I’ve worked for a number of companies, but one in particular was a large IT consulting firm that I would describe as a cubicle farm, and it was easy to become absorbed in the sameness of the environment. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m not like other people, and the last thing I want is to be just like other people. It’s so un-Bob-like…
I decided to put something on my cubicle wall for inspiration – it’s this poster, from the Apple Computer Think Different campaign. Poor grammar aside, it was very helpful. Whenever I needed help finding a solution to a problem, I would look over at the poster.
The idea of thinking differently was present in other aspects of my life as well, and at a fairly young age.
I may have mentioned before that I was raised Catholic — however, I am not a particularly observant Catholic. My mother is far stricter than I am; she goes to church regularly and tried to get me to go to church regularly as well.
Even as a child, I had problems accepting what the church was teaching me. These old men were telling us to follow their set of rules, and if we did, then we would be given an eternity of happiness. If we didn’t do as they said, then we would endure an eternity of suffering. Even as a child, I knew something was not right… how could these old men possibly know what happens to us after we die? The only way to know for sure was to die first, and then come back. I was pretty sure they hadn’t done that.
So I decided to look at the numbers: 70-80 years here on this planet… and then an eternity in either a good or a bad place. [stretch out arms] Now imagine my arms stretching out to infinity — that will give you more of a concept of eternity. These numbers just didn’t add up.
Years later I was watching a British documentary called Connections, and the host, James Burke, seemed to sum things up quite nicely. He said that Christianity was all about the afterlife, and your life here on Earth is best spent preparing for the next life.
It was time to revisit the subject, but this time I decided to think differently. What if… the church elders had it wrong? What if… things were actually reversed? That might make more sense.
Imagine spending an indefinite amount of time on an ethereal plane of existence, stuck in a sort of cosmic abeyance. After a certain length of time, a generic superior being approaches you and says
“_________! You have been a good cosmic spirit, and it is time for you to receive your reward. I am going to send you to this planet, where you shall be born and live out your life. You will have 70-80 years of complete freedom – you may chart your own path, live exactly as you choose, and do anything you like. If you can make the planet a better place in the process, then so much the better! Here is your playground — go now and have fun, and I’ll see you in about 80 years or so”
What if this was our reward? Would you spend your remaining time on this planet denying yourself the many pleasures it has to offer because you are preparing for the next life? When you get to the next life, what if you hear the same message? By the same token, if today was the tomorrow we worried about yesterday, then this may already be the afterlife of some previous existence that we frittered away”
All over the world, people deny themselves the simple pleasures that surround them. They suffer needlessly, and some even mutilate their own bodies for the sake of “building up credits in their own version of heaven”. Instead of thinking differently, they tacitly accept the advice of a bunch of old men who presume to tell them how the world works and how they should live. Consider the words of George Bernard Shaw “Some look at things that are and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not”?
I would like to urge you to think differently. For all we know, we may all be living out our reward right now, so why not squeeze every last drop out of life that we can. If I may quote the great repository of wisdom that is the Publishers Clearing House “You may already be a winner”! Imagine how stupid we’d feel if, after our death, our own personal superior being took us aside, sat us down, looked us the in the eye and said “You fool….”