Our perverse desire to measure our lives, comes from a very deep sense of restlessness.
It seems to come from the baser part of our human nature. Leaving us broken and defeated, while the victor, satisfied, for the moment at least, takes his bow.
In time, the champion will fall too, and it doesn’t take too long, because after all, it all must, somehow, come unhinged and unravelled. The victor becomes a victim. A victim of their own success. Overcome with anxiety and fear. Overwhelmed by the overindulging standards of success, which in time, they can’t possibly hope to maintain.
And so, we dance.
We raise our hands, longing for our turn. We roll the dice, hoping for the right numbers to fall. We buy our lottery tickets, get the right education, land the perfect job, and we rub our rabbit’s foot, counter clockwise, of course, always counter clockwise, because, really, what else are we going to do?
How about nothing?
Not a single fucking thing.
(Yes, I said fucking, let’s move on).
You have to understand, once and for all, that you have nothing to prove.
There is absolutely nothing for you to do.
There are no standards you must master. Tests you must ace. Palms you must grease. Crowds you must please. There are no goals for which you must endure developing an ulcer.
It’s all make believe.
A nightmarish playground, where everyone is unhappy, because they are not somebody else.
You were given life.
Don’t dismiss it so quickly.
The ability to connect.
To be someone.
To make something; for yourself and for others.
You were given a little bit of time, so you can tell the people you come in contact with, what you think and feel. To tell the people you love, what they mean to you. To share your time with them. To laugh with them. To cry with them. To hug them. To remember them. Before you run out of time, or forget.
Life, can’t be measured.
It must be lived.
And being, can’t be won.
I’m not saying that being alive negates our need to work. That it abolishes our need to create or to do something with our lives. There will always be a time to learn something, to do something, to make something, and to sell something. There is plenty of time for all of that, but never, at the expense of living.
And that is the point.
Many of us are resolute to merely survive, so we get a chance to fight again. We lick our wounds, so that we can be well enough someday, to try again.
But life is not about survival.
Life is about art, and music, and poetry.
Life is like a dancer. Moving, jumping, and bending herself to the movements of the music, for no material gain, and for no discerning reason, except that it’s beautiful.
Life is beautiful.
It’s not measurable.
So, stop measuring yourself.
Stop trying to live up to standards, the next generation will ignore anyway.
You probably see winter. Blizzards. White out conditions. Accidents. Slippery roads. Fast and dangerous drivers weaving in and out of traffic.
I see snow.
But I’m not blind to what you see.
I drive the same roads. In the same weather conditions. With the same time constraints, and I get lapped, by the same reckless drivers.
But I choose and want to gaze at the snow.
The fluffy, beautiful, falling snow.
But it wasn’t always like this.
There was a time, a long period of time too, when I was unable to be comfortable with myself, and refused to let go of the many stories, which I falsely invented about myself. Stories that held me back, like quicksand. That demanded way too much of my life, and left me completely exhausted.
There was a time when I resembled the walking dead. A time when I was not alive.
I did not know happiness. Or understood that I was not determined by my environment.
I became a human being that has learned artfully how to bend, to bend low, and bend often, but no longer a creature, that could not help himself and break.
And so, I now see the snow.
I see one snow flake anxiously following another, in very rapid succession and purpose. Falling on trees, on the cold pavement, or on anything and everything in its sights.
Relentless. Unapologetic. Unconcerned with what we think of it.
I see snow.
I hope you do too.
Many of us become stuck in what the psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl called, the existential vacuum.
We become trapped in a dense darkness. Not a suicidal type of darkness, an emotionally painful darkness, but the type of darkness that confounds many brilliant astronomers. The darkness of space and time, where nothing exists, and nothing happens.
All of us. Without exception.
At some point, inevitably, absolutely, and sometimes, a few times over, we face this existential vacuum, despite our stubbornness.
When we are born we are given this task, to figure out why we are here. To figure out what being alive is all about.
We are on a quest to figure out what makes life worthwhile.
