One Apple A Day #680 – demanding situations, choices and freedom

“I suppose the role of character is for the individual to rise to a situation. If it were not for the situation, we would never have heard of him. So that you might say that character is the product of an exceptional demand by the situation upon human ability. I think the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded, if the situation demanded.” — Will Durant

Will Durant was an American historian, philosopher and writer. With his wife, he wrote The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes covering the whole story of humanity. The words opening this post are extracted from an interview in which he shared his thoughts on thoughts on the “Great Men and Women” in history. The heroes, the ones who shaped history and whose lives we study in the hope to become better.

In the same interview, he said that “the hero is a product of a situation rather than the result being a product of the hero. It is demand that brings out the exceptional qualities of man.

I love the idea of the hero as someone cut from a different cloth, with exceptional skills, wit and brilliance. 

However, I know we are all made of the same substance. I know we all have within us the potential to be heroes. And I know that hard times, like the one we are living now, can bring out the hero and the heroine from every man and woman. But it can also bring out the worst, the villain.

What makes the difference is a small choice. The choice of how we want to respond to the challenge.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #687 – a wrong map

Somewhere in Patagonia, January 8th, 2017

Here we are, standing at a crossroad. It has been a long and intense day. We already drove for about 500 km alternating tarmac and gravel. We surely enjoyed more the second one, but it requires more attention, and some tiredness is creeping in.

We’ve been standing here for a few minutes, the engine on. The complete absence of any form of human presence but us is becoming familiar. It’s only us, the signs saying that we should go left staying on the asphalt road. Our map saying that we should go right, on the gravel route. We’ve been following the Ruta40 since the very beginning of our journey. This road is the reason why we are here.

The sign says the Ruta40 is the one on the left. A long straight line of tarmac disappearing in the horizon. However, the map that we brought with us from Italy tells another story. In our map, the Ruta40 is the one going right. A white road disappearing after a few meters behind the brow. 

The shadows are getting longer and longer, and we have to make a choice if we want to get somewhere before it gets dark. The only hint we have to find our next destination, Tonchi’s farm, is to look for an old abandoned horse carriage on the side of the Ruta40. But which one is the right Ruta40?

We have no clues, but we know one thing; we love the gravel.

So, this is it. 

We decide to follow our map.

Two hours later we are almost regretting our choice. Outside is dark, cold and wind. And most of all, there is nothing and nobody anywhere to be seen. 

We are already planning the best way to spend the night in our truck when we see it. The old abandoned horse carriage.

We found it. 

***

What happened next is another story.

Only later we discovered that our map was an old one. To make the Ruta40 straighter and more comfortable to drive, the government swapped the name with another road. So the old and white Ruta40 got a new name. Our map was wrong and no more correct. Yet, it took us exactly where we wanted to go.

That day I learned that If you have clarity of intention, sometimes even a wrong map can lead you to the right place.

One Apple A Day #678 – let it run

Some times my mind reminds me of a chihuahua.
A friend has one of those tiny cute dogs, and I’ve done the dog-sitter a few times. It’s incredible how much energy it’s squeeze in such a small being.
There were moments in which there was no way to keep him still. He was running all around full speed, jumping from the char to the sofa, on the table. No matter how much I tried to calm him down, to pet him or to offer him some rewards. He just kept spinning around like crazy until he was exhausted. Over the months, I’ve learned to let go. There was no point in trying to control him. So, I gave him the space for his crazy running until he was ready to interact with me.

Some times my mind does the same, and it goes all over the place. It spins around, bouncing from memories to ideas, going from one place to another, from one thought to something else completely unrelated — all of this without any apparent logic or purpose.

In the beginning, it was upsetting. In particular, when it happens when I’d like to focus on something, or I am meditating. Like before writing my morning post. I was disappointed by my inability to keep my mind where I wanted. But then I realised that trying to control my thoughts is pointless. I had to let them run wild and free until peace comes. The beautiful thing is that very often with peace also come the answers. And a previously invisible pattern emerged from what were unrelated thoughts a moment before.

One Apple A Day #677 – on maps and darkness

I love frameworks and schemas. I love finding them and, some times, creating them. And the simpler they are, the better.
I get the chills anytime I find a frame that helps me read the reality at a glance. A useful framework is like a treasure map. It provides me with guidance to move through reality and find what I’m looking for.
Frameworks and structures create also order. They draw lines dividing and connecting things, so I can make sense of what I experience.

At the same time, I cherish chaos and the shapeless space outside and between frames and structures.

Lately, I’ve realised how much energy I spent trying to fit into some frames or boxes while at the same time, I was evading or escaping them. It is as if a side of me wants to belong to something while the other side craves the freedom of nothing.

Not sure what this post is about. There are morning when I wake up with such clarity that my fingers write on their own. Other mornings are foggier. I have glimpses of something, an image, a word or a feeling. Those days, writing is like walking in the dark. My steps are hesitant, not knowing where I will end up. If I ever get somewhere.

This morning is one of them. And weird enough, when it’s too dark to see, maps become useless. So, maybe this what this post is all about. Reminding me that maps are useful, but when it’s dark, my only guidance is my senses and my inner compass.

One Apple A Day #631 – Abandon

To abandon means to give up completely something, to release any inhibition or restraint. 

There is magic in abandon. In surrendering and giving up control.

It’s liberating. It expands the boundaries of your awareness.

Unfortunately, I experienced that rarely in my life. And any time it wasn’t deliberate. It just happened.

You’re being massaged, and the masseur asks you to entirely abandon a part of your body in his hands. Like the neck or a leg, so he can apply a manoeuvre moving that part freely. 

That is something I’m not able to do. I can’t.

I can’t give up completely the control of my body. 

I can’t surrender fully to something or someone.

I don’t think it’s a matter of trust. And I don’t picture myself as someone wanting to control everything. Even if I may be blind to this.

It feels as if there is some kind of wiring in me that holds me back from surrendering, from giving up the control on what’s happening.

Yesterday evening a dear friend gave me a fascinating idea. 

I should exhaust myself out. Do something physical that burns all my energy, that wears me out and leave me empty.

Maybe at that point, where there won’t be any energy left to build resistance, I’ll be ready to surrender.

Time to plan something.

Can you surrender totally to something or someone?

One Apple A Day #580 – the paradox of freedom

This morning I picked a card with a yellow bird flying away from an open cage, towards its freedom. With the image, there are also a few coloured words saying “Engaging + Freeing all the energy!!!“.

Yesterday, a dear friend reminded me that sometimes, driven by the fear to lose our freedom, we build our very own cage around us.

It is a kind of paradox about freedom. And if you’ve read me before, you know my fascination with paradoxes.

The more you’re afraid to lose your freedom, the more you lose it.
You are so suspicious of any potential cage that you trap yourself within an invisible one.

I’ve seen this thing happening many times to friends, and I did it too. I carefully avoided commitments, I steered away from some choices only for fear of finding myself trapped into something from which there was no way out.
And in doing so, step by step, I was creating an invisible cage.
One from which there really no easy way out.

So, I think my personal learning here is that freedom must not be protected, it must be lived and engaged fully.