Musings from a Wandering Monk:
God Helps Those Who Help Themselves

May 20, 2017 - Volume 3, Issue 2

"God helps those who help themselves."

A very familiar phrase that is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Some say it may have appeared much earlier, perhaps even in ancient Greece (you're welcome). Ironically though, it is NOT a bible phrase despite many people believing it is.

Why do I mention it now?

I think it's an idiom that we need to re-visit, and perhaps, put back into practice today.

Whether via nature or nurture, most people nowadays are just cruising through life, barely getting by, waiting for their lucky break. They are not actively working for it; they are just hoping they'll be at the right place at the right time. That rarely works. Rarely. Not saying it's impossible, but you have a better chance of winning the lottery.

That reminds me of a conversation I've had with many people through the years, that more or less goes something like this...
    Them: "Maybe one day, I'll win the lottery."

    Me: "Do you play?"

    Them: "No."
You did not mis-read that. People are hoping to win millions, without actually putting in the required single dollar to have a chance. How do these people expect to win?

The key, not only with the lottery, but with life in general, is to put yourself in a position to succeed when the moment is right. You may not win, but you've got to give yourself a chance at the win. The only person who can give you that chance is YOU.

This isn't intended to a rambling diatribe about hard work and perseverance (which really are very admirable qualities), but something a little more simple:

Just being present.

Marshall Brickman, who co-wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for the 1977 movie Annie Hall with Woody Allen, dropped this gem in joint interview:
    "I have learned one thing. As Woody says, 'Showing up is 80 percent of life.' Sometimes it's easier to hide home in bed. I've done both."
Over the years, a variant of this quote has appeared as "Eighty percent of success is showing up." But the spirit of the message remains the same. By simply being present in life, good things tend to happen.

Our quote in question ("God helps those who help themselves" for those with short attention spans) can sometimes be presented as "divinity helps those who dare," or my personal favorite, "fortune favors the bold." For many, daring or being bold really comes down to being willing to take the first step. First step to what? Doesn't matter. As founder of Taoism, Lao Tzu, wrote:
    "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
So many people choose to "hide home in bed" and hope that their troubles will divinely go away. They pray that they'll wake up one morning and life will be perfect for them. I am yet to meet anyone that this has worked for.

To actually step out into the world is oftentimes an act of bravery in itself.

You may have reached this part of the homily and are thinking, "Ok, so how we do put this into play?"

Let me give you an example. As we're working with the loose concept that 80% is simply being present, that leaves 20% short of 100% success. This 20% is actual "effort." The journey has been shortened already as now, you don't have to give 100% extra, just 20%. That's much more manageable.

Let us hypothesize that you dream of being a welder. You're even willing to move to North Dakota where tradesmen and tradeswomen are making ridiculous coin. That's the 80% of showing up. Simply deciding that you're going to take the first step. The final 20% is the effort of going to, say, a trade school to get the knowledge you need. Not at all impossible. All this creates the complete package, and that creates a chance.

Make a decision. Show up. Pick a direction and start walking towards it. As my lovely bride advises, "It doesn't matter. Just do anything." When you start moving, you see the world with a fresh perspective, you meet new people, you make new personal connections, you grow as person, you notice good things start to happen, and the next thing you know, life starts going your way. To be fair, it may be a short process or a long process, but as long as you're still processing, you're helping yourself.

Does God then start to help you? Actually, no. PLOT TWIST!

The fact that people have forgotten is that we already have all the tools we need to succeed. God has already placed them in our minds, in our souls, in our DNA. God isn't going to give us some divine gift later in life. From birth, we have all been divinely blessed to make our way, and make our own luck.

Like a child riding a bicycle, a parent may help in those first few attempts to ride, but ultimately, it's the child that will power themselves forward. In life, we may have received that gentle push to move forward in the beginning, but it really is up to us, and us alone, to keep pedaling.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. We should focus on that first step. Just be present. Simply showing up may make all the difference.

Is all this a quick solution for a perfect life? No. It is a viable option for a happy one? There's a chance.

But what do I know? I'm just a wandering monk.