I have long imagined what the perfect world would look like and have concluded that it would contain three certainties until the end of time.
The first two are easy enough to understand: comradery and comfort.
Good friends. People that I love and that love me in return. Shared experiences. Common laughter. Understood tears. Ease of relationship. A reservoir of hugs. No matter what, the ultimate place will contain family and friends that fill my heart with joy.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to have made buddies from Maine to California, from Alaska to Florida. Additionally, I’ve made friends with Asians, Europeans, Africans, and South Americans, whose cultural differences have contributed vibrantly to my life.
We are good at that in America. We manufacture the perfect mattress and pillow, super surround-sound, high-fidelity headphones, and an infinite variety of exquisite foods. Soon we’ll have drones delivering any material wish to our doorsteps overnight, and cars outfitted with music and movies driving us (as opposed to us driving them) just by speaking the coordinates.
Indeed, modern technologies have overwhelmed us with the first two certainties found in the ideal world: comradery and comfort.
I grew up as a teen when phones were permanently stuck on walls. By age 30, I got my first wireless one which let me roam the house. Then at 40, flip phones allowed me to stay connected on the road. Now in my 50’s, mobile devices let me do a lot more than talk.
In my youth, I formed the belief that at some point in my life I would arrive at that happy place I sought, where troubles didn’t exist anymore. I figured that by my 40’s I should get there, especially with the help of technology.
Boy, was I disappointed. Comradery and comfort were not enough.
The third certainty was not initially on my list. Eventually, I had to succumb to its reality. I mean life should be filled with love and luxury, not troubles.
Sports is a fine metaphor. Every time I got within breathing distance of scoring a goal in the end zone of this imaginary happy place, I would get tackled from the side.
Something would always snucker away my peace; a car accident, relatives dying, money running out. Position and titles lost, difficult people, broken stuff. A stain on clothes, even a chip on a favorite ceramic dish.
I decided to move the goalposts closer to the line of play. Whenever the ball is held, I shall expect opponents, tacklers, rowdy fans, and unforgiving referees. Without challenge, I might as well be watching the game on TV.
Indeed, I added challenge to the certainties of a perfect world.
Challenge is life. Life is challenge. When I began to think like this, my entire viewpoint of arriving at some imaginary goal of a happy world changed. Immediately, I was exactly where I was destined to go, and terrible circumstances confirmed it.
Challenge became not some obstacle that disrupted my composure; it became the defining element of life. Comradery and comfort were only there to help me face my challenges.
You see, I believe the purpose of life is to grow.
We are here for a limited amount of time and can’t take anything with us, except who we are. So, I had to ask, “Who am I, really?” My friendships and my comfortability were not me. Those are both outside me.
My true self is created via my willingness to face and overcome the personal woes of life. Things going wrong, losing one’s love, becoming disheartened, feeling uncomfortable, these challenges were not meant to crush but to spur.
Challenges rack the playing field of life because on it I am meant to grow, to learn, and to create myself. I must be my own master. Only challenge does that.
Challenge is what separates the population into two kinds of people.
Those who watch the ball as it gets knocked around on the field and those who dare to tuck it under their arms to maneuver through the tacklers.
It’s not about having courage. It’s simply about having the willingness to accept challenge as an essential part of life.
The third certainty in the perfect world is challenge. It will be with us forever, and that’s a good thing.
Eugene Harnett has raised five children in Eagle River, owns his own business here, and has been involved in local and state affairs since 1988. To reach Eugene, email firstname.lastname@example.org