I’m a puff of smoke

There is a struggle going on inside of me and each day there is winner and a loser.

Arrogance is in one corner, humility’s in the other.

Because I am in a better spot these days, I find myself fighting insecurity less and less, but it has only made room for a new foe.

Recently I feel like the kid who got cut from the high school basketball team, grew a bunch, transferred schools and now gets a chance to play against the team and coach that cut him.

The problem is, I have found myself, with this great opportunity, metaphorically dunking on people instead of doing what got me here in the first place – making the right pass, hustling for rebounds and staying humble.

One of the things that keeps me grounded is going to church in the morning. Today rocked me to the core.

This was the first reading from the Book of James:

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town,
spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”–
you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.
You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.
Instead you should say,
“If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.”
But now you are boasting in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
So for one who knows the right thing to do
and does not do it, it is a sin.

I was the lector and had not practiced beforehand so when I said the line about being a puff of smoke, it was like I was reading a description of a piece of artwork, now I get it.

I finished the reading and returned to my seat with new insight.

The priest went on to explain how yes, a puff of smoke briefly appearing might not seem like a big deal but it still happens.

At the Renwick with Anita

This helped me calibrate because when I saw that line, immediately I started being ashamed of myself, thinking about how I need to be humble and realize my insignificance, it’s not about me, get off my high horse, all those things.

The turning point was hearing the explanation that yes, it is wrong to be greedy and self-centered and yes we are here for a brief while but, we still have an existence no matter how brief it may be.

I am fascinated by how my actions can bring both great pain and joy, yet in relation to the universe, I am unrecognizable.

Now I look at this as a grounding reminder to simply be kind, do my best, and avoid following the voices of the false prophets inside me urging the pursuit of power and validation.

The Book of James reminds me of the wisdom shared by Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

I can read this and think about how, in comparison with the vastness of the universe, I am really insignificant or I can sit in awe of this opportunity to exist.

I’m a puff of smoke.

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