I was in conversation with one of my friends recently and we were talking about how annoying it is to be around people who all act the same, do the same things, and have the same opinions.
“They’re just a bunch of lemons!” I said.
“Wait. I mean lemmings.”
You know, the animals that are believed to be so crowd-minded that they will literally follow each other off a cliff? That’s what I meant to say. But I guess lemons wasn’t too far off, because if you are doing the exact same thing as everyone else, then you are not only a lemming, you’re also a lemon. You know, the term for a thing that is faulty or defective and should be thrown back?
Anyways. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately.
Our church did an awesome message yesterday that revolved around the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. (Our worship pastor, Phil Haydn, created an fantastic video to facilitate the discussion. Check it out here. The discussion starts around marker 28:10, with the video shortly following.)
Have you seen the film? If you haven’t, you should find it on Netflix or Redbox or however you watch movies and watch it immediately. It’s one of my favorite movies. It’s the type of movie that both inspires me and makes me think. Not to mention it’s a beautifully crafted film with one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time.
But. If you watch it and are bored by it, then…I hate to break it to you; you just might be a lemon.
Let me explain.
I believe that, as humans, we have a moral obligation to be interesting. We were given a brain, the ability to create and be creative, and a physical body with the capacity to explore, wander, and discover (just to name a few of our amazing human qualities). And yet, AND YET, how many of us operate within only 10% of our capabilities? How many of us are so busy worrying about what other people like, or what other people are doing, or about how other people think you should live, that we just end up all doing the same exact thing??? Lemons, people! I tell you, that’s being a lemon!
Or maybe this. How many of us are caught up in being practical. In going along with conventional wisdom. In simply making “smart choices.” How many of us get so stuck in our “pro/con list” that we never actually act?
I’m reading this book right now by journalist Gretchen Rubin called, The Happiness Project. It’s fantastic. It’s inspiring and making me think just like the film Walter Mitty did. I’ll share more about this book in another post, but one thing I wanted to mention today was a list she created that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since I read it last week. The list is called her “Secrets of Adulthood.”
Basically, it’s a serious but funny list of all the things she has learned in life that make adulthood easier, if you just do them. The items on the list include things we would all agree are true and make life easier, but they are also really, really easy to ignore. One of those items is: ” Most decisions don’t require extensive research.”
This is a big on for me. It’s easy to get so bogged down with trying to make a good decision, a practical decision, a decision that will erase all probability of risk, failure or disappointment, that we never end up making any decision at all. Or, when we finally do act, our expectations are so high that we end up incredibly disappointed anyways.
Somewhere along the lines, adults all start to believe that failure is not an option. That risks aren’t worth taking. We start to believe the impossible: that we can manipulate and control everything around us so much as to guarantee good outcomes. This, of course, is not possible, and leads to the the very things we were trying to avoid: disappointment, frustration, disillusionment, etc.
The safe course of action, we all believe, is to just do what everyone else is doing. We all dress the same, do the same things, hang out with the same people, view life through the same practical lenses, blah blah blah. The rational, I guess, is that if we can’t avoid life’s frustrations, then at least we will all share the same ones, right?
The thing about Walter Mitty is that he is leading a pretty typical life. A boring life. He goes to work. He is responsible. He pays his bills. But that’s it.
Walter knows that something is missing, but at the beginning of the film all he seems to really long for is someone to love. Over the course of the film, however, someone draws Mitty into a different way of life. A life that uses all his senses. A life that requires adventure. A life that doesn’t make sense on paper, but satisfies that thing that makes us distinctively human – the ability to find meaning through exploring what makes us unique.
You and I have been given this amazing gift. We have been granted this time on a wild and wonderful earth, equipped with a mind and a body and incredible senses. You’ve been given the ability to think and question and learn. You’ve been given the ability to create and feel and experience. You’ve been given the ability to craft a story worth sharing.
But we all have this choice. We can either make the most of these gifts and build a life that is as unique as our fingerprints, or we can just be satisfied doing whatever everyone else is doing.
Our lives tend to revolve around work. We go to school so we can get a job, and we get a job to have a career, and we have a career to earn money, and we earn money to pay for life. And yet, if you think about it, money isn’t really…real. The amount of actual, physical currency doesn’t hold a candle to the amount in play in our personal and professional economy. It’s all theoretical.
(I know, I know. You can roll your eyes at me and tell me how “pie in the sky” my way of thinking is, but you know what? I like pie, thank you very much.)
I’ll tell you something that is real, though. You are real. Your life, is real. The places you visit and the people you meet, are real. The thoughts you have and the things you create, are real. The story you write of a life well lived, is real.
Be real. Don’t be a lemon.