Author Jay Cradeur shares a moment to moment choice which directly impacts a man’s experience of life and lover.

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.”

Federico García Lorca

I am an arrogant bastard. I know this about myself, and I have worked hard to be less arrogant and less of a bastard. Usually I am fairly palatable. Still, on occasion, I can easily slip into my arrogant bastard persona, and my life takes a decidedly mundane and now predictable turn for the worse. “Know thyself” is a mantra with which I have learned to live. I am aware that we all have a dark side, and the better we know it and embrace it, the more powerful and self realized we can walk the earth. This has been true for me, and I see it in every man I have met along the path.

“Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as a dog does his master’s chaise.  Do what you love.  Know your own bone, gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.”

Henry David Thoreau

I would posit that the opposite of being arrogant is being humble. When I am humble, grateful, and appreciative for all that life has to offer, my life works in a much more magical and unpredictable way. When I am humble, women seem to respond much more positively than before. There is a sense of wonder I feel in my humbleness that escapes when the arrogant bastard returns. He is always knocking on the door, but humbleness keeps his pleas to a low and forgettable level.  The question that keeps me in the sweet spot is this:

“Am I open to life?”

When I am humble and grateful, much of life is magical, and mystical, and often beyond my comprehension.

Can I remain a student of life? Can I marvel at the mysteries of life? Can I treat my relationships as fresh and alive? Or do I feel I know everything? Do I think I have it all figured out? Do I know my partner inside and out, and there is no room for discovery and revelation? One set of questions works, and the other set of questions does not work.  My old sales manager use to say this to me:  “When you are green, you’re growing.  When you are ripe, you’re rotten.”

This article is an invitation to stay open. Take a look at your hands as you put them palms up. This is a great pneumonic device. Are you an open hand, or a closed fist? I know that when I am open, I capture so much more of this amazing life experience. When I am humble and grateful, much of life is magical, and mystical, and often beyond my comprehension. This is where I chose to live, unless I get in my own way. William Blake used a powerful expression in his poem, London. The expression is “mind forged manacles.” I can choose whether I will be a prisoner of my own mind, a subject of ego.

“In every cry of every Man,

In every Infants cry of fear,

In every voice: in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.”

From the poem London by William Blake

In the movie, Meet Joe Black, William Parish, a wealthy titan of industry played by Anthony Hopkins, is speaking with his daughter. He is sharing his thoughts about her boyfriend. He shares that he is concerned she has chosen her boyfriend because he is a good fit, but there is no passion. She feels she is doing the right thing, picking a guy who is her social match.  However her Dad implores her to stay open for someone else, because “lightning may strike.” William Parish tells his daughter he wants her to be open for real love. He says:

“I want you to levitate.

I want you to sing with rapture

and dance like a dervish.”

Open hands or closed fist?

Am I open to life?

The great poems, the great pieces of literature, the world’s great art, they are all born out of nothing. An author, a painter, a sculptor, they sit in front of a blank screen or canvas or slab of clay, and they remain open to a special spirit to inhabit them and guide them to create beauty. The same is true for each and every one of us, if we but remain open. When the fist is closed, nothing can enter. All entrances are shut. Life simply repeats, as we have known it. Relationships, in this environment, often wither and die from a lack of new energy. A relationship lived as stifling suffocation is no way to live. It is a slow death, and eventually, one partner will have to break out and get some fresh air.

“Men are like fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it’s up to the women to stomp the snot out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.”

Dave Barry

Staying open is an opportunity to turn on your music device, listen to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, crank the volume way, way up, and let the wall of sound envelop you.

I have observed that when I am open, I am vulnerable. As a man, this can be uncomfortable at times. I prefer to be in charge, to know where I am going, and to be leading the way. Being open requires a paradigm shift. It requires an appreciation of vulnerability as ultimate strength. It demands that we value the unknown over the known. My old teacher, author Stuart Wilde, said our greatest strength is our vulnerability. Remaining vulnerable, especially for men, is a challenging road to hoe. And for that reason, it can also be the most satisfying.

Living in the question of “Am I open to life” requires a subtle shift in perception. Vulnerability does not mean weakness. This is a common masculine response and misconception. Instead it means being willing to move through life with what Shunryu Suzuki calls “beginner’s mind.”  Staying open is an opportunity to turn on your music device, listen to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love, crank the volume way, way up, and let the wall of sound envelop you.  Staying open is a que to the universe, inviting into your experience all that life has to offer.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ”
― Shunryu Suzuki

Am I open to life? I invite you to ask yourself this question often and in earnest. Take notice of how this impacts everyone in your life. I believe every moment is a moment for ongoing transformation. Each moment is a choice. Each moment we can feel a spirit inside of us that longs for connection and expansion and realization. Or we can pretend we have it all figured out, and be resolute, and plod on through. Perhaps our primary job is to stay open, keep our mind and body receptive, and watch as life gifts us with joys and pleasures and wisdom unimaginable.

The article originally appeared on the Good Men Project Website.