The Human Condition



[Listen to me read this reflection here]


A few days ago, I was sitting with my parents in our backyard. We were enjoying another home cooked delicious meal, on a calm summer evening together. At one point, our conversation quieted, as it more commonly does nowadays, given the hundreds of meals that we have shared over the past few months alone. Our conversations have also been getting deeper. Possibly a byproduct of fatigue from the state of the world, or perhaps we have become more open to one another.


After a long quiet, my mother remarked that she wished she had a smaller garden.


My dad and I looked at her, a little confused because my mom has worked tirelessly since the start of the Spring, as she does every Spring. She clearly takes so much pride in her work, it is inspiring to watch. Planting, digging, seeding, watering, and more, with her “other children”. At night, she often watches YouTube videos to learn more about gardening techniques and when it is too hot to be outside, she reads books on caring for plants. Needless to say, she has long been obsessed with gardening.


She went on to share that her large garden is a lot of work. She feels tired because of it. She has had foot pain in the past few weeks, which has prompted her to reflect on her relationship with her garden.


25 years ago, at the childhood home where I grew up in Ottawa, we had a large yard but a small garden. My mom began reminiscing on how joyous it would be to have a smaller, not large, garden, like we had 25 years ago. Back then, with a small garden, she would see the large gardens our neighbours all had, and hope one day to also have a large garden.


This is the human condition.


To believe that the grass is greener on the other side. To want what others have, believing that it is better than what we have. To feel dissatisfied with our current reality, and hope or expect a brighter, stronger and happier future.


A few weeks ago, my business reached a significant revenue milestone. It is a milestone that I have had my eye on for the past 3 to 4 years. I felt motivated, as much as curious, to see if it was even possible. I was never quite sure how we might reach it, and that’s the fun part. At times when I would obsess about it, I felt anxious and experienced doubt. There have been many moments in the past few years, in the face of fresh challenges in business, that I stopped believing that this milestone was possible.


When I could no longer see the path, I did what I only knew how to do. Take the next step that was in front of me. And step-by-step, almost unknowingly and without expectation, we reached a place that I had only imagined about, and had recently forgotten about.


A quiet satisfaction filled me, as I gave myself a few moments to acknowledge what we had achieved and what it meant. I shared a few words with my team, primarily an expression of gratitude for what we had done together. I did not mention the milestone to anyone else. Not my clients, board, investors or the media. I felt no desire to.


I then began to wonder why something I had made such a big deal about in my mind, for so many years, was now all of a sudden unimportant to me. Within 18 hours of me recognizing what we had achieved, my mind began to wander and automatically started to imagine the next milestone for the business. A few years of hard work was celebrated in my mind for 18 hours, and then it was on to the next mountain to climb.


This is the human condition.


The human condition is to want what we do not have. Once I have this, do this, get this, then life will be better. The human condition is to believe that “once this, then that”. Despite knowing the folly in this farce, I still fall into this line of thinking more often than I care to admit.


Core to the human condition is also the power of intention. Our intentions do manifest in some shape or form, sooner or later. Be it a result of a greater force, our collective consciousness, luck or whatever you may choose to believe in, it feels to me that our intentions are heard.


Intentions are a double-edged sword though. Intentions have implications.


My mom wanted a large garden, now years later, she has a large garden that also comes with a large amount of work that she is not physically fit for anymore.


My business reached a growth milestone I had only imagined for years, yet upon reaching that place, I felt little satisfaction relative to the attention I had placed on it for so long.


Many societal intentions have also manifested, each with their own implications.


The stock markets continue to rise, however they seem to be divorced from the economy. The market gains are not shared amongst the people who have worked the hardest.


The suburbanization of our cities, over the past many decades, has afforded many with cars and roads, yet we complain about traffic.


The urbanization of our cities in recent years has led to developers building condos and housing in city centres, to attract young people, who cannot afford the spaces designed for them.


The advancements of technology and automation was so that we could work less, however we seem to want to work at any hour of the day and every day of the week now.


The desire to have access to the world at our fingertips has resulted in companies tracking every search, predicting every share, and bating every click, irrespective of our privacy.


Intentions have implications. This insight helps me place a little less expectation on the future being better than the present, and to start to connect with the beauty that exists in this moment. I hope to be a little less surprised when I experience the implications of my intentions and see that life is not better or worse, it is simply changed or different.


There is a minimum dose of hope and desire that is healthy to have. It provides me with fuel for the journey, helps me focus my energy and gives me direction. There must also be a limit to the anticipation and expectations that I place on the future though. Too much, and it leads me to be blind to the present moment.


The present moment is deserving of my presence and attention. Once I choose to be present with this moment, I begin to connect more deeply with the abundance that exists and can only feel grateful and grounded. This may ultimately be the human condition to cultivate.

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