As we rounded the final corner of 2015 and came face-to-face with 2016, I found myself considering with great attention what new year’s resolutions I would adopt. What, I thought, did I need to spruce up or sharpen? There was the obvious: lose the 5 pounds I’ve put on in the last two years, curtail my enthusiastic consumption of booze, get back into shape…. There was the sort of shape-up-to-society’s standards: get a real job and make some money, fix our mud-pit of a backyard, apply the KonMari tidy-up method to the house… And then there was the more personal, be nicer, don’t-yell-at-the-kids type of improvements.
You see, in the fall I had cause to investigate the promise and practice of self-hypnosis. I read heaps about the subconscious mind and the power of hypnosis (even got “Self-Hypnosis For Dummies out of the library. Yup, there’s a Dummies book for everything!). I listened to a broad variety of talks and experimented directly with a whole host of self-hypnotherapy sessions that were going to boost my creativity; help me become more productive; make me a “money magnet”; enhance my love life, my relationships and enable me live more passionately, more joyfully; bolster my ego and self confidence; help me become more perceptive and compassionate and… Well, you get the picture. So perhaps it’s not surprising that when I looked at the vast list of ways I could be better, I was in a quandary as where to seriously place my attention.
The thing is, I am pretty good with rules and self discipline. If I set a course for myself and am clear enough about precisely what it is that I’m doing (or not doing!), I mostly will stay the course. But I wasn’t getting clear on what rules and regime I was going to put into place. And frankly, the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got about what the future was going to hold for me. If truth be told, I stepped into 2016 without a plan, without resolutions and with a general sense that until I got it together, 2016 didn’t hold much promise for me.
Then an interesting thing happened. Having missed my deadline, I stopped thinking about how much more creative and happier and slimmer and more organized and kinder and smarter and more productive and…. I could be. I shelved the self-hypnosis stuff and stopped trying to craft any kind of self-improvement program at all. And the grumpy pessimism was replaced with a sort of happy calm.
Then the other day I came across a scientific principle called the Mediocrity Principle. It simply states that most of what happens in the world is just a consequence of natural, universal laws — laws that apply everywhere and to everything, with no special exemptions or amplifications for anyone’s benefit. What it’s really getting at — and the reason it’s called the mediocrity principle — is that the earth, our physical world isn’t special and we’re not special. Our state, “…is not the product of intent. The universe lacks both malice and benevolence and everything follows rules.” Grasping those rules, the author (whose name I forgot to take note of — sorry!) goes on to say, should be the goal of science. And maybe, I’ve found myself thinking, worth considering in the context of life generally?
I realize this is a scientific principle that doesn’t apply specifically to humanity as such. Afterall, intent does play a role in the shaping of lives, personalities and inclinations. But in thinking about it and my, or is that our obsession with self-improvement (let’s face it, self-help is a behemoth industry and clearly I’m not the only one working to spiff and sharpen!), I can’t help but think the mediocrity principle is sort of freeing when applied to life generally. It’s not that we can’t get more, better, stronger…. (fill in the blank with any self-improvement goal), it’s just that being more, better etc. doesn’t make you special. Just as being whatever you are right now doesn’t make you special. Oh, I know self-improvement isn’t about being “special” as such (although I’m sure in some instances it is). But by saying no place, no creature, no galaxy, no… is special, that we just are? In my opinion this invites us to more comfortably take the place that we take, just as we are. Perhaps letting go of the notion of being anything better or different from what we are would actually bring about greater peace and general well being (an ironic side benefit to embracing the mediocrity principle?)?
Anyhow, for now I’m steering clear of the self-help stuff. I’m a middle-aged woman who drinks too much wine, is jiggly in the middle and who has spent far too long writing this to ever be considered productive! But I think that’s probably OK. Yup, probably just fine.
PS. At the behest of my good friend Cori Brewster I re-friended audacity by piping Rob into the airport last Friday night. It was, as you can imagine, a silly, somewhat embarrassing but mostly hilarious adventure that ultimately entailed my mom and 3 sisters joining in on the parade. We all — and that includes a whole whack of strangers — had a good laugh. But the best comment of the night came from a guy who looked at me and said, “Well, I hope he stays with you!”
So far so good.
I'm Christie Simmons -- the person the rest of this website is about. But if you don't feel like reading all of that, to cut to the chase I'm a singer songwriter from Calgary, Alberta. The picture above is of me and my sister Catherine Simmons (a most awesome author) at Sylvan Lake where we get to play and have fun. I'm hoping this is another place where I'll get to play and have fun!