Every problem holds a gift for you in its hands. We seek problems because we need their gifts. – Richard Bach
I first read these words back in the 1980’s, while reading the book “Illusions: Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.” This book was all the rage in New Age circles at the time, and since then, Richard Bach’s various books, contemporary but timeless expressions of the Ageless Wisdom, spread beyond those circles to inspire and influence many people throughout our society.
This book, much like the perennial favourite “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” have continued to inspire over the years. As for myself, I still catch those inspirations from time to time, but what lives on in my memory is mainly a loose collection of pithy, poignant statements of truth, such as the above quotation, that seemed to embody the essence of the philosophy that Bach promoted through his books.
It seems that at least every several years or so, at times when I’m feeling the need for inspiration, or just a basic “life reset” I just have to go back and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull once again. I can’t even begin to remember how many personal copies of this book I’ve gifted away to friends over the years, just to give someone else the thrilling spiritual high that comes from reading it for the first time…
A certain segment of society, because of the overarching commercial success of the stream of books Bach has produced, tends to dismiss this literature as a form of instant emotional high with no real enduring substance or appeal…. yet the books still sell after all these years.
It shouldn’t be surprising after all, as they are filled with a level of mature insight that people find themselves yearning for at a certain point in their lives. And it’s down to earth wisdom, though often expressed in unique ways outside our normal thought patterns. You see, that’s what a good self-help author does, is help you to get a glimpse through cracks in the veneer of your habitual ways of seeing yourself, the world, and life in general. And this is often what we need, isn’t it? Because if our own carefully constructed views of life were working all that well, why would we feel any longing to search for something deeper? That longing is symptomatic of our dissatisfaction with our own views, and the world experience they engender.
When we think of how our own lives intertwine with the corporate life of society in it’s broader dimensions, it’s tempting to fall back into old, conditioned patterns of pessimistic thinking on original sin, distorted ideas of karma, etc., but none of this really moves us forward in a positive or practical way. We just keep thinking the same thoughts we’ve always thought, so as the old saying goes, we keep getting what we’ve always got… is there no end to this repetitious cycle of going through the same old lessons over and over again, not really getting anywhere, but still stubborn enough to keep trying?
Here is the great value of classic works such as Jonathan Livingston Seagull. They give us pause to see the world through fresh perspectives and in doing so, opportunities are revealed for moving forward in creative, spontaneous ways, generating our lives from ideas that are simply more workable for us.