank God!

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now you're stuck in a moment
And you can't get out of it

U2 from All That You Can't Leave Behind

World's End?
What are your world-enders? The death of a loved one? The loss of your job? Being dumped? The rejection of your best submission yet? The bank taking your home? Your mother-in-law moving in? Your mother-in-law kicking you out? Missing your most important meeting? Your kid not getting into Harvard?

It seems that when utterly complete, world-enders are world-enders only until they actually happen. Once they arrive, they lose their apocalyptic force like a hurricane making its way inland. The hale-force rain of fire and brimstone etch away all that obscures your window on the world leaving nothing but crystal clarity. Sure you've got your wreckage, flotsam and jetsam, the remains of all that was etched away, but it's just that. When the world ends completely, the attachments wash away, the wreckage has no hold on you.

When worlds end completely, you're free to try something new, something better, or to try the same thing again, but differently, from a completely different place. There's amazing freedom in utter failure. Utter failure can be way better than near success. Near-success can hold you firmly in its grasp for years, for decades, sinking in the quicksand of variations on a theme, trying pretty much the same thing over and over hoping for a different result. Utter failure frees you from the chains or moderate success, opening the door to radical departure, to breakthrough thinking, to rebirth.

Hallelujah, the world ended, utterly, completely!

Accelerating World's End
Each of us has our own private collection of world-enders that we ardently avoid or at least try not to think about. However, while working to avoid them may keep them at bay, it can also empowers them. Not thinking about them is... well, let's say that it's not a strategy. So what do you do? You accelerate them! Not physically, but by playing them out in your mind, by talking about them, in vivid and exhaustive detail. By becoming friends with your world-enders, embracing them and then shouting, "Hallelujah!"

At that point, you can return to avoiding them or ignoring them, but they'll no longer have any power. They won't be world-enders.

Celebrating World's End
My friend Mark Kaufman recently found out he has diabetes. He'd avoided telling all the people who "care" about him because he didn't want to carry them through their hand-wringing, clothe-renting displays of support. So instead he called me counting on my seemingly unquenchable capacity for pitilessness.

At 53 years of age and nearly 400 pounds, in classic Kaufmanian manner, Mark was still a bit surprised by his condition. I mean, he'd got away with it so far. But nonetheless, Mark was determined to finally change his life, to lose weight, to eat better, to become healthy. He'd also determined to keep the whole thing quiet to avoid the types of "support" that were more draining than empowering.

As we talked it occurred to me that the last thing Mark wanted to do was to take this on by himself. One night while driving Iris and me to Grand Central, Mark declared his steadfast commitment to losing weight. We missed our train and went searching for him to share some time until the next train. We found Mark hunched over a bucket of deep-fried chicken matter in the basement of the KFC. The last thing Mark needs is would-be supporters feeding him in the dark.

So, as is oft the case with Mark and me, my response was pretty much the opposite of his. After responding to Mark's plan with, "You're kidding, right?", I went on to suggest, "Hey man, why not have a huge party with a band and entertainment, and rather than announcing your diagnosis, announce your plan to become healthy, not a wake, but a kick-off party. We could even come up with roles and responsibilities for everyone and present your support team! It would be awesome!"

We'll see.

Hallelujah! The world ended... utterly.

Happy Wednesday,

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