Learning In Reverse



Whenever I find myself at a dead end, inevitably of my own doing, I think of Albert Einstein’s sage words:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking

we used when we created them.


Then, I take a deep breath, think about what I could or should do next, and determine the exact opposite action. Yes, it’s true. My “think outside of the box” moments are measured in millimeters. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to let go of the notion that life, and its lessons, should be linear. Big leaps of faith, well outside my miniscule linear comfort zone, seem too perilous to consider. Which is a total paradox, because I consider the unalome to be a fundamental teaching icon.


Basic problem-solving identifies that, having encountered an obstacle, your choices to continue include: (i) go over it, (ii) go around it, (iii) go under it, or (iv) retreat and leave it in place. I always take the most obvious linear path—through it. Which explains why my life feels like a contact sport.


But after last week’s Aha! moment, where I learned that sometimes the lessons are in the lessons, I discovered the corollary this week, best summed up in this quote:


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Søren Kierkegaard


The lesson came as I continued to ponder the advice William Powers received from Dr. Jackie Benton in the book Twelve by Twelve. Blending spiritual passion and secular practically, Powers translated Jackie’s credo into very simple terms: see, be, do.


Me? I am a natural doer. I do. When all else fails, I do something. Anything, actually, to feel like I am making forward progress. Yet, once I started making my way on my own path, I learned the value of being. A very hard lesson, especially for an uber-doer like me, but one I eventually made my own. Be, then do. I thought that was it.


However, now the lesson is expanding again—see • be • do.


Isn’t it always the obvious truths that are so obscured by our own actions? I need to take the time to really see, to acknowledge and understand an issue before me. In retrospect, often in my haste to do something, I didn’t see the situation very clearly. Worse yet, in the hectic pace and busyness of my life, often I just don’t take the time to notice issues, hoping maybe, somehow, they would just go away. Yet, I know this to be true—issues arise in the first place to teach me something, and they will keep coming back, in one form or another, until I get it right. No wonder my life feels like a perpetual pop quiz!


I had to live it forward (do-be-see), but I understand it backwards (see-be-do). Sometimes the lessons are in the lessons.


Robin


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