I read an online paper called Brainpickings. I recommend it highly. Someone miles away spends all her time researching and presenting thoughts on pretty much everything. What I most like is her choice of material and the way she delves deep into the inner workings of her subject, supporting it with other writers’ observations, scientific fact and personal comment. Her funding for all this work comes solely from voluntary contributions. She obviously feels she ‘must’ do this for her life to be as fulfilled as she wants it to be. I doubt there’s a ‘should’ in sight.
How many times a day do we say, or hear another say, ‘Oh I should be doing such and such….’ or I ‘ought to get back and get this job done’? In our very words we are saying how terribly much we would rather not do those jobs at all. Any sentence with an ‘ought’ or a ‘should’ inside it needs challenging. It means we are not doing what feels right to us and yet we fail so often to question our own sense of integrity at this point, mindlessly performing tasks like circus animals, for the benefit of others.
I am not saying that we do only that which we want to do. How riddickerluss would that be? A great number of us would spend all day in bed, or on a beach, or watching Friends Series 256 from start to finish. No dinners would ever be prepared and the housework would go to pot. Dogs wouldn’t be walked, nor windows cleaned, nor gardens gardened, if on that particular day we didn’t want to do any of it. Nobody would commute to work and the world of commerce would die on its feet.
I am also not saying that we should swing the full 90 away from ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ because daily work is good, regular ordinary tasks essential to our lives, our businesses, our jobs. The key is to walk away from the should, just a little and check out the view. If I didn’t do this thing, this mindless thing that I hate doing, and no longer want to do to please this person or that, what would I do instead? It wouldn’t be nothing, no, it would be something, so what something feels right to me? What, in fact Must I do, for my own sense of what is right? Now that, my dears, is the right question. Must is when the task ahead, not necessarily an exciting one, becomes exactly the right thing to be done, in order to move on; to reach the goal, the fulfillment, the sense of achievement. I must do this and so I will.
In my experience, inner questioning is essential. It’s the beginning of Mindfulness.
Did you know that 99% of all the work that leads to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the painting that sells for millions, or the grown child who says Thank you Mum for teaching me all the right things in life, is done alone and unnoticed? The glory world we live in now, the glamour of it, the annorexia of its body and spirit, the fast-track dash to ultimate success, is one of illusions. Watch less tv, read no newspapers for a month and then see how you feel about life around you. It is a remarkable fact that what we do/watch/listen to/surround ourselves with, on a daily basis, can turn us from ourselves, can tell us ‘this is what the world says, so it must be true’ and can corrupt our glorious human nature.
I say read more Brainpickings, read more books that lift our spirits, either novels or non-fiction. Read ‘Feral’, read ‘The Road Less Travelled’, read anything, but read. We writers have some good things to pass on.
This now from Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my heroines, a woman way ahead of her time, independent, strong, beautiful and wise.” When you adopt the standards and values of someone else….you surrender your own integrity……(and) become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.”
Following her is Elle Luna from her book The Crossroads of Should and Must. Read them both, and then walk off into silence and reflect. And then, question every move you make.
“When we choose Should, we’re choosing to live our life for someone or something other than ourselves. The journey to Should can be smooth, the rewards can seem clear, and the options are often plentiful.
Must is different. Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s that which calls to us most deeply. It’s our convictions, our passions, our deepest held urges and desires – unavoidable, undeniable, and inexplicable. Unlike Should, Must doesn’t accept compromises.
Must is when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own – and this allows us to cultivate our full potential as individuals. To choose Must is to say yes to hard work and constant effort, to say yes to a journey without a road map or guarantees, and in so doing, to say yes to what Joseph Campbell called “the experience of being alive”
‘Must’ be the difference between being alive……
and merely living.