Strike the Same Iron

the-blacksmith-and-the-kingThere seems to be a lot of tedium in my life.  The same repetitious stuff that brings on ennui and an unsettling feeling that every day is Groundhog’s Day.  I can kind of imagine how Bill Murray must have felt.  I’m not trying to sound melodramatic or come across as though all is bleak and dreary, but there is definitely an ever-present feeling of “here we go again.”  Another way that was eloquently put by Stephen King in his book, Dreamcatchers, is SSDD: Same Shit, Different Day.

For some reason, rather than breaking that cycle and doing something different (because I felt like I didn’t have the energy or had some excuse not to act with intentionality), I continued to endure.  I just went through the steps and rode the waves of highs and  lows until the end of the day would come and it was finally time to sleep and take my opportunity to get off the roller coaster at least for a few hours.

There is something to be said about “waiting until things get better” and having patience.  There is also a danger of failing to act when the power is there to affect change.  Ultimately, nobody has the ability to change my life except for myself.  The (perceived) lack of inspiration to write, the uncanny loss of desire to read, the feeling of complete loss of creativity and motivation in general.  All of these things seemed to stem from being caught up in this endless cycle of repetition and routine.

I finally did force myself to read.  I grabbed Paulo Coelho’s Aleph and began to devour it.  Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down.  This reminded me of the age-old truth that nothing will ever get done without taking the first step.  All I had to do was force myself to pick up the book and open it.  All that was needed was to sit down to this computer and start writing.  No matter what feelings I had about the process or the endeavor, doing it, was the only thing required to get me back on track.

We can’t control our feelings.  We can’t change our emotions on a dime and “cheer up” as many tell us to do.  What we can do, however, is decide how we react to those feelings.  If past experience tells me that I have enjoyed and succeeded at something in the past, then I have to remember that and get to it despite what the emotions tell me.  This is all a part of learning from the routine, which I realized from reading Coelho, isn’t the same as repetition.

In this enlightening book, Aleph, the main character tells a story to teach that:

Routine has nothing to do with repetition. To become really good at anything, you have to practice and repeat, practice and repeat, until the technique becomes intuitive.  I learned this when I was a child, in a small own in Brazil’s interior where my family used to spend the summer holidays.  I was fascinated by the work of a blacksmith who lived nearby.  I would sit for what seemed like an eternity watching his hammer rise and fall on the red-hot steel, scattering sparks all around, like fireworks.  Once he said, “You probably think I’m doing the same thing over and over again, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, you’re wrong.  Each time I bring the hammer down, the intensity of the blow is different; sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s softer.  But I learned that only after I’d been repeating the same gesture for many years, until the moment when I didn’t have to think – I simply let my hand guide my work.”

There is a beautiful lesson in here about mastery of skills and practice.  But I also see an even more important lesson about mindfulness and awareness.  Although each strike of the hammer looks like the same thing done over and over again, each blow is unique.  And so is each day for me.  Although my days are filled with a lot of the same activities and characteristics, each day is unique.  I am in control of how mindful I am about noticing those different and special opportunities that each day affords me.  This is a great  lesson about breaking habits and cycles.  Ultimately, though, viewing each facet of the day with new awareness is just as important as escaping the cycle itself.  It takes just such an awakening to lead to new beginnings and first steps.

One Response to “Strike the Same Iron”

  1. Jon shimabukuro Says:

    That feeling of the tedium of life is contagious. Thanks for the reminder of being mindfull and aware. I also think looking at our life through God’s eyes and how He can take the smallest parts of what seems mundane or tedious and use it to magnify his love and bring glory to his name.

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