The Paradox of Survival

People who live the fullest lives have a loose grip on everything. They don’t cling too tightly to relationships, possessions, health or life itself. They are free from mood-controlling fear and worry. They take the prospect of terminal illness or the loss of a job with ease, because they don’t find their solace in their present material position relative to others, but in something deeper and more unshakable.

The ability to let go of things is useful in every arena of life. Let go of your kids rather than lamenting their choice of hobbies, or the fact that they grow and change. Let go of your fear of losing and put yourself into your sport with abandon. Let go of the desperation to be loved or else you are likely scare others away; to be less lovable. Let go of fear of death, and what life you have is richer.

All this freedom found in letting go, yet humans are programmed to seek their own survival above all else and against all odds. Are we to fight our own hard-wiring? And why are humans so universally inspired by stories of fighting cancer, fighting the odds, resisting the inertia of world, not giving up, not letting go? There is something noble and heroic about refusing to roll with the punches.

How can we square these competing approaches? If suffering from a serious sickness, is it best to let go of our fear of pain and death and find our zen, or should we fight the degradation of our bodies with every fiber?

Both.

There is a way to reconcile a loose grip on life with a refusal to let go of our dreams. I haven’t mastered it. Few have. The space between freedom from worry over the vicissitudes of life, and intense focus on how to overcome them, is the place where greatness emerges. I’ve seen it in sports. Think about Michael Jordan playfully taunting his opponent at the free throw line. He was so free from the worry of missing the shot, or of embarrassment that he closed his eyes while shooting – a loose grip on the game. At the same time, he was so focused on dominating the game, being the best, and making the shot. Greatness.

The key is to hold on to what we have and keep climbing the obstacles that impede us to obtain what we want. The key is also to let go of what we have and be free from the fear of not obtaining what we want. Now all you have to do is both at the same time.

%d bloggers like this: