We human beings sometimes devote 100 percent of our attention to what we consider the reality unfolding in front of us—the day-to-day events that occupy our time. Did we complete a task? What are the results of the efforts we put forward yesterday or a week ago or a month ago? What should happen next to ensure success?
We think we know the precise narrative we are part of at any instant. We think we know the “page” of our life story we are “penning.” But there is another, deeper level of narrative unfolding that we should pause to consider—if only to note that we really can’t know precisely how our activities and experiences today are setting the stage for what will unfold for us in the future. We can’t know how the threads of intention we manifest today will be woven into parts of our stories many chapters from now. That level of narrative is fueled by immeasurable forces of connection between people and is part of a very real spiritual dimension to our lives.
I can share an example of pausing to witness this spiritual dimension in my own life. Several years ago, Glenn Beck and I decided to write a book together. It was called The 7: Seven Wonders that Will Change Your Life. When Glenn and I first got together to talk about the content, he paused after just a few minutes. “I wonder what we’re really working on, in the end,” he said.
“Well, I hope a New York Times bestseller,” I said, with a smile. But I knew what he was getting at.
He smiled back. “We won’t really know for a long time, maybe. That’s the great part. Let’s be alert and try to make it everything it can be—the book and whatever else is unfolding.”
Exactly. We were writing a book. That was certainly true. Our progress would be marked by the number of words we committed to paper, the quality of the writing and the results of it—in terms of getting copies out to people and, hopefully, changing lives. But we would also be getting to know one another more, in a way that could set the stage for other work we might do together. We would also be sharing space and time during which world events would unfold that we might hear of together and react to jointly—or at least affect one another’s thinking about. We would likely be meeting one another’s family and friends and, perhaps, establishing meaningful connections with them. What seemed like time and space and energy devoted to writing—plain and simple—were actually also potentially fueling future pages or chapters of our lives that we could not yet “see.”
I think it is important to, at minimum, be aware that we don’t know every dimension of what we are “living through” at any one moment. We don’t know exactly how the people we meet today will “figure into” our stories tomorrow. We can’t know whether the project we are working on this week will be the beginning and end of it or lead to a much more important project—either because it stimulates thoughts that manifest themselves later in another way, or because it begins relationships that develop over time, or because it takes us to a new area of the country where whole new sets of adventures unfold.
Being aware of this spiritual dimension to reality allows us to marvel at it, and that is a gift, in and of itself. But it also allows us to expect and notice and act upon new opportunities that develop from our efforts and relationships, down the road.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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