The winding path to clarity

The winding path to clarity

Whenever I get a bit full of myself with a smugness that suggests I’ve got this thing called life all figured out, I remind myself of the guru who, after forty years of study, referred to himself as being in “spiritual kindergarten.”  His humble wisdom allows me to laugh at myself; because clearly the further I progress toward that elusive goal of understanding where I fit in this chaotic world of ours, the more I realize how much there is to learn and how much farther I must travel toward even a glimmer of enlightenment.

Yet I strive for proficiency and control as if I were gunning for an A-grade on a college course or a graduation diploma that says I’ve completed a curriculum that certifies I’m an expert on living a happy life.  Of course this pursuit creates stress, not peace.  It creates an environment that puts the emphasis on the end result rather than the unexpected discoveries that await along the way. 

The path to clarity about life and one’s place within it, is my grand journey.  But focusing on the final result prompts me to think in linear terms, as if there were two markers – the start and the end – and everything in between is merely struggle toward the finish line… a grand journey turned into a long grind.

The paradox intrinsic to my relentless pursuit of a goal, is that I make more mistakes than normal because I are so bound up in being perfect.  I have to remember, flawlessness as an aspiration is not reasonable. 

A reasonable expectation is to set short term objectives and long term goals.  That’s a program more apt to lead to where I want to be, traveling at a comfortable, doable pace, small steps leading to long strides… and miraculous adventures along the way.

I love this saying, the author unknown but so wise, “Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

There are twists and turns to every worthwhile endeavor, and we can be sure that mistakes will be made along the way.  But what we call mistakes often turn out to be the pepper in the pot, the unseen spice that elevates the standardized into the remarkably unique.

Be it personal, professional or spiritual, fulfillment comes when the journey absorbs the quest.  Short of being a hallowed guru or revered, personified reflection of spiritual purity, our happiness is determined by the discoveries made as we follow our own path within the flow of life itself.

Clarity – and contentment – comes with recognition that in a universe of one hundred billion galaxies there is no mastery, only mystery.    Do your best to create a healthy loving environment and trust that this is the setting that will light your way.


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Howard Englander

Howard is the author of “Cheating Death: How to Add Years of Joy and Meaning to Life,” an inspiring series of essays that describe how reframing his attitude toward growing older – the inevitable losses in physicality and social influence – added personal fulfillment to his senior years. The book is available at the web site.
He is the co-author of The In-Sourcing Handbook: Where and How to Find the Happiness You Deserve, a practical guide and instruction manual offering hands-on exercises to help guide readers to experience the transformative shift from simply tolerating life to celebrating life.
Fiction includes “73,” a collection of short stories exposing the social-media culture that regards people in their seventies as if they were old cars ready for the junk heap. The stories are about men and women running the gamut of emotions as they struggle to resist becoming irrelevant in a youth-oriented society.

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