Destiny awaits. The future is before you. Or perhaps, you are before it. One step. That’s all it takes to get you going. The second one should follow. Put a good stride in now. Time waits for no man. Good, now that you’re moving it should get easier. Or harder. Who really knows. I certainly don’t. But you have to try. What else will you you do. What else would you do. It’s a fiction you know, that old idea that you’ll enjoy it. Or is it a new idea. But you probably won’t. At least not most of it. If you’re lucky, you might just enjoy some of it. Best case scenario, you fumble around till you find someone. Then again. You might not, odds are okay. But guarantees and promises aren’t made. You didn’t pick your looks. You’re probably not so attractive. But maybe you’re lucky. Maybe. Loneliness awaits those who abdicate responsibly. And those below the median. Then you’re at the bottom. Not much you can do about it. Just keep digging. There will probably be rocks. You could either stand on them, or put them on top of you. You’ll probably surprise yourself with your choice. Choices are never simple. Surprises are abound and withheld by the unconscious. Blame others not, seek your answers inside. Not likely. You’ll point the finger. Wave the finger. Raise your chin. Turn a cheek. We all do it. Maybe after a few times you’ll wake. But then again, probably not. Monkeys. Monkeys, full of snakes. Do you know your snakes. Are they familiar, or unknown. They always say you should fear the unknown. Probably smart advice. Although the snake could be a phoenix. Don’t know till you look. Probably a snake. You’re full of snakes. Do you think you’re not. You are most certainly mistaken. The line between good and evil runs through the middle of every human heart. In case you hadn’t herd. But don’t stumble now. The stairs of discontent are steep. Are your legs long enough. Do your muscles burn. Does the ache agonise you. Well you’re not alone. You stand upon the death of a billion men. Don’t falter. The burn will ease. Although, it is easier not to. It is easier to run. To blame. To curse. Some take great pleasure in it. Perhaps you will too. Perhaps you won’t. You think you won’t. Be careful of such thoughts. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. You needn’t remember anything more.
Edwards nose fell upon the table. He barely looked up to give it a despairing look. Perhaps just grateful it didn’t land in his soup. The others at the table fared no better. His mother Margaret had only one ear, a frizzly scraggle of hair and not much else. His father Norman was the worst of the lot, his face had slid off last June when he bent down to pickup the newspaper at the front door, needless to say, the news read no better that day. Edwards younger brother and sister were the only ones who could manage a smile, mostly because they were the only ones still with lips. Youthful ignorance their only friend, but time would come for them as it did for all. The unwelcome knock at the door. You just have to hope it doesn’t come for your good eye, or your preferred hand. Although it was given that what you valued most would be taken first, as if it was some cruel joke. But no one ever heard who was laughing. Perhaps that is the oddest part of all.
I once thought that to think that there was an intrinsic purpose to life was silly. I thought if one thought there was, one only got there by lying to themselves, deluding themselves in fear of death. I saw the world as just a place where things existed and everything happened purely by chance. Everyone and everything was here because of an uncountable number of chance happenings that lead to the universe, and to life. To me this suggested there lacked any purpose, for it to be chance instantly makes life arbitrary. The only conclusion I could come to was that our only purpose was to reproduce. That was it, like all other animals, we were here to live meaningless lives merely to create more meaningless lives.
What I now know is that my nihilism lead to, or in some way correlated with being hedonistic. I’m yet to work out, whether it is our nihilistic society that teaches hedonism, or if it is an evolution within the individual, perhaps a combination of the two. Whatever the cause, I lived my life for the moment, everything around me told me that this was the way to live. People, advertisements, magazines, TV, all said almost everything should be sacrificed to gain experiences and pleasures. Why? Because you might die tomorrow, because what else could you possibly do worth while in your life. More importantly because other people were doing it and posting it on their Facebook. Everything was about instant gratification, nothing could wait. If quality had to be sacrificed for time, I never thought twice. Now was all that mattered. Tomorrow doesn’t exist, the eternal now was all I had. Why should I make a sacrifice for what might not pay off, or that I might not be around to cash in.
