On a recent trip to China I observed the air quality on several different days while staying in Beijing. On one day the air was full of pollutants, I couldn’t see more than several blocks, and after that everything simply faded into the gray smog. The sun was out, but all I could see was the faint glow of the sun through the polluted atmosphere.
That night it rained and in the morning I was able to see the Beijing landscape. Suddenly 40-story apartment buildings were everywhere, and I could see miles in all directions. It was as if the blinders came off and I could see clearly for the first time!
Life is filled with such moments. Sometimes, when we least expect it, clarity comes and our perspective shifts. We see things in a new way, with new understanding.
And the result is that we change. Sometimes change is simply the change of a behavior. We start doing something, stop doing something, or learn to do something a bit differently. Other times the change is not simply change – it is transformative. We don’t always know how to explain the difference, but we know that something is different within us. We now see in a new way, with new clarity, and new perspective.
Both are necessary in our lives if growth is going to take place. There is a time to ‘hunker down’ and take the necessary steps to change a particular behavior. And there is a time to face the smog of our lives – to lean into it and search it for clarity in hopes that rain will come, clean up the atmosphere, and grant us a view we didn’t previously have.
Soren Kierkegaard was a 30-year-old man when he wrote in his journal that “What is important is that a [person] stand right toward God, and penetrate the thing until it yields its explanation, whether or not it turns out as [the person] wishes; it is still the best of all.” That is a deep thought for a 30-year-old man, and it is worthy of our attention.
I don’t know what contaminates are in the atmosphere of your own life, what pollutants clog and distort your view, but I do know that we all have them in greater or lesser amounts. Peer into it! The process of doing so can sometimes clear the air, providing you with a transformative experience and a new perspective to carry forward in your life. In any case, I agree with Kierkegaard – that making the effort is the best thing to do, whether or not it turns out as we might wish.