Key To Success

What do you do when you come across a key to success in a book you're reading? You ponder over it. Since I read many books and come across many keys, I thought it would be fun to share the ideas that arise as I contemplate a key to success. Reading is not just about absorbing information, it's also about contemplating, allowing the ideas to blossom within, and nurturing a seed tossed in the rich soil of the inner garden.

Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

I got my Master's degree in psychotherapy more than a decade ago. Since then I've studied the human condition with fascination. Over the years, I've learned a singular lesson: your life does not work when you oppose your soul nature. If you want a magical life, you have to drop your inauthentic transactions with the world. You discover your own power when you spend time alone to figure out what you really love to do.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What On Earth Is Going On Here?

It's all a miracle, when you come to think of it.

All of it.

Billions of years ago, out of nothing, a universe evolved from a sound. The vibration of this "big bang" still continues to expand.

A planet evolved out of the masses of dead planets that would support life. As far as we currently know, no other planet in our galaxy supports life. There are rumors of space visitors but few of us have ever seen them, or their magnificent ships. It's all hearsay, and since pictures can be doctored and governments tend to suppress things in a reflexive way, the more we think about it, the more confused we get.

Millions of creatures on this planet; some of them in the deepest recesses of the ocean; some alive in the depths of the soil; some flying in the air; some leaping across the tree tops; some slithering down the rocks; and then, of course, there's us, living in concrete jungles, a species so intelligent that our closest biological parallel, the monkey, has the intelligence similar to that of a three-year-old human being.

We not only have an awareness of what is going on in our neighborhood but we have some pretty good ideas of what the rest of the galaxy looks like, as well as the universe as a whole. We have also developed enough mathematics and instruments to show us the smallest of things, a subatomic particle. To our surprise, we have found that it isn't a thing at all, but a cloud of energy, a probability pattern that appears to dance in and out of existence and may even travel back and forth in time.

Where did all these creatures, so many, so spectacular, and so astonishing at times, come from, and why are they here anyway? What, for example, is the destiny of a rat? an earthworm? a culture of bacteria? Do they have a higher purpose, too, or are they just here to breed, consume, excrete, and die?

But it gets stranger still.

Biologically, you had a high probability of not being here in the first place.

Out of millions of sperms that completely happened to miss the egg, you happened to be the one who made that biochemical "handshake." This, in turn, created a massive replication of very specialized cells that formed itself into a completely organized biological system of some trillions of cells. For the most part these trillions of cells appear to get along together and effortlessly run on autopilot for decades, maybe even three-quarters of a century.

And while all of this has happened and is still happening, you aren't, as far as you can tell, taking an active role in running the show. Your liver, without a thought from you, seems to know exactly what to do to keep you around despite that extra shot of Vodka you took to cheer yourself up yesterday.

Again, out of billions of people, it only took the probability of two to meet to bring you here. In fact, those two people may not even have gotten along very well with each other; but still, you're here, despite all the arguments they've had and may still be having with each other. Somehow you snuck in when they were in a good mood.

Spiritually, too, there was not much of a chance that you would show up here, either.

Assuming there is a spiritual dimension, there is probably a long waiting list to get a human body. The odds of getting one must be as astonishing as winning the lottery. After all, if there are billions here already, and all souls never die, then there must be an astronomical number in the other dimension. Since space-time is infinite, assuming they even have space-time there, the number of souls may rival the number of stars in the universe.

Out of all possible experiences, you had a select number that have shaped your personality to be the way it is. And out of the 60,000 or more thoughts you have had every day of your life, there are only a select few that you acted on to make your day the way it is today.

It's all so strange and mysterious that there is a group of us, called scientists, dedicated to looking into it, and this group has become so specialized because there is so much information that now very few of us even know what they are talking about.

Another group has formed as well, called philosophers, who try to piece all the disciplines together to create a big picture, but even this group has become overwhelmed and broken up into splinter units, and we will never ever again have the grand schemes of a Plato, a Kant, or a Spencer. The idea of a grand unified theory of life has all but been abandoned. Of course, there are still a few renegades, like Ken Wilber, who still like to write a brief history of everything, but even these attempts are more about creating huge sweeping classifications, then really explaining anything. It's not anybody's fault really,
there is just too much to consider and still too much to discover to allow a neat, overall pattern to be envisioned.

Then there are other groups, called politicians, who work hard on writing the rule books based on the prevailing ideas of world domination. And, they are followed quite closely, by people whom we will politely call industrialists, who are trying to do the same thing, except that they use a different kind of paper to determine the rules on how the rest of the species should live.