The combination of these two philosophies were destructive. I made choices against my future for the benefit of the next five minutes. In the moment I could be satisfied, underneath, I was struggling. Life felt empty. I resented myself for not making better choices for the future I inevitably had to face. I needed to change, but I could not see how, or even why. I convinced myself I just needed more. More experiences. More stuff. Then I’d feel good. Then, I’d be happy.
So how did I escape the nihilism and hedonism which is so rampant in our western societies? Firstly I have to thank Jordan B. Peterson. It was not only by his word, but he is certainly the most influential of all. But to break it down, it was just a matter of learning. I found answers, I found that I was wrong. Now when I say wrong, I mean it in two ways. Technically, and pragmatically. Both are important in a journey in understanding your place in life. What saved me was my passion to learn and curiosity. My desire and interest in new ideas, slowly I found a path toward better ideas. These ideas were like pistachio nuts, each one you ate just makes you want another one.
We chase happiness as though it were air to breath. Like there was nothing more important or even anything else to consider. There are a few problems with this, firstly, happiness is fleeting even for those who lead the best lives (whatever that means). But really life is fundamentally suffering, you ignore this fact at your own peril. To do so will inevitably lead to frustration with life and resentment against whatever you come define as God, if you cannot conceptualise such a being, then the results are even worse. In this situation there is no one to blame or be angry at, the results of this can be as we see with mass shootings. Nihilists who wish to show the world just how resentful they are to the nature of being, hence why they always go for the most innocent victims available. I can’t help but believe that those who know that life is suffering are prepared and see no reason for resentment for their lot in life. It’s something to do with expectations, which are a real problem in our society. In the West today we raise children to be resentful. We instil in them a level of expectation that one could never hope to satisfy and philosophy destined to fail them.
There is a number of ways I believe we fail children, the first is this idea of inclusiveness, of removing the meritocracy. The first thing we do with children is tell them they can be anything the want, they just have to try. It sounds lovely and innocent but the effects have been shown to be quite the opposite. We continue to reinforce this belief when we give them medals for participation. We remove all capability of learning from failure, of learning perseverance. Next we remove their ability to push their own boundaries and learn what they are and are not capable of, everything, and everyone must be wrapped in bubble wrap. We don’t allow them to do anything that might be possible to hurt themselves, or others. In turn, this hurts our children and inevitably, our societies. Children no longer find and experience the limits and the boundaries, instead they are sheltered only to grow up to become adults who have failed to learn their own boundaries and limitations, they fail to learn about the world correctly.
The answer to nihilism isn’t simple or easy, or maybe it is. Maybe it is the logos. This is the spoken word, the truth. For me it all comes back to pragmatism. This ability we have, we must use to bring forth what helps us. If we continue to foster youth whom misunderstood the fundamentals of life then we are not achieving what we could. If we are here to do anything, then that is to make tomorrow better, not just for yourself, but for all.
Faded birch deck. Boards bowing with age as if rejecting the life they were given. Nails protruding up, taking the boards attempt of as escape as a catalyst to their own.
The sun beams down, saturating an inescapable heat over weather boards with flaking white paint. Faded joinery only managing to hint at the once bold colour it once wore in youth. That colour today would be anyones guess.
Inside echoed the strange sounds of an empty house, each foot step a violent reminder of the has-beens that memories collected here had become. Michael stood at the window after walking the hallway to the end, past the kitchen and into the sun room which over looked the ocean.
Outside as the weak winter sun beat down, the wind was calm but the ocean was angry. Furious waves crashed in a messy action as if a toddler was throwing a tantrum in a bath. A storm had recently passed and the ocean was always the last to give up the game.
The view was calming for Michael, his fondest memories were of storms, the sound of the rough ocean would forever be linked to those times. They were welcome thoughts at this time, a time when happy thoughts were too few and far between.
This house once represented a home to Michael, a place where he would rest his battered mind, where he would watch the rain on the windows in winter, and where he would lie on the couch by the window in summer, a book in his hand.
These memories were rocks in his mind, a place to cling to when the current was too strong. This was one of those times.
He walked around the house, touching all the spots that triggered memories, the gash on the lounge doorframe, the chip on the benchtop corner and the faded circular patch of carpet in his old bedroom.
