Monday, November 08, 2010

Adore Me

Please. Pretty please. Pretty please with sugar on top. Adore me. By the way, I'll adore you if you adore me. If I adore you, will you adore me?

Sometimes it astounds me how much of my life has been dominated by this kind of thinking. How many hours have I spent contriving ways to get attention? How many hours have I spent feeling depressed when I was ignored? Still, when I look around it seems that I am not alone in this perpetual desire for attention. Apparently, I live in a world that is driven to be adored and to practice adoration of others – preferably engaging in both activities simultaneously. My recognition of this fact is neither new nor profound. Oh how I wish it were. If I were the first to stumble on such a fundamental truth then I truly would be adored.

As usual, I was surfing the internet this morning. I ran across a video of someone who was lecturing on a new model for personal success. I also found a page for a consultant claims to help organizations become more courageous. I almost choked on my coffee. Both individuals clearly were at great pains to represent the proper models for adoration – money, fame, power and influence.

The model for personal success revolved around the proposition that, "You can be whoever you chose to be." I have yet to see evidence for such a remarkable claim. Quite the contrary, I see many people bravely living within the real world constraints life places on us. Ed is a friend of mine who has cerebral palsy and this places limits on his "success". He can "choose" to be free of cerebral palsy until the "cows come home" as we say in Arkansas. It will have little effect. He can, and indeed has, chosen to be a warm and caring person despite his difficulty. Unfortunately, this type of victory often is overlooked by those selling books or programs that claim, "You can be whoever you want," or "The only limits to your success are your lack of will and proper planning." Ed does not model the wealth, power and beauty required for recognition much less adoration in the world of personal success consultants. His is a world they (and most of society) would rather ignore.

The "courage" consultant claimed cliff diving as evidence of his braveness. His site says that he has dived many times from a cliff over 100 feet high. I am sure the experience was exhilarating but for me this is evidence of foolishness not courage. The courage I admire is shown by people like my friends David, Tom, Tony and Barry. David is fighting for his dream of a new life in a strange city, despite the challenges of being abandoned at birth and spending years in state institutions. Tom, Tony and Barry have often put their personal lives on hold to reach out and help others. They have given freely of their time and money to help others. I don't think David, Tom, Tony and Barry have jumped off any cliffs lately, but their courage is the lasting kind, the kind that truly reshapes the world.

I can fall into the adoration trap when I discuss people Ed, David, Tom, Tony and Barry. Sometimes I try to help myself feel better about myself by idolizing those close to me – the old, "Look at me, I must be cool because I have such cool friends" phenomenon. Following this path can lead to problems when one or more of my friends fails to act like an idol; when they fail to act like the object of adoration I want them to be. It is healthier when I see them as they are with all their strengths and weaknesses loving them not as imaginary monuments of perfection like Michelangelo's David, but as jabbering little naked apes like me. Making them into objects of adoration leads to blindness and fosters the illusion that I cannot be happy unless I also am adored.

If I adore anything these days, it is life itself. When asked how I am doing I often say, "Loving life and living large." I also tell friends "there are worse things than death". The seeming contradiction of these two statements confuses some people. To me they are in perfect harmony. I love life because there are worse things than death. Often I look around and see people living in constant fear of death; to me this state is worse than death itself. I try to focus instead on the simple joys in life: the leaf I found on my walk this morning, the feel of cold air on my skin, feeling my legs carry me quickly toward my morning cup of coffee, the hug I got yesterday from one of the best friends I have ever had, the joyful anticipation of writing these words. I adore these things. Not because they will return my adoration. Not because they require adoration from me. I adore them simply because they exist. I adore them because I am lucky enough to share an instant of eternity with them.

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