A family recipe, a childhood memory, a Depression-era handout
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Angela Winter’s work as a writer, consultant, and sound artist has taught her that the human heart defies the laws of physics: the farther in you go, the bigger it gets. She lives in Carrboro, North Carolina.
I think it’s possible to learn to seek out love at any point in life. In my own life I made a major turnaround as an adult when I discovered how to relate more with people instead of remaining isolated. People can wake up at any time to what they need as human beings regardless of where they started. Positive emotions are our birthright, and we all have access to them. It could be that the families we grew up in didn’t help us to feel them, but the people who raised you can’t take away your capacity to resonate with others. They may have reduced your skills, but the capacity is still there.
Standing at the entrance to the aerobics room, I think, All I have to do is get through the next forty-five minutes. I tell myself that kickboxing sounds like fun, not dreadful or boring. I chose kickboxing because it resembles martial arts — something I studied briefly in the past.
It became clear to me that consciousness is not a product of the neurophysiological processes in the brain, as I had been taught at the university, but something much higher, possibly superordinate to matter. The idea that consciousness somehow mysteriously emerges from matter didn’t make sense to me anymore. It was easier to imagine that consciousness could create the experience of the material universe by an infinitely complex orchestration. I was suddenly in the realm of the Eastern philosophies, where consciousness is a primary attribute of existence and cannot be reduced to anything else.
In general the epidemiological data show that only 20 percent of Americans are flourishing. The rest are either languishing or just getting by. Maybe they remember a time in their lives when things were coming together easily; there wasn’t a lot of self-concern, self-scrutiny, or self-loathing because they were focused outward and contributing to the world. But now they’re just doing the minimum necessary to get by. This “just getting by” mode is not depression or mental illness. It’s merely people living lives of quiet despair. Upwards of 60 percent of the adult population feel like they’re going through the motions. It makes me want to share the news about this work and get people back to those times when they were flourishing.
To me, grace comes from an examination of one’s life in which you realize that you don’t deserve what you’re getting, yet you’re getting it anyway. That is the experience of grace, both practically and spiritually. If you want to put it in secular terms, it’s the difference between seeing life as an entitlement and seeing it as a gift.