We cannot give peace, love, or happiness to others if we're not first at peace, full of love, or happy with ourselves.
Amit Sonawane writes about a letter received by Ayn Rand:
To say 'I love you' one must first know how to say the 'I'.
Rand responded with the following letter.
(Source: Little Big Book Of Life)
May 22, 1948
Dear Ms. Rondeau:
You asked me to explain the meaning of my sentence in The Fountainhead: "To say 'I love you' one must first know how to say the 'I."
The meaning of that sentence is contained in the whole of The Fountainhead. And it is stated right in the speech on page 400 from which you took the sentence. The meaning of the "I" is an independent, self-sufficient entity that does not exist for the sake of any other person.
A person who exists only for the sake of his loved one is not an independent entity, but a spiritual parasite. The love of a parasite is worth nothing.
The usual (and very vicious) nonsense preached on the subject of love claims that love is self-sacrifice. A man's self is his spirit. If one sacrifices his spirit, who or what is left to feel the love? True love is profoundly selfish, in the noblest meaning of the word — it is an expression of one's highest values. When a person is in love, he seeks his own happiness — and not his sacrifice to the loved one. And the loved one would be a monster if she wanted or expected such sacrifice.
Any person who wants to live for others — for one sweetheart or for the whole of mankind — is a selfless nonentity. An independent "I" is a person who exists for his own sake. Such a person does not make any vicious pretense of self-sacrifice and does not demand it from the person he loves. Which is the only way to be in love and the only form of a self-respecting relationship between two people.
This is a lesson that took me many years (and a few relationships) to learn, but it's a lesson so incredibly important that I felt compelled to share this note here.
It's so easy to lose ourselves -- to neglect ourselves -- in the name of love or selflessness. The greatest gift we can give the world is to embrace who we are, thoroughly and without reservation. Until we do that, our gifts are a cheap excuse for mediocrity.
"Where are you going next?"
"I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail. It's something I've wanted to do my whole life and I've decided that I will do it for my 30th birthday this year."
"When are you starting that? How long will it take you?"
"The trail is over two-thousand miles long, so it will probably take 4-5 months. I'm starting on the first day of spring this year, March 20th."
She put her hand on her stomach and gave me 'the eye', as only my sister knows how. "You're coming back in April for the birth of your niece, right?"
I hesitated in my response, not knowing how to express my desire to hike the AT without interruption (known as a "thru-hike") while also expressing that I loved my sister and respected whatever she considered important.
I mumbled something to blur my response. "Maybe. We'll see."
Over the next few days I thought a lot about my response. There was something about it that really bothered me and I couldn't figure out what it was.
I tried to listen carefully to what my heart was telling me. Should I go? Should I stay? Should I go and then come back for a week, letting go of the perfectionist in me that wants to complete a thru-hike?
I've always wanted to hike the AT without stopping, to complete a true thru-hike on my first attempt. (Out of the 3,000+ people who start the trail each year, only about 200-300 actually finish; it's a challenge I've dreamed of facing.)
Towards the end of 2011 I decided that 2012 would be the year I finally hiked the AT. I verbally mentioned the intention to several people, further cementing it into reality (I rarely talk verbally about doing things unless I'm serious about doing them).
I've been thinking about this adventure for nearly six months and every day now I look forward to being fully immersed in nature, waking up each day on the trail knowing that I will spend the rest of the day outside.
I've even been going on daily walks in the local state forest for the past few weeks, spending several hours each day looking up at the trees and imagining myself hiking on the AT.
While I was letting these thoughts sit with me, I received an email from a friends' paid subscription letter.
In the letter, the author shared something that happened to her recently: While in India, she received an email from her dad telling her that grandma was ill and probably wouldn't be with them much longer; he wanted her to fly back to the United States to be with them.
She wrote, "What really got me was the fact that my first thought after reading the email was, should I go or should I stay?"
I immediately realized that's what had been bothering me so much: the fact that I wondered if I should stay or go when my sister asked me to be there for her.
What made her decision difficult was that she already made plans in India: Someone she cared about was going out of their way to meet her there and suddenly leaving would affect that relationship. She felt that India was the place she should be.
But she had to decide: Should she leave India, the place where she truly felt she should be, or should she go back to the United States to be there for the emotional support of her family?
As I read my friends letter, I couldn't help but relate her situation to my own and I found myself jumping ahead and thinking, "She's definitely going to choose to go back to the United States."
To my surprise, I arrived at the end of the letter to discover that she decided to stay in India.
Was her decision the wrong decision? That's not for me to say or decide. What's important was that she made the decision that felt true to her being. As she put it, "in the end, the love I have for my grandma does not decrease just because I am not by her side".