Each one he felt connected to, a soothing sensation followed each texture. Closing his eyes his imagination could take him back. The smells, the weight of the air, everything would rush back. Such action was addictive to Michael. He had been down this road before, being lost unto his mind, the real world became depressing in comparison. He was resolute in his mind not to return, but he didn’t really trust himself.
“I need this”, he whispered to himself, justifying his actions just as an alcoholic would.
Michael was all too aware of his actions and the rationale he adhered to them. It didn’t take long for his mind to over think it and he began to pace up and down the hallway.
Michael had a strange walk, his lanky features didn’t help the situation. It was as though he was an old man with worn slippers who had to walk a certain way to keep them from sliding off his feet, so when he walked his arms and legs would go first and his body would follow. As unusual as his gait was, Michael was a simple and gentle man, his world was self fulfilled. Taking his time, with each part of his life, he wasn’t a self described perfectionist but he knew how he wanted things. This was possibly what bothered him the most, as his life had failed to manifest the ideals he held dear in his mind. Although little of it was to do with his own actions, or lack of.
Two years ago he was in a very different place. His wife and his two young daughters were still alive, so were his parents. The pacing of the latter was what brought him to be in their old house again. He wasn’t sure why he had come back but he figured his unconscious mind knew better how to heal itself than his conscious mind did.
He was wearing a long grey overcoat in which his hands rested in the pockets as though both his arms had gone to sleep. He was hunched over as though he didn’t have the energy to stand up properly. The last two years had sucked the life out of Michael, his skin was devoid of colour and his hair had quickly began turning grey as if trying to blend with his complexion. Even with the great toll the accumulated events had taken on him he still remained quite functional, he was stuck in a sort of auto pilot. As though someone else had taken the controls and he was merely witnessing someone else’s life in first person.
It was all rather surreal when he pondered it, but even thinking had a disconnected feeling to it. At times he would pinch his arm with his fingernails so hard he would bleed, as though the act might kick him out of the seeming other dimension he was trapped within.
In the sun room a large cane chair still remained, he studied it for a moment before deciding to sit in it. He was unsure why it remained when every other piece of furniture was gone. Considering this fact he couldn’t but help but look at it as though it was alien to him. Sitting in the chair wasn’t a comfortable experience, the cushions were gone and the cane had broken in places making parts stick out and stab into him as he applied his weight. He didn’t mind this much, in some sense he found pleasure in it as it reminded him of the age of the chair. He pondered if he had become a little masochistic, but the thought disappeared quickly.
Sitting in the chair and looking outside into the haze of sea spray he drifted into the haziness of his own mind. He thought about the expectation of life, of the human expectation of fairness, of what had been, and of what it had become. It didn’t take him long to realise he related to this chair more than any other human being alive. What he valued in life had been washed away, eroded and faded by time. A line of events that had been, and events which had not yet happened. Everything that he had been was gone, the real Michael laid somewhere in the past. What existed now was the chair. Everything with which he had purpose for was now gone. He no longer served the world in the way he once had, he was broken and parts were sticking out. He was now quasi-real, he quasi-existed. He now knew why the chair remained when everything else was gone, he just hadn’t been taken away yet.
Pain leaps, for joy – for sorrow. It dances upon your grave. What is it to you. This, this that is you. Do you hold and grip, dry are the hands that never close, slippery are the ones that remain closed. You should run. But you shouldn’t. Is the answer right, little does it matter what your mother thought. There are ones who tell you what is so. Denied, but the truth is somewhere down there.
Somewhere a piano plays. Melodies, are they sad or gay. Do you shrink or do you rise. This is not for you to choose, although you must decide. Choice is a bit like never being asked. What is will. You walk alone, a poorly lit street, the bewitching hour has past. Noises, foreign, threatening. Is it sodden mud under foot. Is there a welcoming inn up the street. Does the end of the street meet the end of the road. Does a stone have your last sight written upon it.
