Going with the Current
Imagine you are a forty-year old woman who has a nice husband, a nice house, and a nice job. You have everything you want in life except grandchildren, which you have an aching desire for. Then your son meets a woman who is loving and attentive to other people’s needs. She also wants to have children now, while she is young. Your son and this woman fall in love and they want to get married. You give your mother’s wedding ring to your son so he can give it to your future daughter-in-law.
When things work out so well, most people don’t notice them. It might even be part of human nature for people to take such a good connection for granted.
But then imagine your son meets the same loving, attentive woman who wants kids, but she also has many colorful tattoos, fangs and a forked tongue. Your son loves this woman, but you think of her as a weird vampire creature. You might not be able to get past her outer appearance to notice that she will give you the grandchildren you have been craving for the last four years.
A mother with no issues or concerns about the goth-looking woman will not focus on her outward appearance. Instead she will pick up other things about her: she is very thoughtful and considerate both to your son and to other people, she is healthy, and she wants children right away. This observant mother would be delighted to have this woman marry her son as she sees that they are in love, this woman is nice, and she can get the grandchildren she wants.
On the other hand, a mother with problems about the importance of fitting into proper society will only notice how different the future daughter-in-law looks and how she does not fit in. She might be horrified that this creature’s tongue has two snakelike moving parts. She might even wonder if such gross features can be genetically passed on to her grandkids. All this horrified mother can think about is even if she gets grandkids, what will their tongues look like and will they get their first tattoos while they are still in diapers? She might only see how the woman looks and cannot get past that to observe what her son sees in the woman. Or she might be too nervous and scared to even hear what her son says about why he loves her and thinks his fiance will get along well with his mom. A mother with issues might even destroy her son’s relationship with this woman and end up with no grandchildren ever or alienate the mother of her grandkids before they are even born.
Life is like being in a canoe going downstream in a powerful river. As long as we stay in the river going downstream with our connections, the current is with us helping us out. We have to steer and avoid the rocks, but the main flow of the river is significantly helping us. Anyone who has ever canoed knows how much easier it is to go with the current than to go against it and our life is like that as long as we are flowing with our connections.
But on the side of the river there are many sites enticing us to get out of the canoe and visit them. These sites are things alluring to us but not part of our larger current. These things vary from individual to individual and they vary from one part of our life to another. It might be a seventeen year old neighborhood boy who is coming on to you, a thirty-five year old woman. It might be a chance to earn lots of money in a job that does not suit you. It might be the allure of a secure future in a marriage to someone you feel is not really right for you. There are a lot of different things that can entice us to stop the canoe and get out of our current. We can even follow these alluring things far inland and never be in the flow of our current again.
In Thomas Hardy’s book Far from the Madding Crowd, the main female character, Bathsheba, meets a good man, Gabriel. He has integrity, is hard working, caring, and he falls in love with her. But he does not have any money and fortune is not smiling on him. Bathsheba ignores Gabriel, even though fate keeps bringing them together and he does many positive things for her. She instead focuses her romantic interest on two other suitors: a wealthy eligible bachelor and a very dashing soldier. Eventually, smitten with the dashing soldier, she elopes with him. Unfortunately for her, he is in love with someone else and is only marrying her for her money. Meanwhile the loyal and decent Gabriel is still around helping her. Finally the wealthy bachelor and the dashing soldier fight for her and the wealthy bachelor shoots the soldier. All along Gabriel has stood by her, quietly loving her. At the end of the book, she finally awakens to the romantic connection between her and Gabriel that she could have had long ago.
In this book, Bathsheba had a connection with Gabriel, who had many very positive character traits. But she could not notice his good points or their connection because he was very poor. Instead she kept being pulled away from her connection with him by the enticement of the wealthy bachelor and the dashing soldier.
I am not saying that everyone has a romantic connection. You might not. I do not offer a magic plan for satisfying all your wants. What I am saying is that this book can help you meet the connections that you do have and achieve as satisfying a relationship as possible with them. So the philosophy behind this book is about doing as well as possible in life with what you have been given. It is not saying that you will be given all that you want.
Thus the philosophy behind this book is significantly different than the people who say that you can get all of your wants and desires fulfilled by attracting things to you through your thoughts and visualizations. These people, such as Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch and the authors of The Secret, say that our desires are given to us by God or the Universe. They say we can have all we want if we accept the universe’s abundance and do the proper affirmations and visualizations. They say the universe desires to give you more than you can imagine and that you have the unlimited ability to create whatever you want.
It would be awesome if the universe were so wonderful, but unfortunately it is not. There is a flow to our life with certain connections already there for us, and we need to attune to that flow and recognize our connections when they come along. When these connections come along, they may not be in the form we want and we may have to adjust our wants to them. As I said earlier, this flow might be God’s plan or karma from previous lifetimes; I am not sure what is the best way of thinking about it. The important point is that we don’t create the flow, nor should we fool ourselves into thinking we can get all our wants satisfied. We have to adjust our self to what connections life has in store for us.
So in the examples above, Bathsheeba in the Thomas Hardy novel meets a man she will eventually marry. But she ignores him for many years as he is poor and has no social status. She only thinks about a rich suitor and then is totally smitten by a dashing soldier. She thinks that if she gets what exactly she wants, life will be great. She does not understand that her connection is the poor honest man with no social status and if she veers away from him, she is getting out of the current or flow of her life. She does not understand that once people are out of their flow because they are following their misplaced desires, they can end up very badly. In fact chances are good they will end up in negative situations because they are following misplaced desires and so it is likely they will meet other people doing the same thing.
