When we last met on these pages, I related how I had asked God, “How may I serve you today, Lord?” and received the answer, “Be your Highest Self.”. The more I pondered this answer, the more I realized that, in fact, the most beautiful, simple, and practical answer to all questions regarding “What to do?” in any situation are answered by this simple admonition to “Be your Highest Self.” Of course, this still leaves the practical question of how to be one’s “Highest Self”. When I posed this question in meditation, that firm but gentle voice immediately replied, “Creative Living.”
“Wow!” I thought. “He doesn’t make it easy, but He sure makes it interesting!” And just as I struggled in meditation for many more days until I reached (for the present) a satisfactory understanding of “Creative Living,” I challenged you, dear reader, to do the same, and I gave you some hints: (1) Hollywood, (2) Oscars, (3) life and chocolate, and (4) simplicity itself. Let’s see how you did.
Hollywood and Oscars. The example of creative living I had in mind received 13 Oscar nominations and won a total of six Academy Awards including Best Picture (1994) and Best Actor (Tom Hanks). Hanks portrays an ever-hopeful, guileless, simpleminded man on whom fate seems to smile. As for life and chocolate, Hanks’ character says, “My mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” And as for simplicity itself, he often says, “Stupid is as stupid does” and “That’s all I have to say about that!” The movie, of course, is Forrest Gump, and simplicity itself (I call it the “Forrest Gump Principle”) is an excellent key to Creative Living.
The Forrest Gump Principle: “Stupid is as stupid does.” Just replace the word “stupid” with any descriptor you choose, and you have another useful clue to living creatively. Sound a little weird? I’m going to ask your indulgence for the next few paragraphs as I offer the perspectives of other people to argue my point – this isn’t just my idea!
For example, do you want to be happy? Then, according to the Forrest Gump Principle, “Happiness is as happiness does.” The psychologist, William James, said, “You can alter the conditions of your life by altering your attitudes of mind,” and the very first, First Lady of the United States, Martha Washington, said, “I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not on our circumstances.” In short, we can choose to be happy if we want to be happy. Acting in a happy manner, doing things in a happy way goes a long way toward lifting one’s spirits and getting one out of a “mood.” As the ancient Greek historian, political philosopher and military general, Thucydides, wrote, “Happiness depends on being free, and freedom depends on being courageous.”
This sounds deceptively simple, but it works. It just takes doing it. William Shakespeare advised to “ Assume a virtue though you have it not” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4). As a youngster, my mother drilled into my head, “We learn by doing.” I’m sure she had no idea she was paraphrasing the classics. Sophocles wrote “One learns by doing a thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try.” And Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Action, repetition, and practice are the keys to excellence whether we are first learning or refining our skills – and especially our consciousness
Jesus admonished us to “Be [ye] therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Do you want to be more like Source Energy? Do you want to develop greater God Consciousness? Then “Consciousness is as consciousness does” or, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “A man’s what he thinks about all day long.” One develops God consciousness by thinking about God, and then by working with God moment to moment throughout the day. Whether we are learning to play the piano or learning to live in a higher state of consciousness, there are three key things to remember: (1) practice, (2) Practice, and (3) PRACTICE!
What about devotion to God? Well, “Devotion is as devotion does.” I’ve noticed a tendency among some students of the mysteries and metaphysics to get caught up in the intellectual stimulation of the “higher teachings” to the point where they seem to forget that all the great Masters emphasize what Jesus called “The first and greatest commandment,” to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). Kahlil Gibran observed, “When affection withers, it intellectualizes” (Spiritual Sayings, 1962). Indeed, developing a “personal relationship” with Spirit sometimes can be a difficult hurdle for even the most sincere students on the Path. Often we are like the character of Mary Magdalene in the 1970 Broadway and movie rock hit, Jesus Christ Superstar, who laments “I don’t know how to love him.” Just how does one love Omniscience, Omnipotence, Infinity? Any effort seems so puny, so inadequate, that often this aspect of one’s spiritual life can become, for a time, a mental stumbling block.
Actually, that energy we call “God” doesn’t really care how we love him, but he does care that we love him. He knows we are in the process of learning to love unconditionally, and so any effort in that direction is pleasing to the Divine. So, “Loving is as loving does.” In whatever way, large or small, doing loving things with God in mind enacts the Forrest Gump Principle in the form of “Loving is as loving does.” That is Creative Living. Or, as Peter Rogers (English film producer) put it, “Properly understood as a question of focus, unconditional love is the creative process.”
Again, it just takes doing it. Mark Twain (American humorist, novelist, & short story author) said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” I am learning that, in order to progress on the Path, I have to be an active participant in the journey; it cannot be otherwise. The same is true in every other walk of life. Don’t make a big thing of it; start small and let it develop as it goes. As Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer and producer who gave us so many mystical and deeply spiritual moments in literature and film said, “It doesn’t have to be a big fire, a small blaze, candle-light perhaps.” Just do it. Goethe wrote, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” And from Carl Bard (Scottish theologian, religious writer, & broadcaster), “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”
The potential list of ways to “Be your Highest Self” through enacting the Forrest Gump Principle is endless. Tying to break an old habit? “Discipline is as discipline does.” Having problems coming to grips with a perceived or real slight? “Forgiveness is as forgiveness does.” Are you experiencing difficulties finding the “right” relationship or accepting yourself as a worthy, lovable, and infinite soul? “Loving is as loving does.” Etc., etc., etc. You get the point. Just do it. Even if you have to mentally or verbally repeat the Forrest Gump Principle over and over until you convince yourself of its validity, just do it! Remember, “Assume a virtue though you have it not”, and soon enough, you will.
”Wisdom is where you find it. It doesn’t matter who said it or where it was written, only whether it helps you to grow” (The Gospel According to Dossett) . Life is indeed like a box of chocolates at times, and the only question is “How are we going to respond?” In the absence of specific guidance, we are much better off doing something than doing nothing at all. It takes human energy, doing something beyond mere willingness, to generate Divine Energy in the form of guidance or direction. Obviously, it is best to “Be your Highest Self”, but it is sometimes difficult to determine just how do that. The Forrest Gump Principle offers us a way to get started, however small, in whatever direction we choose to go.
I can imagine that some readers will easily dismiss the Forrest Gump Principle as being too simple, too “simplistic.” I’ll admit that I was tempted by this same reaction at first – until I tried it. All one can reply to such nay-sayers (those who won’t even try to apply it) is that, for them, Forrest Gump will indeed have the last word: “Stupid is as stupid does. . . . That’s all I have to say about that!” Oh, and if you haven’t seen the movie or don’t remember it all that well, I highly recommend it. It is full of spiritual food for thought – if you apply the Forrest Gump Principle to your viewing.