Memories. Are they what they appear. If you ponder upon them. Do they become clearer. The path behind more certain. Does the sky change colour. Is there red, is there blue. Are you sure. If you’re not, what will you do about it. Did you wake just now, or do you still sleep. Was that emotion. That lantern, hanging above your row boat. Does it guide your way on the misty lake. Does it’s light shine toward surer water. Does it hide things in shadows. Is this a corner of your mind. The undusted. Is the cutlery blunt. Is this house your own. Do the doors stay open. Or do you close them behind you. Do you check your keys. Is there more than you expected. Are the unknown large or small. Do they jingle a soft tone. Do they make you cringe when they rattle.
If you point. What do you point at. Is that it. Are you sure. Have you checked. You probably should. When you walk. What plays. The violin. The cello. When you fly. Do you fly with birds. Do you fly with beetles. Birds can be vultures. Choices are never what they seem. Cracks and seams. So much darkness can be hidden. It sneaks. It creeps. It stays hidden so you cannot see the light. Contrasts. Distinctions. Names. The separation of the chaos from the order.
Do you know where your foot stands. Does chaos melt your soul. Does order chill your bones. The balance of Yin. Of Yang. Where are your feet. I bet you’re not even sure without careful reflection. Unless they’re both in chaos. Then you know. You know all too well. Bring back something worthy. Don’t waste your chaos. Your life will be spent dancing round it. Make it count when you fall in.
When I lay awake at night, when the long night won’t take me on a short journey so easily, it’s generally because there is too much going round in my mind.
I’m thinking of life, living, being and how to do those things properly, as always. It’s not uncommon for me, I seem to be particularly concerned with such topics, more so the ideas of, rather than the implementation of. It is a topic you can never stop learning on, there is no definitive answer, more a general direction and in a sense, a journey.
The art of living you might call it, a path that if achieved properly will be full of events which topple you, that will throw you down the stairs. But only due to these events will you then climb higher than before. Each stair ascended you’ll realise there is even more steps than previously thought. In a sense this is the journey.
Here are some pointers that I can humbly offer to help you climb.
Make good sacrifices.
A sacrifice is essential to being human. Many thousands of years ago we discovered what a sacrifice was, that is to bargain with the future. While our being is trapped in the eternal now, our being, within this eternal now can project the concept of time to allow us to make choices that benefit this future self. So in a sense this is what allows you to improve yourself. This is why you save money, go to university, skip desert and iron your shirts. While this all seems rather obvious one fact you may overlook is the quality of your sacrifices. Not all sacrifices are successful and we often never understand why, but if you sacrifice what is of value with faith, if you give with truth and honesty it will be repaid. You will see returns worthy of your risk. Try it.
Speaking of truth this is the second pointer I can give
Speak the truth, no matter how much it hurts.
Now this is a kind of obvious but this doesn’t just mean to others, but to yourself as well. Speaking the truth has power that is hard to comprehend till you wield it and use the spoken word to bring forth betterment for you and all others beholden and stranger. This is the logos. The logos, or truth will strike through any problem, it is that powerful. When you speak the truth good things will happen, by that I don’t mean you’ll suddenly end all suffering on Earth. What I do mean is that you can, with your effort and your truth, bring light upon your own little garden. Start speaking the truth to those closest to you. Watch those relationships become stronger, as they will starting speaking the truth back to you. The hardest concept to understand of this is that speaking the truth doesn’t just mean saying things that are true. Discovering what this means will have profound effects, just try it.
Life is suffering.
This is pretty much the first thing you should learn about life. It isn’t simple, easy, kind, compassionate or fair. These are simple facts. The sooner you realise and accept it the easier the whole journey will be. Not because you cannot then be disappointed, but because then you will find value in life. You will see that the suffering you accept and bare burden to, is what makes being human so special. Some will take this and therefore assume it is better to not live at all, this is all too common from those of the twenty first century. I can see how people end up here, but I think this is the wrong conclusion to draw. Suffering adds value to life, it gives a purpose to life. I could give a million examples of how we do this and appreciate it in smaller scale, something gets lost for some in the bigger picture though. I will say one thing, history is market by those who bore immense suffering.
This is a great segway into the next pointer.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.