In the example about the mother who wants grandchildren, this mother thinks she can have both grandchildren and (by her standards) a normal looking daughter-in-law. Obviously lots of people do get both of them. That does not mean, however, that this particular mother is going to get both of them. Instead she should adjust to what the flow is giving her. Her life would be better if she faced up to what she was given and adjusted her wants.
Neither Bathseeba in the novel or the mother is willing to adjust themselves to what they are given. They do not want to take their connections as they come. Instead they try to impose their wants and desires onto the situation and think they can have everything they want.
It would certainly be nice if life gave us all we wanted. But it generally does not. In situations where it does not, we have to be willing to bend and adjust ourselves to the current in order to stay aligned with the flow of our lives.
Many spiritual philosophies talk in a general way of adjusting ourselves to the larger flow or current of life.
The Tao Te Ching, written over 2000 years ago, talks about the Tao, which is Chinese for the way or path. The book says we have to be yielding and go with the way of nature, not try to impose our will on it. It talks of getting beyond the ego and its desires to attune to this Tao. With its concept of wu wei, it says a person can have the Tao flow through her so that she accomplishes everything without doing anything. This means her ego or personality desires cause her to do nothing, but the Tao flows through her and accomplishes wonderful things.
Many ancient Greek philosophers had a similar idea that we do not choose the major pattern of our lives. Socrates said he received divine messages telling him what to do and he followed them knowing they always led to the best place for him. He said we should all be concerned for our souls and being moral, and not concerned for outer things if they conflicted with our spiritual or moral duty. The Stoics said all people had a place God had appointed them to and we should accept our place and act well in it. Both Socrates and the Stoics approved of enjoying the pleasures of life if that was what we were given, but they also said we should not become attached to these pleasures. We had to adjust ourselves to whatever situation God gave us, whether that be a banquet or being told to drink hemlock.
Another Greek philosopher, Plato, believed in reincarnation. He said that before we were born into our present life, while we were still in soul land, we chose a life script. Wise people chose a script not with flashy headlines, but with a quiet, calm life. Once we were born, unknown to us now, our lives followed this script. So the major things that will happen to a person are already determined by the script and we can not change that. But if we do the best we can this lifetime and look at our desires and try to be spiritual, we can position ourselves to choose more wisely the next time we are between incarnations.
Many Christians say that God has a plan for each person. They say that we might not like this plan, and many people will fight it because they are focused on satisfying their selfish desires. But our lives will work best if we adjust ourselves to God’s plan and realize all our desires will not be satisfied as we follow God’s plan for us.
Indian philosophy and religion has the concept of karma that presents a similar picture of life. Karma is a law of cause and effect where energy or deeds of a certain kind will attract to a person the same kind of energy and deeds. It works not just in this lifetime, but over many lifetimes. In previous lifetimes, there were many things you did and had done to you. These things set up something like a force field that attracts karmically similar things to you. So if you gave a beggar money three lifetimes ago, this karma will eventually come to fruition in another life where someone will give you money. Whatever energy you sent out previously will eventually come back to you. The concepts of karma and reincarnation mean that there is a larger pattern or flow to your life given by the karma that is flowering this lifetime.
These spiritual systems talk about a flow or current to our lives. Novelists and film writers see the same thing. So will you if you carefully observe how people’s lives unfold. Human beings live in a current or flow for them whether you conceive of it from a spiritual perspective or not. The important point to understand is that there is some current or flow to each person’s life and they have to make their connections in that flow. These connections are somehow part of our lives’ plan or flow and that means it is silly to try to impose our will on the situation and try to get everything we want.
Like Bathsheeba in Far from the Madding Crowd, you might not want what the flow of your river brings you, and you might fight it for many years, but that does not mean you can make the flow give you what you want. The universe’s rhythms are much more powerful than you and cannot be bent just by your flimsy wishes and desires. You would be much wiser to see that you have to adjust to the connections you have been given and live with them. It might even help to realize that in the long run, the connections you have been given might be the best things for you, even though you do not yet see how that could be possible.
After this book is written, I am hoping to get it published. It would be helpful if you tell me any questions you may have or any parts that you have found helpful. If you have sections that you do not understand or you think are stupid or misguided, I would very much appreciate if you tell me. It is much better to hear these comments now, when I can easily change things, then later, after I have published a book. I will reflectively consider your concerns and, if warranted, I will change things to incorporate your concerns into the book. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “About Connections,” into the subject heading of the email.
This book was written by Joseph Waligore with the help of Michelle Stage. Joseph teaches philosophy and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. More information about him can be found at his MySpace profile or his Facebook profile. Michelle works in a bank in St. Paul, Minnesota as a learning consultant and in a Minneapolis night club as a dominatrix.
This website is one of four websites I have. Another one, www.followingtheflow.com is for spiritually oriented people and discusses very similar ideas from a more spiritually oriented perspective. Another one, www.josephwaligore.com is for academically or intellectually oriented people. It has my writings about spiritual philosophies such as Stoicism, Socrates, the Deists, the Enlightenment period, and the rise of modern science. Another one, www.spiritualcritiques.com, has critiques of many popular spiritual teachers and spiritual teachings. It looks at teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, and Pema Chodron. It also looks at teachings like “All is One,” “The Hundredth Monkey,” and “If it Rings True, it is True.”
There is a Facebook group called Flowing. People interested in meeting other people who are interested in these ideas and/or participating in discussions about these ideas are invited to join the group.
Many people reach this site through keyword advertisements. It might be of interest that Joseph got the money for these ads through his day trading profits.