What makes her meaningful.
Perhaps we are here to see the snow. Or ignore it, and see instead, the havoc that snow gets blamed for.
That is the true indicator, you are smack in the middle of an existential vacuum.
You have nothing to do. Or you have so much to do, that you can do nothing.
You have no time for yourself or for anything that matters.
You’ll do it later, of course. When you have more money. More time. When you retire. When your kids grow up. When your husband changes. When they elect a new president.
You are satisfied to live a life of exhaustion. Numbing repetition. Confusion and full of anxiety.
You’ve settled for a life without excitement.
A life with traffic accidents, but a life without snow.
When was the last time you let a snowflake land on your hand and gazed at it like a child?
Saw the stars? Visited your grandmother who is imprisoned with dementia? Were kind to your ex-wife? Or were understanding of the pressures your children’s face at school?
When was the last time you were truly excited about something? Couldn’t sleep because you couldn’t wait to get up and get going in the morning?
Ate meals to fuel your body, instead of to simply pleasure and soothe your mind?
I see snow.
I see things that I missed for decades.
I am excited about living again, to the point that I’m worried I will burst.
I hope you don’t have to wait that long, to get excited too.
I hope you get to see what for so long, choose not to see.
Funny in the sense that while we all believe truth exists, the actual colour, shape, and form it holds, is often filtered through our own, limited, best guess scenario, set of assumptions. We hinder and distort reality by the very fact that we don’t know everything. We can’t know everything.
This is magical in a sense, because in a world of science, there are no surprises.
We distort our reality by being human. Gloriously human. We fail to see right because we are limited by the very square space from which we gaze upon the truth. That little piece of the whole, which we call our experience, which always distorts what we see, creates what we want to see, yet it is the only way we can derive any of our understanding in the first place.
And its magical.
I understand that our distorted understanding of the truth is very vexing for everyone. We are all shuffling our feet in total darkness, holding on to a different piece of the elephant, arguing with each other who is right.
Our limited version of the truth, which in our defence is all we were given, can create some unpleasant confusion, and lead to serious frustration.
When we share what we think we see with others, we are putting ourselves on a collision course to be seriously misunderstood.
We are putting ourselves on a path to clash with other people’s versions of reality, and their own prickly little insensibilities.
This is why it is socially forbidden to talk about politics or religion at parties, with people of good social standing.
This is silly I think, because they are the most important of all the subjects, which is probably why people are willing to die for their truth, something which they are not willing to do for a nice piece of cherry pie. Not unless it is a really, really good piece of pie.
Religion tries to deal with why we are here, and what the ultimate purpose of our existence might be, while politics, on the other hand, deals with how we are to justly govern ourselves, what we have to do to live meaningful lives, and how to better care for the vulnerable.
Or so they should anyhow.
A bit philosophical perhaps, but our perception of how we see what is real is funny nonetheless.
Let’s turn to you.
What about your reality?
What about the truth of how you see yourself and where you are going?
Do you have the courage at any time in the day to look yourself in the mirror? To have a good look. Do you have the valour to gaze into your own eyes? Your windows to your very soul?
What will you find there?
Pain? Regret? Sorrow?
Words of hate and admonition for yourself? Voices from the past hurling hateful epitaphs in your direction?
Or will you find joy?
Peace? Forgiveness? Unused blueprints of some abandoned dreams?
Perhaps some faith and hope? Some love?
Words of encouragement and understanding? Voices from the future calling you towards something greater than yourself?
If truth and reality is not as reliable as we were taught to think it is, when we were children, wouldn’t it make more sense to shape it, the way we want reality to appear?
If other people will not understand or will misinterpret your, is that a good reason to capitulate or abandon your dreams, or give up trying?
I mean, if you are too blind and unsatisfied with the piece of the elephant you are currently holding, wouldn’t it make more sense, instead of arguing or getting angry about it, to simply suck it up and stumble in the darkness, to look for another piece to hold.