The reality is that life is suffering because your immense vulnerability. From your nakedness and from disease, injury, cancer, heart disease, drowning, suffocating, emotional pain. . . the list is endless. It’s a wonder we all can get out of bed in the morning really, but if you think like that then you are missing a very valuable lesson. To be vulnerable is to be human, to be limited is to be able to strive. To be human is to fight, for life, for survival, for growth, for success, for love, for your fellow man. Without this our emotions would be useless, it would really be pointless, meaningless and devoid of purpose. What good is love without loss, success without effort. Our vulnerability is what moves us to emotion. It is what fills us, it fills us to the point of overflowing, in art, in music, in exploration, of mind, body and world. This is how we create what gives us joy, what gives us drive. This is what gives us purpose! We take what is raw, we take what is cold and we bring it to life because we feel it, we can emote and bring meaning upon it. To be vulnerable is to be alive. Embrace your vulnerability, it is what brings the value to your suffering.
It is late so I must retire, but when you lie in bed awake next, think of your sacrifices, your suffering and your vulnerability. I hope these thoughts fill you with the fulfilment they do for me.
A word many associate with the negative. A word, that to many means weakness. Such an idea is only born of immaturity and fear. I can however, understand how people come to see it this way though as I used to be one of them. I was once afraid of it, afraid I’d appear weak, not good enough. I feared the consequences of opening myself up, I feared whatever was shared would be used against me.
What I did not realise is what I was trading for my perceived protection was worth far, far more. The problem many face in their ignorance to the value of vulnerability is a rather complex one, one made up of many facets. So lets try and break it down.
I feel the first major concept one must understand is why one would find value in vulnerability. Essentially this breaks down to creating value within any kind of relationship, including one with your self. What I mean by this is that the more protection one has, the less committed they are, and not only that, the less they have to lose. If you hear of someone flying to the other side of the planet to chase a lover, you think, shit, that person must really love him/her, on account of the high risk and cost if rejection. You see it is this display of vulnerability that instilled value into his/her lover. Lets look at another example, a woman who quits her established career to follow a dream of being an artist. In this example the value is created in the art, for she has raised the stake of its importance, this is therefore transferred directly into this passion.
I can understand some might find this all a little.. abstract. Well, it is. But if you keep following I hope I’ll iron and dispel and doubts you may still have.
In economics there is a term “scarcity creates demand”. This is rather effective term to explain the next point. While one of the more obvious features of being vulnerable, it is nonetheless important. So to explain, why do we value anything? Almost always the value of something comes down to its availability. Can you easily get it, or is it hard to get. I don’t think I need to explain this one too much, except on how it links in. Vulnerability, regardless of how comfortable you are with it is something not something found in abundance, this is where scarcity comes, and you guessed it, demand. As humans we value people who show us vulnerability, it shows how much that person values us, and in return, we value them.
As we get deeper down this rabbit hole the concepts get harder to explain, this next one takes some fundamental rewiring to understand. It is also not easy to explain, but I shall do my best.
Being as it is, and that is rather abstract, these examples might be rather abstract also. But bear with me. So, if we think of heaven, or god even, lets us go with god. So god is meant to be three things, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. This is theologians idea of an unlimited being, so the one thing god cannot be in limited. This is where we have our uhuh(!) moment. Because to be all these omni-thingies is the very definition of not being able to value anything. I know, this is confusing, but let me explain. Think for a moment about why we as humans generally love all things “cute”, what would you suggest all these “cute” things generally have in common? I’m fairly certain most of you will agree that is vulnerability. So following this logic you can see, while many may still claim to love god irregardless of this fact, but other things are valued due to their vulnerability. It is where if you remove this vulnerability that you take away the things you love. If kittens had hard skin as protection, we probably wouldn’t find them so cute, if your lover was devoid of emotion like a robot you might find them rather hard to love.
If the world of love and relationships were a market, vulnerability would be like diamonds, nothing else would be valued as highly. So ask yourself this, why exclude yourself from this market when you have something so valuable to trade. You have it, we all have.
We just have to be open, be free, be naked, leave you inhibitions, your reservations, your doubts on the floor. Don’t dip your toes in, just jump in.
If you’re not vulnerable, you’re playing a dumby hand, it’s not real, you aren’t playing for keeps. You only have one foot in ready to pull it out incase you’re caught over investing. Fear will control you till you self author your life.
You only get one shot, make it count.