Wisdom from an inspirational actor
I saw the above image on reddit today and it reminded me that I need to chill out. I’m a worry-wort, if ever there was one, and a hypochondriac to boot. It makes me keep myself in a special kind of hell of my own making on a day-to-day basis.
It also reminded me of a scene from a movie that I never saw. Seven Years in Tibet was on TV once when I was in my teens, and I watched this one scene in which a child Dalai Lama tells Brad Pitt the following (paraphrased):
“If something is wrong and you can fix it, worrying is useless. If something is wrong and you CAN’T fix it, what good will worrying do anyway?” -Fake Dalai Lama from Seven Years in Tibet.
I think Brad Pitt has a real kid of his own now that looks something like this one
Now, I’ve spent years mulling this over in my head, and there are instances in which it doesn’t work. What about when you’re not sure whether you can handle something or not? When you’re busy doubting yourself, worry becomes a “friend” engaging you in an abusive relationship. When you’re busy doubting the world or those around you, it gets even messier. How should we handle these situations?
The answer for me came years later, when my wife and I were in the midst of some of the hardest and most trying times that two young parents can encounter. I don’t blame the world; no, we did most of it to ourselves, but that didn’t make it any easier or less trying. I was at work one day, waiting tables for peanut-wages, when a documentary on ESPN caught my attention. I’m still not even sure who it was about, or who the family was that was being covered in the story, but I looked at the television and had just enough time to catch this much of what was going on: two parents had a young daughter with cancer. When I say young, I mean like 3 or 4 years old. Can you imagine? I have a two-week-old daughter at home and it puts my heart in my throat to even tell this story. These parents were deep inside the worst sort of worry-pit that exists. It was so bad that even their toddling daughter could tell. It took about 7 seconds for me to gather this much of the story and then for 13 seconds the father spoke into the camera and told the interviewer the following: “I went into her room one night to tell her goodnight, and she could tell that I was broken up about the whole thing. She looked at me and she said, ‘Daddy, just trust.’ And that’s been, like, our family motto ever since. Just Trust.” And then the bartender hit the remote and changed the channel. He wasn’t even paying attention to the show, it just all happened that way, just in time for me to see it and hear it.
Now, to relieve the tension, I’m glad to tell you that the little girl survived. I know this because she was there, in the documentary, at an older age. What struck me, however, was that she had that spark of wisdom in her. The piece of her that carried God’s Fire in it was wide awake at that moment, and was strong enough to keep her sane, but also to help her carry her own parents through that difficult time. It went further, and sparked a flame that touched my own heart, and, while not every viewer was as effected as I was, I’m sure there were others like me who carried the “Just Trust” message with them after watching that documentary.
Now, if you know me, you know I’m not particularly religious. I’ve always shied away from the word “faith,” as it has tended to mean such a specific thing, a thing that I believed misrepresented me and my philosophy. I do believe in “God,” and a spiritual element to the universe, but my definition of what God is probably doesn’t match the certainty that most religions have. A lot of times they tend to define God as a being, an individual who is separate, other than themselves and the world. Then they claim that we can never know him, or they try to re-connect with him in different ways. I believe God is a Giant sleeping in each of our hearts. He is one with the fire that sparks inside each of us, and not separate. He is very present in our lives at all times, even in the places that most church-goers would call unholy or unnatural. He understands and does not judge. He is the universe, and we are the first pieces of him to have the ability to open our eyes; the first pieces of the universe to be able to observe itself conscientiously.
But I agree with the religious on one thing: he works in mysterious ways. I don’t believe it was pure happenstance that a 20 second snippet of a documentary on ESPN contained two words that my wife and I still say to each other in troubling times. It is a kind of faith and I’m OK with that. I have added “Just Trust” to my armor against worry, but I still have to be reminded to put that armor on sometimes.
This quote from Robert Downey, Jr. will be a new notch in my totem to ward off worry, because it reminds me about the counterproductive nature of worry, at times. Worry doesn’t just make us unresponsive at the worst possible times, it can even be a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing the very thing that we worry about to happen. Here’s an example:
When I used to play disc golf a lot, I found a strange phenomenon happened. Those of you that play “real golf” can probably relate as well. A lot of holes would have a single tree right in the middle of the fairway, sometimes two or three. When I would line up on the tee pad and look down the fairway that tree would be the center of my attention. Which side of the tree do I aim for? Do I want to hug close to it, or curve around far to the right or left? I would assess and make my decision and throw, all the while thinking of that tree that I did NOT want to hit.
I would hit the tree dead center almost every time that I used this approach. It was uncanny how dead on my aim would be when I focused on that obstacle and tried to plan for missing it. The problem was that I wasn’t trying to shoot for the basket where I should have been aiming. All of my focus was on missing that tree.
All of my focus was on that tree…
Which brings us back to Mr. Downey’s beautiful observation. I was so worried that I would hit the tree that it was like I was praying for it to happen.
Focus on your goal, not on your obstacles. Just Trust. These are easy things to say, but harder to do. I’ll be trying to reset my mind as often as possible, but quotes like Robert Downey, Jr.’s and moments like the one that gave me “Just Trust” will be my sustenance in the ongoing battle to maintain peace and keep up the fight against worry. I hope you can find your sustenance if you are a victim of worry like I am. Keep your eyes and ears open and Just Trust.