A piece that perhaps feels a little better? Suits your life a little more?
Reality is very cold, calculating, and most scientific.
But we as artists are born to wrap it up, in our own warm blanket of technicolour.
To shape things how we want them to be. To shape our own destiny.
Reality really doesn’t matter much. People will see what they want to see. Truth will not be offended by the choices you make, one way or another.
In the future, you will change your mind how things were a thousand times. You will reshape and thinking of what you remember a million ways.
You are bound to forget.
So, forget who you think you are today. Erase what other people think you are.
Don’t be afraid to stumble in the dark.
Keep circling that elephant and stop arguing who is right.
His words and heart felt wisdom continue to haunted me. They have haunted me ever since I heard him for the first time, in the brilliantly magnificent documentary, simply titled; Human.
(Not only human, but Human).
Forget binge-watching whatever is on your list and see it for free online.
His words were planted inside my mind a while ago. They have grown much and continue to sober me up.
I am grateful for his candor and his message. His suffering and his call to happiness.
If you are not familiar with Jose Mujica, you should know that he was the president of Uruguay from 2010 to 2015, but prior to that, he led quite the life and suffered as farmer, a freedom fighter, a prisoner, for over ten years, and a hostage.
Today he preaches the philosophy of sobriety.
Not an easy idea to embrace or sell in North America.
A consumer society, in a progressively vicious battle between a culture of life and the culture of death.
Sobriety is somewhat contrary to our materialistic, consumer wants and desires. Somewhat sobering, as we recover from our New Year’s celebrations, and the universal hangover that slowly dissipates from our collective consciousness.
Somehow, I don’t believe there are many people are ready to listen, but they should.
We need to study the philosophy of sobriety.
I think its best you hear Jose Mujica for yourself, but I while I have you here I will guide you through some of his insights, if for no other reason than some safekeeping.
I take no credit for any of his thoughts. They are his ideas. Earned through years of suffering. Years of meditation. Years of practice.
I only offer a bit of commentary. Because as brilliant as they are in their own right, without my words and yours, they will never spread. And they should.
They need to spread deep. The need to fly far and wide.
Deep into every human soul. Into every crevice of your mind.
You need to take it easy on yourself. Stop beating yourself up for not having or not doing what you imagined you should be doing by this point.
You are not a cog in a wheel. You are not a drunken sailor.
But you do need to renew your love affair with life.
You need to fall in love with the act of being, and it can’t be done half assed or on a part time basis. At some point, and hopefully this happens for you really soon, you will dare to leap. To jump, go all in, and finally embrace, once and for all, everything, in its totality, and allow the act of living to permeate your life.
“Either you’re happy with very little, free of all the extra luggage, because you have happiness inside, or you don’t get anywhere!”
You don’t need to get anywhere.
You have everything you need.
You either have it already, or if you lack something, it is readily available to you. It is not easy to get, of course. Worthwhile things are never quick or easy, but they are abundantly available. The problem is that most people never try, but they are yours, if you only reach out and take the time to look for them.
Ask and it will be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be open.
This is not a call for a life of poverty. It is an invitation for sobriety.
Jose Mujica believes that we have either invented, or else, inherited a consumer society, and a progressively sick mind. A society that today, probably feels a bit exhausted, from all those Black Friday deals, and Boxing Day sales. I bet there are many poor souls who are probably not even clear headed enough to realize, that those credit card bills, that took so little effort to accumulate, will take a lifetime and years of labour, to have disappear.
“When you buy something, you are not paying with money. You are paying with the hours of life you had to spend earning that money”.
Think about that.
Tell me that this is not a sobering thought?
Tell me that this doesn’t change the conversation about the worth of our salaries, and how much time we should be willing to sacrifice to earn that money? Tell me that it doesn’t sober you up, in terms of how you spend your life earning a living?
“The difference is, that life, is one thing money can’t buy”.
You will never get more time.
You can’t buy it, but you can always find a new way to earn a little more.
