For some reason that escapes me now, I came up with the idea to do a post on the topic of “pushing the envelope”. I Googled that phrase to see if there had been any significant quotes about that topic. I found this really deep thought from way, way back.
Just as the mother’s womb holds us for ten months not in preparation for itself but for the region to which we seem to be discharged when we are capable of drawing breath and surviving in the open, so in the span extending from infancy to old age we are ripening for another birth. Another beginning awaits us, another status. We cannot yet bear heaven’s light except at intervals; look unfalteringly, then, to that decisive hour which is the body’s last but not the soul’s. All that lies about you look upon as the luggage in a posting station; you must push on. At your departure Nature strips you as bare as at your entry. You cannot carry out more than you brought in; indeed, you must lay down a good part of what you brought into life. The envelope of skin, which is your last covering, will be stripped off; the flesh and the blood which is diffused and courses through the whole of it will be stripped off; the bones and sinews which are the structural support of the shapeless and precarious mass will be stripped off. That day which you dread as the end is your birth into eternity. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca (5 B.C.–A.D. c. 65), Roman philosopher, statesman. Letter 102 to Lucilius (c. 60 A.D.).
Wow! I’m not ready to go there yet or even to explore this quote in any depth, but it blew me away.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca takes us on a quick journey from birth to death in a blink of an eye and a paragraph. Lucius was focused upon the end game, which I may return to in a future post; but I wanted to touch on more immediate things, like the daily here and now.
I was going to begin this post with a “quote” from my own thoughts about the topic, which is – “If you don’t push the envelope you are forever trapped within a bubble of your own making.” I quite liked that and thought it clever, but then I realized it is also somewhat superficial. But, I’m going to go with it anyway.
We all find our own comfort zones and most of us settle into a contented life within that zone. What we don’t realize is that we become entrapped by the bubble of our own comfort zones. We don’t try new things, we don’t meet new people, we don’t take risks; instead, we “go with what we know” and convince ourselves that there is no reward to push the envelope and get outside of that wonderful feeling of safety and security. What a pity! Yes, there is comfort in the security of the familiar life within the bubble that we have built for ourselves; but there is also sameness and boredom and emptiness. A life lived in the safety of only the known is a life lived without adventure or discovery, a life lived without the enriching lessons of failure and ultimately a life lived without passion.
I have posted here from time to time about not ending life with a bad case of the “coulda, woulda, shouldas” , and that is really what we are talking about. Pushing the envelope means taking the risks that you have been avoiding. It means asking out the guy or girl that you most fear rejection from or taking that giant leap of faith to quit your secure, but boring, job to pursue your dreams (maybe after you’ve spent the extra time to get the education that you need for pursuing your dream). Most times it involves more than just pushing on the walls of the bubble that we call our lives – it involved breaking through those walls and exposing ourselves to new and scary risks in order to achieve what we’ve been dreaming about for some time.
I love the TV show The Voice because every one of the contestants is at the breakthrough point in their lives. The stories that that they all tell, right before they go on stage in the blind auditions part, are about pushing on the bubble in their lives and how this show is their way to break out of that bubble and dive into their dreams. It’s great TV, but it’s also great life drama. One can’t help but root for them to be successful. In them we somehow see ourselves taking that chance to break free. It is a quick moment of vicarious living through their experiences; but, if we are honest with ourselves, it is also disappointing, because we know in our hearts that we have hesitated in our own lives.
So what are you doing to push on your own personal bubble? What are your unfulfilled dreams? Are they still out there, just beyond the bubble that you currently inhabit? What do you think would happen if you pushed towards them? If you see that life
doesn’t end just because you push for them, then why are you still in that bubble? Push the envelope in your life. Your bubble won’t really burst and leave you standing there naked and alone, it will probably just stretch with your to get to your goals.
If there is a good lesson to be learned from the beginning quote from Lucius Annaeus Seneca it’s that whatever we have at the end we leave behind anyway, so why not let that be a smile because you pushed the envelope and achieved your dreams. Don’t live your life in a bubble that you have created for yourself. Go for it!