Look to the Stars:  you are not the sum-total of your mistakes

(Speech No. 2)


We are all very familiar with the greatest mind of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein, and his theory of relativity.  I say familiar, because the formula E=MC2 is very much a part of our collective consciousness.  We are certainly well acquainted with it, but what does it mean?

E=MC2 is the formula for life. 

It accounts for the relationship between matter, space and time. 

All three are needed for there to be life.  If one doesn’t exist, life doesn’t exist.

The matter in question is here is us, along with everything else that exists.  The space is the vast dark and cold nothingness that exists in between every atom, proton and electron, and every solar body in the universe.  As for time.  Well, time is time.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter and examine ourselves for the moment.  We are a majestic collection of cells.  We are unique creatures.  With unrepeatable fingerprints, as distinctive as a snow flake.  We all broke all kinds of astronomical odds, just being born.  Do the math sometime.  It is staggering.  As human beings, we are forever growing and changing.   Forever acting in and on our environment.  Forever evolving and growing. 

And we make mistakes. 

The space in which we take our lumps is also in a continuous process of evolving and expanding.  It doesn’t make mistakes, but it does allow for more room, and presents endless possibilities.

For some reason, we see ourselves as somehow living outside nature, outside of space.  I think we think too highly of ourselves, and that might be the beginning and the source of our troubles.

The final ingredient for life is time, and in the strictest sense, it does not exist.  I am not saying that we cannot quantifiably measure the earths rotations around the sun, but if you really think about it, time doesn’t really exist. 

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.  Time is only a word.  Minutes and seconds are concepts.  Defined by humans to make order.  Like the word nothing, time doesn’t have a value and doesn’t point to anything.  

We only have the moment.  This particular moment.  Our mistakes overwhelm us when we either act, do nothing, or react when we are acted upon.  Taking action is better.  It’s where dreams to go hide. 

So, what does this all mean?  What does this have to do with my mistakes?

Most people understand mistakes as a disastrous, irrevocable step backward.  As an action or decision that either hurts you personally or hurts others.  Mistakes carry with them, feelings of guilty and regret.  They make us feel rotten.  The linger for a very long time.  We break our backs moving them from place to place.  They make us prisoners and cripples.

But that is not what a mistake is. 

Mistakes are not permanent.

Mistakes are not static nor are they constant. 

Your mistakes and actions are only a small part of who you are, as a complete person.

You make mistakes.  You are not the mistake.

Life goes on.  Time keeps rolling forward. 

You change.  The people you know change.  Space expands.  Your wounds scab over and heal. 

So, stop picking at your wounds!

Realize that it is never too late to become sober.  There is always time and place for a new beginning.  It is never too late to get fit.  To begin a new friendship.  To reconcile old ones.  There is always a time to give a speech.  There is always a time to listen.  To act.  To let go.

Your success does not depend on the level and depth of your mistakes.  Happiness doesn’t hinge on how many failures you’ve had.  How deeply you’ve been hurt.  How profoundly you’ve hurt others.  It doesn’t matter when you did it.  How you did it.  Why you did it

All your failures can be forgiven.

All your mistakes, in time, can be forgotten.

You have the space to believe in redemption.

My loving father battled with alcoholism his entire life, happily conquering his vice, like Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, only a few months before he died.  When I was a child, I remember this one ordinary day that he was in a heated argument with my mother, and by now I hated him for it.  For some reason, I confronted him.  His little, shy, quiet little boy, was yelling at him and giving him a piece of my mind.  He slapped me hard across the face and I lived with that memory my entire life.

It was the only time I ever recall being hit by my father.  He was such an amazing man.  Tears well up in my eyes, just thinking about him and how much he loved me, and all the many things he had done for me.  I love my father.

On his deathbed, a long time away, far away from our country, after his final rites, he looked me in the eyes, held my hand and asked my forgiveness for hitting me.

He had tears in his eyes.  Tears began to fill mine.  I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I couldn’t believe that he carried the burden of that day in his heart his entire life, as much as I had.

We were united in the mistake.  We redeemed failure.

Love conquers all.

He died a few hours later, but he left me something.

He gave me peace.

He left me proof that mistakes can make us stronger.  They are not permanent.  They are not intentional.  They are part of life, and they are meant to be left behind where and when they happen.

We are not the sum-total of our mistakes.  We are great beyond measure.

I am a better person today, having lived everything.

Overcoming failure makes us better. Frederic Nietzsche beautifully noticed, that whatever doesn’t kill you, only make you stronger.

The mistakes you commit.  The failures you experience, do not in any way dictate the direction you should go.  They do not point to the person you should become.

That task is up to you and me.

Mistakes or a cacophony of them, in rapid succession, does not tell the whole story.  Every person is a complete universe onto itself.  Unfortunately, we are not alone, and end up bumping into some other celestial body that is moving about in the vast flowing space of the universe. 

Eventually.  Naturally.  Consistently.  We will make a wrong decision, and inevitably bump into something, or someone.

Love yourself and give yourself another chance.

You are not the sum-total of your mistakes.

You are far better and greater than that.

I wish to leave you with some Irish wisdom.  Words, which were spoken publically in a speech by President John F. Kennedy, and originally written by George Bernard Shaw.  I hope I have permission to paraphrase.

Two prisoners gazed out of their prison bars.  A prison built by their own hands, and with the architectural blueprints provided by others. 

One looked down and saw mud. 

The other looked up and saw stars.

Put away your calculator and stop counting your mistakes.

Be great. 

Be the person you dream of, and were born to be.

Look to the stars.