Hell, leaving the country and converting all your dollars into some pesos, for example, would create a whole new reality in your life, if you were willing to be a global citizen, and not just a Canadian one.
Our school system doesn’t help either.
The ‘normal school’ is nothing more than an old, worn out, industrial factory, nudging students into three pathways, so they can become very dutiful consumers, or at the very least, won’t become a financial burden to our society.
“Human beings may be the only animals capable of self-destruction”.
It doesn’t take much effort, or thought for that matter, to realize how true this is. It doesn’t take much time to come to grips with the truth how often we become our own worst enemy. Hindering and spoiling our own happiness, instead of living in the moment.
You are never truly finished.
“You can always pick yourself up again. It’s always worth it, starting from zero again, once, or a thousand times, so long as you’re still alive”.
A thousand times.
A hundred thousand times, a million-million million times.
Your mistakes are never fatal, as long as you continue to have life in you, or the desire to begin again.
Don’t kill your dreams. Don’t let them die.
It is never easy to rise from the ashes, but you have to believe that you can. You have to keep a hint of a spark and always pick yourself up again.
“You are never defeated until you give up the fight”.
And it is never good to give up the fight.
So, keep fighting. Keep kicking. Keep punching.
Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Keep dreaming. Keep living. Keep hoping.
Rethink what you need. Reimagine what you can’t live without.
See money as a tool and don’t let its love steal your time.
What a defeatist cop-out. What a vicious and villainous way to make excuses. By blaming your misgivings and frustrations on the very thing that makes life beautiful.
Look. I get it.
I get the frustration.
I get the disappointments. Failures. Mistakes. Accusations. The self-loathing. The self-questioning. The gut wrenching flashes that question whether its ever worth starting all over again.
But to say I’m only human, is to admit defeat by no longer wrestling with your humanity.
Just like Jacob who wrestled the Angel, we are meant to wrestle with our humanity. To push and pull at our stubborn nature and create something that has never been seen, felt, or heard.
That is our mandate and our mission.
To be human. Fully human, fully alive.
You are not the sum total of your mistakes.
Your human dignity and creativity gives you the opportunity to climb out of your ashes, as many times as you are willing to rise.
You are human.
Take great consolation in the fact that your humanity stands on the shoulders of some pretty cool giants.
You don’t have to know anything about nuclear fusion or the electrical currents, in order to create light. You just have to be willing to flick the switch.
You don’t have to pick cotton, or personally manufacture polyester. You don’t have to know how the zipper works. You don’t have to create new stitching techniques. You don’t have to make any dye that colours your thread. You don’t have to forge your own needle. You don’t have to make your own pencils, or grind a tree to a pulp, to create paper. You just have to be yourself, be human, and imagine a piece of fabric that will stun the eye with its beauty.
You don’t have to be exceptional or even gifted to make a difference. You just have to identify a need, fill it, and show the rest of us that there is another way to do something.
Forget the world.
Forget trying to please everyone and don’t live your life by their applause.
Why don’t you try it for us?
Why don’t you try being human for us?
Just us. Forget them.
You’re not only human. You are human.
Warts and all.
Colossal fuckups and everything.
How about we grow a little this year, and stop making excuses for ourselves, as to why we can’t be or can’t do, what we want to be and do.
The list of excuses and scientific evidence you have marshalled against yourself is simply enormous. You’re only human, and only a fool wrestles with Angels.
But there is a crack in your supposed scientific method.
You never put yourself or your knowledge to the test.
You give up before you start. You talk yourself out of it, before you even begin.
Or you quit before you get to the end.
You let the gaze and noise of those who don’t know you dictate how you’re going to conduct your business.
You lie to yourself that you’re only human.
So, have the courage to be human.
Don’t be afraid to fail.
Hold tight to your dreams and follow them.
Follow them through thick untrodden paths. Follow them through thickets full of poison ivy, if necessary. Run after them. Chase them. Run through the night. Fall and stumble through the day.