The Journey Continues…

By Mark Ackerman, PA-C

Mark Ackerman, PA-C

Mark Ackerman, PA-C

One day a philosophy professor brought out a mason jar full of large stones and showed it to his class. He asked the class if the jar was full. They all agreed that it was. He then poured in several small pebbles that filled the spaces in between the stones and again asked the class if the jar was full. Again, the class agreed that the jar was full. Taking the jar again, the professor poured sand into the jar, taking up the space between the small pebbles and the large stones. The class agreed again, that the jar was full. Finally, reaching down for his mug, the professor splashed a little coffee into the mason jar and in a laughter of disbelief the class agreed one last time that the jar was full.

The point of the exercise the professor explained was that the mason jar represents our life. The large stones in the jar represent the big and important things like our family and friends. The pebbles and sand represent the small things, like our chores and work. If we remember to fill our lives with the important things then there will always be room for the small things we have to do. If on the other hand, we fill the jar with the small things, the pebbles and the sand, then there won’t be any room for the bigger important things in our lives.

So one student in the back of the class raised her hand and asked, “what does the coffee represent?” The professor smiled and said, “That just represents the fact that everything in life is just a little bit better with a good cup of coffee!”- Source Unknown.

And so it is with us. During a pandemic and through the strife of political division and nonsensical philosophical ideology that permeates our culture, we need to remember the big and important things in life- family and friends. As we know, life is not just about achieving repeated destinations such as the end of each and every disease process that takes place from day to day; life is also about the journey and how we live it.

Life is also not about how we build our resumes and accomplish all of our tasks and find the money to buy all the material goods that push our hot buttons. It is less about being successful and a lot more about being significant in the lives of those who we love and care for.

I really believe that most people in this world are motivated by goodness and not by intentional evil. Unfortunately, we sometimes get things in our lives out of order and get our priorities a little upside down and so it appears that we are acting in egregious ways. Part of this is because our culture tells us that the greatest evils in the world are pain and suffering. But I think the truth is that enduring some pain and suffering for the sake of others is often the most creative power in the universe. What parent among us would not suffer extraordinary pain to save the life of one of our children?

So no, the pandemic is not yet over. We are still on this journey. For some of us it has been the worst ride of our lives and for others, it has been absolutely nothing to write home about. Our different experiences have created vastly different narratives about the journey and how it has affected us. Some of those narratives are full of fear and trembling while other narratives are full of apathy. My only hope is that we can make sure we take time to find cause for celebrating something or somebody every day in our lives.

To help out, I want to point to a relatively new discovery by psychologists lately that should be obvious. It is informally called the first law of psychological energy. Simply stated, Energy follows Attention. That is wherever you focus your attention, that is where you tend to focus your energy. That’s a fancy way of saying that we can either focus on the negative or we can focus on the positive. Whichever one we focus on, that is what gets most of our mental energy.

So the take home message here is pretty simple. Despite what we know about covid, there is still a lot that we don’t know. (Maybe that will be the topic of my next article.) But in the meantime, it is really important that we focus our attention and our energy on the most significant parts of our lives; the people who are most important to us and not the small sand and pebbles that seem to occupy too much space in our lives. “If all the pebbles and sand go away, you will still have a really full life!”