Reading my friends decision to stay in India immediately helped me realize what I needed to do.
I was going to stay for my sister and delay the AT hike.
While I may have felt unclear about what to do initially, my subconscious knew exactly what my heart wanted. It knew it so well that it was projecting itself into my friends situation: If I was in India and my sister asked me to be there for her, I would've come back.
(Again, this doesn't mean my friends decision to stay was wrong: her life is not my life and she did what she felt was true and right for her in her life; I fully support that. The right thing to do is always that which feels undeniably true to you.)
I intended to start hiking in March because the trail, which starts in Georgia and ends in Maine, has sections that are closed during the winter. (It takes nearly six months to hike the entire trail, so you must start hiking in the early spring if you want to finish before winter.)
However, since my niece is due to be born towards the end of April, I've decided to start hiking the AT around the beginning of May. If that means I don't complete a thru-hike, or even if that means I decide to attempt the hike another year, that's fine.
This is something that's important to my sister and I care about what's important to her, even if I may not fully understand it. She never asks me for anything and what feels true and right to me is being there for her because she asked me to be.
I've built my lifestyle around the concept of freedom and I've created a life that allows for following my heart. But what's the point of all that freedom if I'm jailed by my own wants and desires, too selfish to share the fruits of my own freedom with those I love?
The Appalachian Trail will always be there but my niece is only born once.
This series of events led me to make several other decisions, including something that affects the AT hike altogether. It also affects the USA road trip that I had planned for the two months prior to starting the AT. I will share both of those decisions in my next journal entry.
Today creates a world of its own, a world open to redefining what it means to be alive. It's unique from yesterday, not a point in time but rather a canvas stretching from here to the end of eternity, a giant etch-a-sketch wiped clean by the darkness and illuminated by the light of those souls who inspire, move, and motivate us to step forward.
Each day is a small evolution, a bundle of hope and joy waiting to unfold; a new opportunity, a blank slate, a fresh page, and a new chapter in life. But today is special. Today is special because today is a care package handed to us with the same love and compassion that a parent cradles a newborn baby.
Embrace yourself. Right now. It’s okay, no one is watching. Close your eyes and wrap your arms around yourself. Give yourself a big hug. Feel those hands on your back, warm, soft, and gentle. Melt into that embrace.
That person loves you more than anyone ever could. That person will be with you forever, even on your deathbed. That person loves you so much that you're being handed the best gift that has ever been given. The gift of today.
What's the ultimate purpose of life? When you strip away everything, what's left?
I looked up from my laptop and stared out the window to watch the final five minutes of the sun set over the city of Boston. As often happens, questions began popping into my head. What did it all mean? The sun, the Earth, the beautiful colors in the sky. What was the point of all this?
There has always been a piece of me that felt my purpose for being here on Earth was not going to involve starting a family, but suddenly I found myself wondering if that was really the case. I started imagining what it would be like to get married and have kids.
Was my stubborn persistence and vow to always follow my heart causing me to miss out on something really important? Was starting a family part of the purpose for existence? Will my life have been worth living if I don't make procreation a priority?
After the last sliver of orange disappeared over the horizon, I returned to my laptop and posed the question on Twitter and Facebook: What's the ultimate purpose of life? Continue reading
"Who's that Buzz guy?"
"Buzz Aldrin? He was one of the first people to walk on the moon."
She was surrounded by space geeks, asking questions about space history that must have seemed trivial and obvious to everyone around her. But she wasn't judged. She wasn't laughed at, criticized, or looked down upon. Instead, her curiosity was enthusiastically embraced and nurtured.
Five people stood around the kitchen and took turns answering question after question. Five people who only a few days earlier were total strangers. This, I realized, is why love and passion are so important to humanity.
Their voices began to blur and their outlines became fuzzy as I began daydreaming of a world where every person was just as compassionate and caring. A world where strangers would regularly come together to share knowledge and exchange ideas. A world where what mattered wasn't power or prestige, but pure, simple, love.
But let me back up a little and explain how this group of strangers, including myself, came to be living together under the same roof. Continue reading
Do you want to stand out and make a difference in the world? Are you tired of feeling less successful than those around you? Do you want to be somebody?
If so, the first thing you'll need to do is stop being like everybody else and start focusing on what makes you, you. If you try to be like everybody, you'll end up being nobody.
We are all unique; each and every one of us has a history that is uniquely different from everyone else. None of us have the exact same past. The combination of things you've experienced, people you've met, choices you've made, and tough situations you've been through are one hundred percent unique to you.
Your history -- your past experiences, successes, and mistakes -- make you uniquely capable of handling specific situations and solving specific problems in the world. You are so unique in fact, that the only path in life for you to take is your path. Continue reading