The mind’s freedom of movement

Today’s post is written by my lifelong friend Mark Egan. I’m sure you’ll appreciate this thoughtful reflection on the deeper meaning of life and love as much as I do.

Nothing in life progresses on some linear path. Everything–happiness, health, love, achievement, motivation, self-worth–ebbs and flows throughout life. The valleys are labeled their respective peaks’ opposites.

11008850_936616623055175_297026962_nAchievement’s path is not confined by some imaginary X-axis with moments below the axis. Failures are viewed as separate and distinct points when our memory calls on them. That’s how we often view progress.

Love is viewed no differently in time. Should love fail us and recede below the X-axis like an unstoppable morning tide, we pick up the pen, tracing love’s progress, and we forever view the experience as a distinct point. That we instinctively view and recall in this manner can lead to tragedy.

Above this imaginary line, we ebb and flow. Below it, a single point or points hover. Our mind, just like a pen, is free to move above the axis. Below, our minds are stuck. We lift the pen to fill in a little black circle to indicate our “points of intersection.” There is no flow or movement. We are stuck, forced to abide by the laws of our own memories and how experiences are viewed. Movement simply makes the point bigger and darker on the page until we stop, lift the pen, and begin a new path above the axis, or until tragically, the intensity of our own efforts wears the paper-thin and the pen rips through the exhausted and unrecognizable fibers.

The answer, of course, is to allow the pen to move freely through experiences regardless of the emotions and label we assign them, without the pressure of an imaginary, self-determined X-axis. The key to success, love, and joy is not the absence of failure, hate, and misery. The key is the mind’s freedom of movement.

Maybe our X-axis exists because of the way our minds remember and recall events. We arbitrarily set our own X-axis based on experience. The diversity in outcomes for all of us has more to do with location, not intensity or duration of the struggle or memory. Rather than aiming to temporarily get someone unstuck and hope for fewer negative events to impact someone’s life, the goal should be to slowly lower the axis line so that fewer of the same number of negative events are viewed as singular events at all.

Or maybe, for some of us, the lines on our graphs transcend the page. Perhaps we reach a point in life when the points and specific dots and moments matter much less, and we begin living life in real time—again, free to remember the points on the X-axis when they benefit us but free to transcend them as well.

And perhaps when that happens, we have the freedom to live life off the page, removed from this restrictive two-dimensional Cartesian plane, on a spiritual plane, in which case explaining the past or the points on the X-axis becomes less crucial. Because after all, life—and certainly love—are gifts. And when given a beautiful gift, the best option is to accept it—hold out your hands, bow your head, and cherish it.

–Mark D. Egan

Day 5–Remembering rightly

*Big thanks to Brandon Davidson for agreeing to serve as today’s guest writer in my “28 days of love” project. His post speaks to me personally; I can relate to his story. I’m sure some of you can as well. I’m grateful for the chance to see love bloom in unlikely places.*

Remembering Rightly.

emilyMy Daughter loves my Dad. I’m learning to love him again. It’s hard.

Not long ago I went back to my hometown of Batesville, AR. 

I had just finished reading Miroslav Volf’s book: The End of Memory. Simply put, it is brilliant.

Volf is now Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He has also been a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

You’re probably wondering what this book by a Croatian theologian has to do with this picture taken in the second oldest town in Arkansas? (If you’re not wondering, you should probably stop reading.)

Volf was once considered a national security threat in Yugoslavia. He was tortured and interrogated for months.

My parents didn’t get married until I was three. My mom then 18, loaded me on a Greyhound bus and headed toward San Antonio, Texas. My dad was in his early twenties and had strong doubts as to whether or not I was his son. He still does.

My brother was born when I was five. I was sexually and physically abused for the next few years by family members and neighbors. Both of my parents used drugs, and my dad had a problem with alcohol and his temper. I often found myself being beaten with whatever was handy. I still scratch at these wounds. Mental illness is no stranger to my family tree.

Volf found himself confronted with his memories of abuse during the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. He replayed the hours of interrogation and saw the faces of the perpetrators.

In his book he talks about “remembering rightly.”
Not adding anything to it. He said he found himself having imaginary conversations with his accusers.

I have had more imaginary conversations with my dad than real ones.

I cannot change what happened to me. I will not forget it either. But, I would be repaying his mistakes with a double mistake of my own.

To be honest, I am not sure what kind of relationship Emily will have with my dad, if any.

I know that I will never leave them alone together. I know what little time they have been together has done great things for my soul. I watched them collect “rollie-pollies” and construct a habitat for them. All of Emily’s memories of my dad are positive. 100%
It doesn’t change who he is. It doesn’t change what he’s done.

I am forever grateful for seeing him through her eyes.

I will remember a tyrant.

She will remember a “rollie-pollie” catching old man.

We’re both right.
me[Brandon is a New Media Journalist at the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Tyler, Texas. He tries his damnedest to be a loving husband and father. He also performs stand-up comedy across Texas and hopefully close to you soon. He’s sorry this post isn’t funny. Follow him on twitter for that stuff @brandondavidson]