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The Power of the Four L’s: Live, Learn, Laugh, Love

Power exhausts itself in howls if it is not balanced with a healthy life, open-mindedness, a good sense of humor, and the ability to love despite pain and tragedy. But when it is balanced with these forces, cosmic power becomes manifest and the howl becomes a hero’s call, a call to adventure.


“Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly, and forgive quickly.” ~ Paulo Coelho

The call to adventure is quiet at first. It creeps up on you. It comes as a whisper from a poem, a novel, or a movie that moved you in a profound way. It comes as a slant of light through a cracked window. It comes as a waft of petrichor in a thirsty desert.

It comes as a wolf howling on an otherwise silent night. It comes as a longing for a would-be lover’s as-of-yet unfamiliar, and yet somehow achingly familiar, touch. It comes as a glance in a mirror where you can, paraphrasing Jonathan Safran Foer, “feel your bones straining under the weight of all the lives you’re not living.”

Most of us hear the call in some subtle way. Few of us listen. Even fewer act upon it. Life is all too often a blazingly bright beacon blanketed and smothered by too much comfort, security, and safety. It’s there, just under the surface, burning its achingly beautiful truth, waiting for us to lift the veil. Quietly challenging our spirit. Beckoning us to take a leap of courage.


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Learning only requires a little open-mindedness in the face of ignorance. But first we must admit our ignorance. We must relish in the absolute fact that we simply do not know, and then get busy trying to know despite.

So what if we can never truly know? Knowledge is more of a path with many breaks than a straight line from point-a to point-b. It’s the infinite points between that count. It’s the journey that’s the thing.

Knowing everything would be boring anyway. Not knowing, and then trying to know, is where all the excitement is at. Dare yourself not to know, to unlearn if need be, and then double-dog dare yourself to relearn. You will fall short of knowing, but you will gain everything by relearning.

Do this again and again and you will have learned how to learn as if you were to live forever.


“Life is a matter of oscillation. Life is vibration. The question is: how are you going to interpret that. Is it tremble, tremble, tremble; or is it laugh, laugh, laugh?” ~ Alan Watts

Try your damnedest not to be self-serious. Be sincere but laugh at the absurdity of it all, at the ludicrous rollercoaster ride of life. Learn to stare into abysses and snicker at monsters. Learn to skip into voids and tickle demons. Self-empowerment is inauthentic if it cannot laugh at itself, if it cannot learn how not to take itself so seriously.

Nothing is more powerful than laughter in the face of that which seeks to destroy you. Shine even as your soul is breaking under the heavy weight of struggle. Allow your indomitable sense of humor to blaze through the cracks of your having fallen apart and come back together again. As Charlie Chaplin said, “Smile, though your heart is aching.”


“Close your eyes. Fall in love. Stay there.” ~Rumi

Falling in love is both very easy and very difficult. It’s easy when we are coming from a place of non-attachment and interdependence. It is difficult when we are coming from a place of attachment and independence (or codependence). It’s the difference between being Love and pigeonholing love into the box of our expectation.

Learn to take it easy on yourself. Love simply. Or simply love. Be Love in the face of expectation. Be Love despite the love that thinks it needs validation. Be Love even when others cannot. That is the heart of forgiveness. Love others, let others love, and then let love go. Do this again and again, in a kind of loving life-death-rebirth process, and the ability of proactive forgiveness will not elude you.

Live with courage. Learn by unlearning. Laugh at seriousness. Love without expectation. This is the power of the four L’s.

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Road of life
Live; learn; laugh; love
Bob Marley quote
Wrinkles mean

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  • Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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