By Gregory Henn
The other night I was watching a Magician perform a death-defying stunt. He entered a coffin and had his hands and feet shackled down. Next, the coffin lid was laid in place and hammered shut. Then, a giant crane was brought over so that the coffin could be hooked onto it and subsequently lowered into a nearby grave. As I sat and watched it, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “this feels a lot like life…”
Whether we recognize it or not, our lives are shaped by our circumstances. Jobs, Bills, School, Debt, Health, Family, Relationships; they all mix together to form a chaotic orchestra of conditions that sooner or later make up the reality we will face on a daily basis. And while I have to admit that there are some good circumstances we can face, the vast majority of them are negative. These negatives can come from anywhere at any time, but it’s my belief that they all cause us to experience the same feeling: being trapped.
Too often we tend to think that since this (fill in the blank negative circumstance) is going on, then all these other unfortunate side-effects will fall into place, keeping us right where we are, forever. Something in our minds immediately seeks out and visualizes the worst-case scenario. Maybe we have heard one too many horror stories, or seen too many people we know and love fall apart under the pressure.
But isn’t it interesting that while we’re neck-deep in varying degrees of worry about the unplanned future we often forget that many circumstances are often temporary? In fact, in most cases, it’s the momentary discomfort and unease that winds up being so laughable in hindsight. Yet when we’re in the midst of it, no one better is laughing!
Think for a minute; how many times have you gotten to the other side of a situation only to tell yourself, “I can’t believe I ever worried about that” or “Wow, that really wasn’t as bad as I thought”. We know this happens, so why is it so difficult for us to start with that in our minds? Isn’t it interesting how every time you get sick, you somehow instantly forget what it’s like to feel healthy? It’s almost like our bodies trick us into thinking we’re going to be faced with this outcome for the rest of our lives…
The Magician’s coffin gets lowered into the ground. The crane is unhooked and the audience watches in anticipation as assistants begin to shovel dirt into the hole, further sealing the Magician’s fate. Eventually their shovels are replaced by a tractor that begins to dump dirt by the scoopful. Deep inside you begin to get claustrophobic and nervous. Pretty soon, you realize that the Magician is rapidly running out of not just air, but also time…
We all know what we’re “expected” to do with our time on Earth. Earning money, getting a job, and starting a family are just a few of the “core” basics. But how those things are achieved is largely up to the individual. We all want to end up at the same place, but we’re all taking different routes. Because of this, it’s fairly common for our circumstances to bring their unwanted ugly stepsister “comparison” along for the ride.
When you stop to think about it, the current fabric of our society is built on over-night success. We see examples everywhere from news-reports that have funny interviews that spark catch phrases to videos going viral of mom’s wearing toy masks. Isn’t it strange that in one week, a person can go from virtual obscurity to national icon? Viral “success” quickly lands us on TV with celebrities and we’re given our own little pop-culture identity. This can happen to virtually anyone, and when it does, we can’t help but take a look at our own lives and instantly feel inferior. Why couldn’t WE think of something clever enough to get us recognized? Why are OUR lives so sad and depressing that we’re not capable of rising to that level of instant stardom?
Seeing others rise to such heights of popularity or notoriety can cause us to feel dissatisfied. How come we have to go about working our mundane jobs, or going to the same boring classes we went to the day before, being no closer to achieving the happiness we feel is due to us? It becomes all too easy to feel like we missed our calling or that if we don’t get a move on our dreams soon, we’ll run out of time and be relegated to eternal monotony.
When we begin to feel like our circumstances aren’t allowing us to soar as high as we might like to, we quickly develop a “why not me” or “why them” mentality. We want to know what magic formula they found to escape their situation and launch their star to the top. But the secret is, there is no secret…
Or is there?
The wait has been tortuous. The dirt is piled up so much now that the audience believes there is just no way in the world any normal man could get out of that box and climb to freedom. And yet, something stirs. A hand begins to break free of the dirt and thrusts itself up towards the sky. Then, a second hand follows accompanied by relief from the audience. Finally, the Magician stands up, out of the prison he was formerly locked in, having escaped the death so many of us assign ourselves before our time…
Too often we are unable to see the overall picture of a situation. We only focus on the aspects that are affecting us negatively and we dwell on that. “My job’s too hard.” “I don’t get paid enough.” “I’m stuck in this relationship.” “I’m never going to find a new place to live.” Do these thoughts really help us get further along in life?
Instead of taking the defensive view of life, what if we were instead more positive in our way of thinking? Instead of looking around at all we don’t have, what if we were more thankful for what we do have? What if we stopped to realize that there are people out there who don’t have jobs or opportunities like we do and would be thrilled at the opportunities we take for granted? What if we recognized that for every person we wished our lives were more like, there was someone who felt that way about us?
I think its time we ditched the negative mindset and saw our circumstances for what they really are. Not obstacles in our way, but as the means and teachers to help us grow. In fact, the reality often is, we’re only “stuck” in a circumstance because we haven’t demonstrated the ability to learn from it yet. We keep making the “same mistakes” or falling into the same “bad habits”. Maybe next time instead of just wishing it all away or letting it consume our lives, we can really get to the root of the problem, look at it from the proper perspective, and shed free the weight that holds us down.
We’re only bad at the things we’re not willing to work on.
The magician stands, amidst applause from the audience. Truly, he has done a remarkable thing. Or has he? Deep down we know this has all just been an illusion. We know there are secrets. Now comes the part where I tell you that the show was Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. It’s a show on Netflix that reveals how tricks like this are pulled off. I don’t want to spoil everything for you, but I will say that while we assume the magician is stuck in the coffin buried under all of the weight of the dirt the whole time, he’s already out of the box, resting comfortably, ready to make his grand emergence long before the first scoop of dirt ever hits the top of the box.