A few years ago when vacationing in Greece, my ears could not escape “This is our night!, Fly to the top baby!”, the
chorus to a very pedestrian tune that sadly represented my birth nation in the Eurovision song contest that season.
There are probably a few hundred songs that talk about ‘reaching for the top’. Yes, it’s a cliché theme, but only because it
represents a virtuous desire, perhaps the deepest human need as the Humanists claimed.
Reaching for the top sounds so inherently ‘right’. Heck, it certainly sounds much more natural than aiming for the gutter.
That just leaves one burning question. What or where is…. ‘the top’?
Many of us believe we have an idea of where ‘the top’ lies for us. We look at the top as some coveted, seemingly final
destination that we aspire to get to. “When I get ‘here’ I will finally have reached the top”.
We’ve been taught to seek destinations, haven’t we? No journey is worth it unless it leads to somewhere definitive….
But people surprisingly never stop to think, ‘ok, when I get there, then what?’ Does what ensue is some ‘ho-hum
existence’ since the top has already been reached, some perennial state of bliss, or perhaps an inevitable roll back downhill?
Once, I asked one of my students kiddingly, “Do you think I have become all I can become?” Utterly puzzled, she
muttered “I don’t know”... Well, since she didn’t know me well, how can she conclusively answer my question? I smiled
and quipped “if I think I’ve already done all I can do in my life, perhaps I should go jump in a coffin right now.” For
what purpose remains in life when one perceives that there’s nothing left to accomplish, when ‘the top’ has already been reached?
In “The farther reaches of human nature” Abraham Maslow asks
“So what does it mean to be self-actualizing on Tuesday at 4 o’clock?”
But Maslow’s point is this: ‘The top’ isn’t some destination. Rather, it’s a process. It’s the path of always, 24/7/365,
working to be the best we can be. At any given moment, if we are giving our all to whatever we happen to be doing, we
are indeed at the top. Only, tomorrow, or ten minutes from now, there will be another ‘top’ for us to be striving for.
The idea thus is to simply realize that the top isn’t some ‘tangible target’ ever meant to be reached – there really is no top,
but only an effort to get ‘there’. There is only the aspect of understanding that we need to keep growing as people, to
continuously be moving forward.
I think that the greatest gift that ‘the top’ brings is the inherent drive to go even higher. That internal feeling of ‘there is
more to me than I just exhibited’. That natural sensation of ‘I can be, or I can do more’.
One of my favorite Zen proverbs proclaims:
“When you reach the top keep climbing.”
The Thoughts of Picasso
PUBLISHED ON: 8/28/17
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