“The memories fade
like looking through a fogged mirror
decision to decisions are made and not bought
but I thought
this wouldn’t hurt a lot
I guess not
take only what you need from it.”
-Allison Weiss (via MGMT), “Kids”
My friend Fish thinks I’d be more influential as a writer of non-fiction than fiction. Here goes:
The point of life is probably twofold. For one, it’s about doing what’s right. This is absurdly challenging and usually attempts to make it work will backfire. This doesn’t make the effort futile – if anything, it makes it that much more important. If you think about the things you’ve done in life that were worthwhile or positive or made a lasting impression on your life, I bet not one of them was easy. I bet they all required preparation, effort, time, energy, angst, frustration, and the sum total of past mistakes informing your future attempts at avoidance of same. Life is mostly a pain, mostly pain itself, but this doesn’t undermine the point of living. If anything, it is the point of living. Not that we should aspire to pain or cause it, but that without pain it would be so much harder to know right from wrong than it already is. Pain steers us back in the right direction, for only by getting hurt do we understand how much we’ve hurt others.
The other point of life is about maximizing the meaning of life. This isn’t to say that there is one set or proscribed meaning, whatever you may think about the way this post might make it seem like I believe otherwise. Rather, the quest for meaning and the journey we undertake in finding meaning is the most significant aspect of existence. We only get one shot at this planet and I promise you it’s not so we can get comfortable with a mundane life, or just procure enough so that we can maintain a mundane life. It’s not to get comfortable at all, except perhaps with the idea of our place in the universe and said entity’s desire for us to seek meaning. When you get to your deathbed or you death-vehicle or your death-street or whatever locale will signify the end of your time with us, what will stick out in your remembrance? Will it be the classes you took or the work that you did? Unlikely. I bet it will be people – and moments with those people. Not that classes or work or even television or sporting events can’t be moments with people. But I bet the things that will bubble up to the top as your consciousness fades will be those seminal conversations, those meetings of minds, those moments of connection and sharing, laughing and loving, crying and agonizing, that make up the most savored of our time with this planet. Sure, maybe also the hurt you caused and the things you regret. But that just makes it that much more important to find meaning and take life seriously.
Contemplate the consequences of things. But also take risks. This is a fine line and a hard road to walk. One is not an excuse for not doing the other and somewhere in the paradox is the perfect course of action for any occasion. You have to be aware of what impacts your actions are likely to effectuate and seriously consider whether you want to be responsible for such things. Because make no mistake, you are responsible for your actions. Whatever you do, however you do it, these things are freely chosen by your own will and no amount of excusing it will actually excuse it. This should not be a crushing weight on your soul so much as a liberated opportunity, a breath of fresh air, the opportunity to truly embrace the amount of power and potential you wield in a world with other souls. That you can influence, impact, effect, make statements and actions that irrevocably change the course of life for everyone around you. Take that job seriously without it becoming paralytic. Remind yourself that the things you probably most appreciate about your past are the risks you took. The exhilaration of putting yourself out there, of allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to get hurt, to reach out, to really try to connect with another person in whatever way you did. It’s so rare that we regret those moments. Sometimes they go awry, but then we learn. The rest of the time, they go well, at least for a little while, and we kick ourselves for not being like that all the time.
That’s the take-home message, my friends. Be like that all the time. Decide how you want to live your life, what principles and perspectives are important to you, and just go out and LIVE that way. Don’t let other people (even me) tell you how to live. Don’t let society be a factor, or money, or some other vision or image that you feel you are trying to live up to that may be coincidental to your own perspective. One shot at this planet. You won’t be back here again. You want to be able to look back and know that you were organized and strategic and smart about how you lived, not to maximize the amount of wealth you accumulated or comfort you secured or prestige you notched, but the amount of meaning and positive influence you were able to distill for yourself and others. That’s fulfillment. That’s something worth being hopeful about, worth eating food and sucking up air and moving around for. Don’t drift. Don’t let yourself be blown by the apparent winds of fate or others’ expectations or something that doesn’t fit you. You have free will. You can do what you want. You can want what is right and meaningful and not be bound by notions of “practicality” and “normalcy”.
I am not the first person to tell you this, in some way or another. God-willing, I won’t be the last. Yes, God. God is out there, but even if you don’t think so, this becomes even more important. One shot at this planet. You don’t want to screw it up. And really the only way to screw it up is to not take the ideas herein and those like them seriously. To think that you ought resign, ought abdicate your responsibility to create the most hopeful and meaningful life for yourself and others. Everything else, no matter how ugly or difficult it gets, is fine. You have to try. You have to live, being forever mindful of what is truly important about living.
None of us will ever be worth a single moment of the opportunity of existence. The best any of us can hope for is to find as many of those moments as possible where our appreciation and honor for the moment comes closest to a real understanding.
Make it happen.