Reflections on “The Path of Totality”

100 percent is the important and even urgent thing, yes?

The Full Effort, Maximum View, Big Immersion, All-Out Hustle to Achieve the Ultimate, Second-to-None, I’m-All-in-Let’s-Head-to-Central-Oregon!

Pour yourself the Best-Ever of Everything, then keep your radar on for something Better Still.

Never settle, never retreat, and never, ever quit.

It’s “The Path of Totality,” and you shall not have it denied, nor deny it to yourself.

No piddling 91 percent view from here; we are headed for the Path.


Truly, the arc of history bends not only toward justice, but toward constant, unrelenting improvement in every human endeavor.

No iPlato 6.6, sporting a best-ever deep-probe camera with which we can take revealing Selfies right into the core of our consciousness and peer more acutely, with greater perception, into Who We Are…

We are the species of “More,” leaving it to those below us to settle for developing over eons a little longer wing span or bigger eye socket in order to slightly increase their chances for survival, even as they crawl or jump or fly in pretty much the same way as their ancient ancestors did in the long, long ago.

Not for us humans, those subtle improvements limited to what mere mortal bodies can do.

No, we swing big and conjure things like wheels and engines and printing presses and source codes to bring about momentous change.

Evolution by incrementalism, bah!

It is Revolution we are about here, the kind that catapulted us from the horse-and-buggy to the car to the moon and back in barely over 50 years, from the building-size mainframe computer to the entire Internet-in-your-pocket in just over 40.

Relentless, driven, infinitely more curious than the cat, with huge brains to pursue and answer the questions spawned by that curiosity.



And yet.

It is true, there were things Heraclitus and Socrates, Pythagoras and Plato, Aristotle and Augustine, Buddha and Lao-Tzu, Epicurus and Jesus, Sophocles and Shakespeare, Beethoven and Kant, didn’t know or got wrong. Of their time, they were. Human.

But the problems they posed, the knots and locks they picked at, the crown of thorns they willingly donned in order to see into the heart of things, the core of the human predicament: these were timeless, total and profound.

Theirs were no horse-and-buggy operations, no primitive stabs at advancing the human project. Some of them thousands of years ago, some closer to us, none of them with a mere 91 percent view.

It’s a bit discomforting to admit: We are plowing little new internal ground today. It has all been asked and pondered a million times before.

No iPlato 6.6, sporting a best-ever deep-probe camera with which we can take revealing Selfies right into the core of our consciousness and peer more acutely, with greater perception, into Who We Are and why we persist so uncannily in Making a Mess of Things.

Centuries and millennia ago, these Great Thinkers cited above, along with countless others, were offering up fully fleshed out diagnoses, elaborations, exposes, of the central problem, the gauntlet of eternal, recurrent questions thrown down for the human race by an alternately glorious, indifferent, redemptive, cruel creation:

What are we to do?

Toward what end?

By what means?

And why are we so often our own (and each other’s; more on that below) worst enemies?



Wikipedia’s “List of Armed Conflicts” breaks the planet’s current active wars into four categories: “Major Wars” (10,000+ dead annually), “Wars” (1,000-9,999 dead annually), “Minor Conflicts” (100-999 deaths annually), and “Skirmishes” (under 100 deaths annually).

By those criteria, there are currently four “Major Wars,” 11 “Wars,” 29 “Minor Conflicts,” and 14 “Skirmishes” going on as I type these words.

And that’s not even to count the nine dead and 54 wounded in shootings just this past weekend in Chicago, according to that city’s “Sun-Times,” which keeps up to date on such things.

Every one of those lives winding up on a lethal and tragic “Path of Totality.”


“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” That sage piece of advice comes from former U.S. Naval Admiral William McRaven, in a 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas in Austin that is available on You Tube in both full length (20-minute) and (six-minute) condensed versions.

McRaven, since named to be chancellor of the UT system after his naval retirement later that year, commanded the operation that brought justice to Osama bin Laden in 2011, among other noteworthy accomplishments.

The commencement address focused on his experience going through and later commanding the almost unimaginably harsh training regimens of Navy Seals, and the lessons learned therefrom. It’s a goose-bump-inducing piece of rhetoric, full of soaring imagery that nevertheless uses the plebeian task of making one’s bed as the central metaphor for changing one’s life and the lives of others—one small act of commitment and devotion at a time.

And even as my mind spun free with yearnings to grab my gym bag and head straight to the weight room for some one-armed military-style pushups, I also found the speech a little exhausting.

Excellence, relentless effort, never quit, keep pushing, learn from but don’t accept failure, strive, excel, exceed.

Get up in the morning (after your prescribed and precise seven hours and thirty minutes of sleep), make your bed, and do it again.

It’s the best of America, embracing The Path of Totality: total commitment, total effort, total rigor.

No patience for the Path of 91 Percent.


The contemporary psychologist James Pawelski is founding executive director of the International Positive Psychology Association and an unabashed proponent and booster of human flourishing and happiness.

Yet in an essay that references the work of his University of Pennsylvania colleague and positive psychology founder Martin Seligman, he posits a perhaps counter-intuitive vision of the “Yielded Life”  to complement Seligman’s “three pathways to happiness: the Pleasant Life, the Engaged Life, and the Meaningful Life.”

“This pathway to happiness involves giving ourselves up in some way, as well as acceptance and perhaps resignation. Persons may choose to yield themselves to God, to some larger cause, to a political power, to fate, to another person, and so on…Even at a more basic, psychological level, yielding, submission, and acceptance are keys to happiness, and even health. Acceptance of the universe and our place in it, as well as of the setbacks and losses that inevitably come our way is something each of us must practice.”

