“This is the story of a man falling from a 50-storey building. As he falls, for reassurance, he repeats: So far so good, so far so good, so far so good.
But what matters isn’t the fall… it’s the landing”
I’ve written previously about the decision I’d made a few years ago to only focus on my behaviour and choices, regardless of how others behaved and the decisions they made. Well, I’m ashamed to say that recently I haven’t been living in that decision. Fear and its life-partner, passivity, have been making my choices and the idea that ‘it begins and ends with me’ has been a distant possibility for other people to focus on, as I’ve stopped challenging myself to walk the most honest path I can.
I inadvertently read two books this week that were heavily focused on actions being the only true indication of our character. In the first book, Man’s Search for Meaning, a classic text of one man’s experiences in concentration camps during the second world war, the author states that
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
The very next book I read was Skin Game, the latest in a series of books that I would argue (loudly) is one of the best in modern fantasy literature, about a wizard for hire in Chicago — so I think we can all agree it’s a different genre to the first… Now, get this
“You think your power is what shapes the world you walk in. But that is an illusion. Your choices shape your world. You think your power will protect you from the consequences of those choices. But you are wrong… one day you will receive what you have earned. Choose carefully.”
I wonder how long my subconscious has been gently nudging me into seeing my selfishness. To be honest it seems as if a large plank of etherial wood is smacking me about the head with the message to work on my attitude and behaviour, and to stop looking to others to make choices for me. Generally, if my subconscious is in ‘shouting at me’ mode it means I haven’t been listening for the loving taps that would have been proceeding this for quite some time.
Now I need to decide what to do about it. It’s all well and good for me to proclaim, “I shall be courageous, kind and loving from now on!” but it’s only in action that I’ll be able to see if I’m actually changing.
“Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.” Man’s Search for Meaning
The first thing for me to do is acknowledge where this is happening. During contemplation this week on where I’m letting fear dominate my choices, I realise that it’s managed to trick me (once again) into thinking I’m being sensible by not acting rather than just hiding from actions I don’t want to take. Much like exercise, it’s a shock how quickly I lose my spiritual health when I stop working out.
I then make a sincere commitment that I’d like to change. And what always happens next is I’m presented with opportunities to change, to put some action into my life and to put my trust into something other than my, not-nearly-as-awesome-as-I-like-to-believe, mind.
I realise that I’m making it sound easy, but the simplicity of the choice hides the enormous challenge posed by healthy living, that it so often goes against my fiercely held desires and fears. Which can, unless tempered, be the driving force of my decisions, and the self-built dramas that unfold as a result. I have some probable actions coming up in the future that feel so terrifying and overwhelming it’s like I’m preparing to leap off a tall building, with the possibility there’s no net before I hit the ground. But, I know that if I continue to live so passively I’m going to slip off the building before I’m ready to deal with the consequences that may come with the fall. Like it or not, if I want to live with courage and honour, I have to keep taking the next indicated step.
And just as I’m writing these very words of my recommitment, my phone chimes with a text message from a friend who I know I can speak with honestly and openly. That’s how fast this stuff works when I commit to something. I’m immediately given the chance to stand by the decision I’ve made to live better. Or not.
Today’s recipe comes from a lovely baking book I bought recently called Paris Pastry Club. I’ve made a number of their delicious recipes and this nougat’s been an absolute stand out from the start. I’m not going to lie, it’s a challenging recipe. And I wouldn’t even start if you don’t have a stand alone mixer, or arms of steel. But cooking’s one place I don’t allow my fear to prevent me from action. And, more often than not, I end up with something I’m happy with.
- Icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), for lining the baking tray, plus extra for dusting
- 1 egg white
- 260g (9oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 125g (4½ oz) honey
- 100g (3½ oz) water
- 50g (2¾ oz) glucose syrup
- 150g (5oz) pistachio and almond mix, roughly chopped (or 150g of a dried fruit and nut mix of your choice)
Line a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkle it with a generous amount of icing sugar
Place the egg white in a stand-mixer and whisk on a slow speed until soft peaks form
Add 30g (1oz) of the sugar and whisk until stiff
Keep whisking on a slow speed while you make the syrups
In a small pan, heat the honey to 130˚C (265˚F)
In another pan, place the remaining sugar, water and glucose syrup and cook to 155˚C (310˚F)
With the mixer still on slow, pour the boiling honey down the sides of the bowl to mix with the egg white, increase the speed a bit and whisk for a minute or two
When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature, pour it down the sides of the bowl and crank up the speed to the maximum
Whisk until the bowl feels slightly warm to the touch
Remove the whisk and add the nuts (or whichever combination you’re using)
Mix in gently, using a wooden spoon
Scrape the nougat onto the prepared baking tray, dust with more icing sugar and top with a sheet of baking paper before rolling into a 2cm slab
Allow to cool at room temperature for at least 12 hours, then slice as you like and serve