But, of course, the quest for power, does not stop there. There are also the armed forces, the environmentalists, the activists, the musicians, the theologians, and every other imaginable social cluster that is trying to weave a coherent pattern out of their own particular world-view.

The main difficulty everyone is having is not getting a clear idea of what is going on.

In the days of ancient Greece, a sapient homo sapient, like Aristotle, could embrace a complete world view. He impressed everyone for centuries as appearing to know something about everything.

But today, we know, for sure, that he didn't really know that much. Ironically, the awe that centuries of scholars had held him in was mainly due to the fact that very few people were willing to look into anything deeply at all. In fact, those who did ended up getting crucified or burned at the stake or some other gruesome finish.

Fortunately, along came epochs like the Renaissance and the Age of Reason where human curiosity finally broke the bonds of collective stupidity and original inquiry became acceptable again.

This, in itself, took on a massive momentum. After centuries of intellectual suppression, in this century, we ended up figuring out and inventing more than in the entire history of the human race. Today, the rate of knowledge is expanding at such a rapid rate each day that no one can keep up with it anymore.

A multi-talented individual, a "universal man" like Leonardo Da Vinci or Isaac Newton will never be known again. Unfortunately, this has happened not only because of the rate of expansion of knowledge but because toleration for genius has also faded. For example, someone like William Sidis, who in 1910, at age 11, lectured Harvard Mathematical club on "Four-Dimensional Bodies," spent most of his adult life hiding from the vituperation of the popular press.

Albert Einstein did not have a great start either. However, after being scorned by the university system and being forced to take the menial job of a patent office clerk, he managed to break free of the prejudice against intelligence by coming up with such startling ideas that the dozen or so people who understood what he was talking about embraced it and he became the first really smart celebrity.

But even Albert Einstein, after his few shocking revelations, spent most of his life in bewilderment. He constantly argued with Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and the ever growing army of the exponents of Quantum Physics. In this battle of wits, he never really gained any ground because the mathematical and experimental evidence kept on showing the world of the very small to be constantly more bizarre than anyone had ever previously imagined.

Albert Einstein argued that "God does not play dice." He believed that a grand, logical, aesthetic design should explain everything, but the evidence kept on piling up to show that God was indeed playing dice all day long.

Speaking of dice, even your own life, when you come to think of it, has been filled with many improbable interventions that rescued you from certain disasters, gave you insight when you needed it most, and created an entire pattern when you look back at it. No doubt, at the current moment, you're witnessing another role of the dice, and despite how rational and sensible you're trying to be things are working out in a most unusual way.

The probability of anything happening the way it has happened is so unlikely that about the only statement one can make about living on earth is that it is all a miracle.

At best, we only have a vague idea of what is really going on, and we have a way of muddling up our facts and inventing our own versions to explain the gaps, which only adds to the confusion. And we are not alone in this quest to keep things as befuddled as possible. Despite the astonishing discoveries of neuroscience, all educational systems throughout the world still operate on roughly the same educational paradigms invented a century or two earlier. And some even fail to rival that of the 17th Century.

Ironically, despite the beauty of this entire scheme of life on Earth, our internal agitation, both as individuals and as a culture, appear to have taken over for the most part. It appears that we are all simultaneously wrecking as much havoc as possible while crying for help. This is not a cynical comment. Evidence for it is as close as the nearest newspaper or Television or Radio News Channel.

Perhaps the greatest miracle is yet to come. At the current rate of overpopulation, pollution, nuclear arms escalation, genocidal outbreaks, archaic educational systems, rampant militarism, the machinations of multinational corporations, religious dogma, social unrest, economic spirals, environmental disasters, and the disappearance of entire species of flora and fauna, it's going to take another miracle to keep the Earth itself from total collapse. Again, there are rumors of this as having happened before, and there are talks of civilizations like Atlantis and Lemuria which appear to have disappeared without much of a trace, apart from archeological artifacts, which could also be explained in any other number of ways. Like the notion of life on other planets, we have, at present, no clear idea if a flourishing civilization once existed before we showed up. (And, if we assume the idea of reincarnation, we may be the very same rascals who messed things up in the first place.)

In conclusion, then, whatever we make of the prevailing ideas of the earth, its confused inhabitants, and its possible future, one thing is rather clear: everything that exists has happened out of a huge improbability of it ever occurring in the first place.

What will it take for us, then, as a species, to appreciate the miracle of life and have more of it, not only for ourselves and other life-forms, but for generations of sentient life yet to come?

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Saleem Rana is a psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado. If you're up to the challenge and want to create the kind of freedom and lifestyle you truly deserve - starting now - then get his free book from


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