Not seeing much muscular, irrepressible Navy Seal in that formulation. Softer, more pliable, willing to give: give up, give in, give precedence to, back off, surrender.

Because here’s another truth as stern and unyielding as the good admiral’s: There are times when no amount of fight or will or available strength will vanquish the enemy, be it cancer, a career rejection, a relationship gone astray, or an opponent in war.

And no matter how stern your resolve to Never, Ever Give Up, give up you must. You can’t always stay on the Path of Totality.

Life just turns out that way sometimes.


“More More More, Said the Baby” was a children’s book I read to my daughter many times during her toddler years, and coming to it again now, it brings a familiar joy. It features three children in successive chapters named “Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, Little Bird.”

First, Little Guy’s daddy chases him across the house, “catches that Little Guy right up” and proceeds to smother his bellybutton in kisses.  “More. More. More,” says Little Guy.

Then comes Little Pumpkin, whose grandma also chases and “catches that baby right up,” then “tastes” his toes. “More. More. More,” says Little Pumpkin.

And then Little Bird, not running, but falling fast—too fast—asleep, and tumbling off the couch. Mom has to move fast to “catch that baby right up” and shower its eyes with kisses.

Unexpectedly, Little Bird does not say “More. More. More,” but only this:

“Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmm.”

The End.


Check out this blog’s public page on Facebook for daily, 1-minute snippets of wisdom and other musings from the world’s great thinkers and artists, accompanied always by lovely photography.

Twitter: @AndrewHidas

Deep appreciation to the photographers!

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at the top of this page. Some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at:

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact:   

All other photos by Andrew Hidas, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at:

2 comments to Reflections on “The Path of Totality”

  • David Moriah  says:

    My word, Andrew. One of your best. So much to think about. I would like to engage in extended dialog about this message, but first, I need to ask you the glaringly obvious question for one who still believes in a mystical and infallible Jesus despite how so many of my alleged “brothers and sisters in Christ” who worship the false god of Donnie John Trump are disgracing our faith – what things did my Jesus “not know” or “get wrong”? I’m eager to hear your answer. By the way, I drove 1400 miles to witness the totality of the solar eclipse, and I discovered the 100% eclipse experience was something amazing, transcendent and on another plane altogether vs. even 99%. Not sure how that fits with your post, but need to say it. Be well, my friend, and sorry the Giants are having such a rough year.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Thanks David, I did think a little harder and longer on this one, so I am glad it resulted in getting you thinking in turn. That is mostly the point, after all. I also tried not to come to any hard and fast conclusions on the matters raised here, mostly because I haven’t really drawn any. This felt more like ponderings and open-ended questions to me rather than issues I have definitively made up my mind about.

      So I do very much want to go on record as saluting anyone who selects things to do and be and experience that reflect the best & fullest of life, as you did in your 1,400 chase of the eclipse. Good on ya, Bro! My musings here are not meant to disparage the intentions of such effort, but only to walk around it and examine, from multiple angles, the many things it says and suggests about the human endeavor. So I hope you do think about this some more and engage in some “extended dialogue” about it. If that dialogue seeks to move from inner to outer, from internal reflection to engagement, you’ve got a space for it here, my man. That’s why the Internet gods invented Comments sections (and email, if you prefer).

      As for your questions on what Jesus might have gotten wrong: I was wondering whether I’d hear from professed Christians on this matter! Glad you piped up about it. My answer would tend much more along theological rather than exegetical lines. There are arguments among biblical scholars over whether he got certain prophecies wrong, among other matters, but none of that interests me much and is not my point.

      We have a huge problem with Jesus in that he left no paper trail, never wrote a book subject to critical scrutiny, and no one ever delved into voluminous written archives, correspondence and verified reports on his life. So what we do have is, any way one cuts it, much more hagiography by worshipful followers rather than biography by research scholars. Which unfortunately means slim pickings for any substantive details on his actual day-to-day life, personality and activity.

      The essential question comes down to who one believes Jesus was, yes? If he was fully human, not sent from the sky as one and the same with his “Father” but born of a woman and man and subject to everything humans experience, then weakness, wrongness and error were built into his fabric as they are in every human. (This is my own view.)

      But if one looks at him as God-come-to-Earth, then I suppose one could posit him as inherently errorless and sinless. Problem there to my mind is that it pretty much negates the whole point, the very idea, of God becoming flesh in a radical show of empathy and sacrifice for his beloveds, which is a powerful and potentially transformative symbol that I don’t believe for one second has any basis in literal fact. (In my view, belief in the literal facts of supernatural events is never the point or basis for religion, something that both atheists and fundamentalists get wrong in approximately equal measure…)

      Speaking in counter-intuitive parables, symbols and riddles as Jesus apparently did, it’s difficult, no, make that impossible, to discern how literally he himself took his references to his Father in heaven and similar pronouncements. He certainly sounds wise and insightful and brave beyond measure throughout the New Testament, but I wonder if his chief “error,” if you will, might have been in taking his own learning in the Hebrew scriptures too literally. His cry from the cross: “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” is powerful and disturbing in many ways, suggesting he really did think he would be rescued and saved from his suffering and death by a sky God. We can only guess at what was in his heart and mind about that as he died, but it does not suggest a man at peace, with intimate knowledge and understanding of exactly what was “going down” and why, to adopt popular parlance there for a moment…

      Does that help? Would enjoy hearing your take on this matter. People have been discussing it for 2,000 years, and I see no reason why they should have all the fun!

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on all this. Much appreciated.

Leave a Reply