Sunday, June 3, 2012

Whose Life Are You Living?: Part 1

Sunday Service Discussion Notes for June 3, 2012

Last Sunday we began our discussion on Whose Life Are You Living?

In the first phase of our lives, we learn how to survive from our parents and family. We learn about the world from our teachers and peers, and later our employers. We know that each of us has our own dreams and goals, and that these do not always coincide with the ideals of our family or community. How do we make these happen in spite of what others believe we should be doing with our lives?

Our facilitator, Lara, told a story of how she had been planning for a vacation. She had a few different places that she wanted to visit, but decided that she had to choose just one place to go to keep the budget under control. While she was visiting a bookstore, exploring travel books on likely destinations, a friend admonished her when she picked up a book about Istanbul, her firstl travel choice. This friend, and others to come, expressed concerns about her traveling alone to this location, and did their best to steer her into seeing Italy instead. She allowed herself to be swayed and began planning for an Italian vacation. She started brushing up on speaking some Italian, and trying to decide which places in Italy to see. Even at this point in the process, her friends were still trying to insist that they knew best which areas she would like the most, despite her protests that she did not really care to visit them. At a certain point she realized that she was no longer excited planning this vacation and it had become a chore. She realized that this was because she was not really going where she wanted to go, and had merely acquiesced to the pressure of well-meaning peers. Once she decided to change back to her original choice, Istanbul, she was able to recapture her enthusiasm about the trip. This showed her that she needs to live an authentic life, and be on a path of her own making, rather than letting others dictate her actions.

Another participant talked about how during the early part of her married life, her husband was a great sports enthusiast. He was so excited about each sport while he was involved in it, that he wanted to involve his wife as well. He bought her golf clubs and lessons for her birthday one year. She tried the lessons, but discovered that she did not care for golf. He decided to take up sailing, and lessons were given to his wife for this as well. She stated that she is not a competitive person at all, and so when her husband wanted get involved at racing the boats, she went along for the ride but did not enjoy it very much. Archery and tennis also captured his attentions for a time, and again she was involved in these, regardless of interest. She discovered that she was living essentially her husband's life and not her own unique one. That she had become an extension of him. She said that only later after her husband passed away, does she now feel like she is her own person as far as her interests and hobbies are concerned. We agreed that this story illustrated how, when in a relationship, we have to compromise with our partner, but that we should make sure that one of the two people is not doing all of the compromising.

One person spoke of a short video clip they had seen online* that featured a two or three year old boy at a church singing a song with lyrics that showed extreme prejudice and hate toward a particular group of people, and the church members applauding and cheering him on. We discussed how this little boy was only singing this song because it was something that he had learned to parrot that would grant him huge amounts of approval from his community. We talked about how people (children in particular) are extremely motivated by approval, and that many of us choose to take certain actions, whether we are consciously aware of it or not) in order to gain the approval of others, without considering whether the actions would feel good and right to us if the approval factor was removed. Because of this, we agreed that it is very important that we all learn to think for ourselves so that we may choose the most authentic path for each of us. We agreed that authenticity can be hard to find, and that we are all subjected to societal, cultural, and peer pressures that want us to fit in with the group.

A Shakespeare quote was shared:
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances;  And one man in his time plays many parts." 
The question was then asked, "Who's writing the script?" The group was asked to think about who was dictating what their "life script" would be.

How do we find what it is that we really want to do and then pursue it? How many of us are doing what we want to do in life? How many have something we want to do but are not doing it yet? Why?

One participant stated that he knows what he wants to do, but that he feels that he is obligated to accomplish the tasks of his "dutiful self" first, before he allows himself time to move on to the things he really wants to do. Responsibilities like earning an income, maintaining a household, etc. After these, he stated that he would have maybe twenty minutes per day to involve himself in the activities of his choosing. How then, we asked, does one balance our responsibilities, which may not be tasks that we truly want to complete, with our desires and true goals?

Many questions were raised near the end of our discussion: Are you living your true, authentic life? Is it yours and not someone else's? Is it socially acceptable and expected? Does that make it your life? How do you know?

With all of these questions still to discuss, we decided to continue this topic next week as well.

*Normally we like to include links to any video clips that we mention in our discussion, however this clip contains material that could be offensive, we will forgo it in favor of maintaining a positive discussion environment.

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