There is an old saying I think about every now and then: “the grass is always greener on the other side.”
Not so much for its meaning of someone desiring something they believe would improve his or her life, yet in reality would not. Instead, it is because I think about where I am now, and the possibilities of what could be.
To dream of being in a totally different situation, wondering how great life would be compared to the current situation is intriguing. The mind is unrealistically focused on what could be gained, with little attention to what would be lost.
A poor example of this: my memory as a kid on a family vacation sitting at a restaurant for breakfast. I would always order the French toast and upon the arrival of the food, look on in envy as my twin sister’s stack of blueberry pancakes taunted me…those pancakes topped with whipped cream looked so much better than my wimpy French toast.
Didn’t matter that I loved French toast and it always tasted great, for I couldn’t think of anything else except my stomach growling with envy.
Fortunately, it never failed that my little sister would give me a small bite of her pancakes to make me happy (and also get a laugh at the whipped cream that would inevitably find its way to the tip of my nose), and life would be good again.
Such a simple memory, but one of many that demonstrates to me the endless possibilities the mind creates. Hammering home the moral of being happy with what you have and how ridiculous it is to have petty envy.
When positive thinking fuels the mind, things tend to work themselves out.
Over the years, I think most people come to understand it never pays to feel or act on petty-envy or the negatives that “the grass is always greener…” may inspire. However, I think envy in itself is not bad, as there is still a piece of this feeling that is worth exploring further: “positive envy.”
Comparing a situation with one that is perceived to be better can create a sense of hope; triggering a new dream to inspire. I find inspiration in stories, movies and photographs from all over the world, where I have this feeling of “the grass is always greener…” but understand I can create something similar in my life.
Positive Envy is the excitement at discovering something new from another source and creating a drive to move people up to a higher level (no matter how small).
My favorite definition of this feeling is this clip from the movie Vision Quest: seeing and experiencing something so spectacular, that it lifts the spirit to a higher level of existence. Once this emotion is felt, it is impossible not to develop a drive and try to achieve such a moment yourself.
There are many such vision quests in life, and for me seeing places I may never visit ~ but through photographs, videos and stories, it becomes easy to imagine myself creating a life there. Positive envy of someone experiencing such a different way of life brings adventure into my day.
As mentioned in an earlier writing, Let The Show Begin…, photography, music and sports are just two examples where inspiration thrives.
Recently, I traveled to Dongchuan, Yunnan in SW China and arranged a home stay; a perfect way to get a glimpse into the life of locals. There were a few older people I met who shared their stories, their struggles and mostly their simple brilliance of happiness that they had collected over their lifetime.
Sharing a part of their history, through their words I could imagine the very time/place/emotions to a point where it felt as if I had lived that life alongside them.
A very powerful feeling, and while I imagined how great it would be to experience such a place in time; what I appreciated most was the glimpse at the scope of possibilities of people everywhere.
Humans have a pretty incredible stretch of capabilities, and while the ideal of accumulating great material wealth is an overriding dream for many…it is usually those who seek a simpler route that find a greater sense of happiness.
A controlled environment tends to pull us all in one direction: “nose to the grindstone” seems to be its mantra, and it is usually led by a group of elitists restricting our freedoms.
To avoid this lunatic fringe that permeates politics and many parts of society, listen to the words of Joseph Campbell and enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Avoid the well-worn path as the road often traveled tends to entice and then subdue the spirit.
In all, I figure that while the “grass may seem greener elsewhere” we attach ourselves to where we are most comfortable. It is good to explore, to get out and see what is out there…but in the end, it is tough to beat home.
Even when things may look bleak, there is always a smile to brighten the day. I sat one late afternoon watching the energy of this old man, amid a group of locals sharing his stories. “I can’t afford to be sad because right now is all I may have…and I’ve been saying this for more than 10 years!” and he laughed which made everyone laugh.
If the time ever comes when I am missing all my teeth, I’ll accept it…but until then I will make sure to enjoy the feel of biting into a crisp apple during a hot day.
“The grass is always greener…” It is a difficult proverb to dissect, because there are so many ways to look at it. Here in Dongchuan, most of the people in this village dream of their children being able to live in Hong Kong (or any Chinese metropolis), as these cities have a higher standard of living.
I can understand this. These are significant dreams to have, and it can fuel positive envy: a flow of ideas that lead to a realm of unimaginable successes. Wherever the dream flows, a happy child is the real goal.
I suppose that is the magic of life. At some point in time, it is necessary for the soul to search and begin its own Vision Quest. To lift those around you to a higher level of happiness. What that quest is and where it flows varies greatly among us all.
With that said, sometimes the grass is actually greener, and if possible, worth checking out for yourself.