“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”—Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Remember when the IPod was introduced, and the way we consumed music was forever transformed. Years of listening to the radio, or even an album, where another person controlled the sequence and timing of songs without, per se, personal input, was revolutionized. The consumer could now choose songs for download, create personal playlists for any occasion, and if desired, could even shuffle all those songs, those playlists, those genres into a Golden Corral of sorts, where all types of music could be sampled, and if the appetite was big enough, voraciously devoured. And, like a buffet, one could simply skip over any song nugget that did not fit one’s current craving with the push of a button.
Along a similar path, I recall the days of typing papers. Ugh! Even my master’s degree was completed with an electric typewriter. Personally, I spent hours, taking random notes/facts and writing them on individual note cards with sources listed on the back as my long-ago high school English teacher, Mr. Wheeler, taught me to do. Then, I’d lay them all out on the floor, or dining room table, and begin the process of arranging, rearranging, and grouping these cards into potential sections of the paper. Next, I’d label each stack, and arrange them into what seemed like a logical order. Finally, I’d used stacks of notebook paper to write out some semblance of a rough draft long hand style—and, yes, arrange and rearrange those pages. All of this before even sitting down to type! And, oh, heaven help my typing skills (Sorry, Tana Lewis, you tried to force my fingers to type 45-65 words per minute without an error in your Typing 1 class, but, alas, I am still an over-thinking-lack-of-confidence-error-ridden typist!)
The digital age has changed life in dramatic ways as I reflect over all of the rapid change I have witnessed over five decades. I can now pay, or use a “free-version” (with, of course, commercial ads), of various music services, if I desire, rather than downloading individual songs or albums. These services will even suggest songs I might like—allowing me, like that Golden Corral buffet, to sample a bit of this album or a morsel of that genre without increasing my cost.
Furthermore, when writing and/or researching, I can copy, cut, paste, delete, and rearrange to my heart’s delight. Multiple sources filled with facts, data, and anecdotal evidence can be easily and quickly be found, validated, and bookmarked. No longer do I have to buy nearly a forest-worth of paper, note cards, and notebooks. I just click a key, touch a screen, or scroll with my finger, and voila, information in less than a second! Why, it almost tempts me to go back to school just to research and write papers. Hmm . . . Stephanie Musick, Hill, PhD, does have a ring to it . . .wait a minute . . .nah . . . I think I’ll shuffle on to a different life tune.
My current rabbit-hole of thoughts regarding shuffling, cutting, pasting, and even buffets, led to me to a recent lesson—a lesson I am still struggling to learn: l-i-f-e. Those playlists and even writing projects, such as this, can be carefully controlled. Click—add a song; click—no, delete it, and put it here; or likewise, click—change the word; click—find a quote; click—no, there has to be a better way to say it; click, click, click, click—delete the phrase; click, click click—ah, that sounds better this way.
Life is not so easily arranged, manipulated, and/or controlled. Sure, as humans, we like to think we are in control. We believe we can arrange our schedules, our goals, our days, and our lives into precisely sequenced time-slots of events. However, like the shuffle option on our favorite way to consume music, life is full of randomness. Sometimes, we are lulled by days, months, or even years (if we’re lucky) of sweet sounding summer-like tunes like time spent with gentle surf, warm sunshine, and not-too-hot sand. Yet, even that ideal beach shoreline, continuously changes due to storms, rough water, high tides, strong winds, and pollution; and still, tourist go back year after year.
Like the beach of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s eloquent quote, we must remain open to the possibilities. Grasping and attaching to “the story of life” as arranged by our mind, often leads to suffering, anxiety, and even fear–especially of the unknown. And, while the sea of life, can certainly shuffle-in storms, debris, high-waters, and random pieces of trash, it can also offer up beautiful shells of memories for collecting, calm water moments for soaking, and the soothing sounds of comfort.
While we cannot create and sequence the so-called perfect a playlist or word-document of life, we can be open to the shuffle of it, the buffet of its opportunities, the ebb and flow of its waters; and in that openness, we can find songs of joy, words of praise, and a uniquely crafted, tension-filled story of adventure with its own dynamic soundtrack penned by the Ultimate Divine Hand of Creation offered to us with love.
Life is unfolding and, well, shuffling, as it should. I often forget this, but I know in my core, this is true. And while I may never attain perfection in remembering this, I can work towards progress—progress of learning to accept, nibble, and even savor all the varied and unpredictable tastes life offers up.