Something to share:
When I was in my mid-20s, my life went through a series of major changes over the period of a year or so. Some of these changes were forced upon me, some I chose to make happen, and some seemed to present themselves as opportunities that called out to be seized because they felt right in that moment.
During this time, I read a profile on Dr. Jonas Salk, the man who led the development of the polio vaccine. Dr. Salk was working in a small village in Africa, treating people who had never had modern medical care of any kind. He had been doing work of this kind for most of his life after the polio vaccine was completed and the article profiled his life’s journey and the observations and lessons he’d learned along the way.
What caught my attention was Dr. Salk’s concept of living consciously and his own life as something that was in a constant state of evolution. The words below were included as a sidebar to that article and affected me strongly enough that have served as guidepost for my approach to life for years.
How strongly? Well, I have carried a copy of these words with me in every form of calendar and notebook I have used since then. I have kept a copy on my computer desktop so I can find it easily. Because it is always so near, I come across it often. I read it three or four times a week as a constant reminder to live consciously…to accept change and to forgive mistakes in myself and others…and to remain open to different ways and ideas and people.
I don’t follow these ideals perfectly. But that’s the point. Having an anchor and a sense of purpose and direction allows us to make conscious choices, and when we choose consciously, we can learn from disappointments and mistakes and continue our journey.
I’ve shared this piece with many people over the years. I hope you enjoy it:
EVOLUTION THINKING – DR. JONAS SALK
When we are preoccupied with survival, much of our behavior is dictated by fear – fear that often has little to do with threats to our actual survival. Such “survival behavior” can be triggered by the by the fear of losing anything we perceive as essential for our well-being – a relationship, a position, the good opinion of those around us, even a car or a pair of earrings.
Survival behavior has been ingrained in us for so long that our automatic response is to gravitate to it. Switching to the game of evolution isn’t easy. It takes vigilance and alertness, trust and consciousness.
We must look at the emerging reality to get the signals for what we ought to do now. We can, at each moment, choose to behave as natives of the new reality and co-creators of our own evolution. In terms of evolutionary behavior, that means choosing at each moment to adopt the attitudes and values of evolution – cooperation, caring, loving, forgiving – that are essential if we are not to destroy ourselves.
To live in terms of evolution, you have to give up any idea of doing it perfectly. In survival thinking, the dominant illusion is that once you vanquish the next enemy, overcome the next obstacle, get over the next hill, life will be free and secure of problems. Evolution, on the other hand, is about getting up one more time than you fall down, juggling the balls in the air one more time before you let them drop.
If we look at evolution as an error-making and error-correcting process, I we are ever so much better at error correcting than at error making, we’ll make it. It is, after all, only through a series of evolutionary approximations that we have our remarkable eyes, our incredible hearing mechanism, and our unbelievable mind.
If we can be courageous one more time than we are fearful, trusting one more time than we are competitive, forgiving one more time than we are vindictive, loving one more time than we are hateful, we will have moved a step closer to the next breakthrough in our evolution.
One warning: evolutionary behavior is addictive. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. After all, why live unconsciously when we can live consciously and, at the same time, speed up the process of evolution for ourselves and others?