So how do I do this?
That’s actually a daunting question for most of us. But wait. I didn’t exactly say what “this” refers to, did I? “This” refers to life. At first glance the question may seem simple, even ridiculously simple to some. But I’m certain that, sooner or later, every one of us must seriously rethink a frivolous notion like that one. We all gotta come crawling back, ears drooped and tails between our legs, and all the fences lined with every last cat in the neighbourhood, sneering down at us and positively dying with meow-laughter (what am I even saying?! What was that?). Yeah, embarrassing, isn’t it? (Pun intended…) We’ve all lived and proved one thing at least: “Life” is often anything but simple.
So how do I do this?
Let’s try to put it all in perspective. First we’ve got to quantify a few terms — you know, just for the heck of it. Well, in truth, just so we can actually get somewhere while we grapple with this question. First, what do I mean by “life”? What’s the context of this whole thing? What’s there that needs “doing”? Another deceptively “simple” question. I mean, anyone with a brain behind their eyes (that’s just about everyone…right?) knows what “life” is. Ah, my friend, if only it were that simple!
Outside of university Philosophy classes (and possibly good ol’ Socrates), relatively few people seriously concern themselves with things like “the meaning of life” and “living” and all that nice jazzy stuff anymore. Let’s not get it twisted. Everybody talks about being concerned with “the meaning of life” and “living” and “world peace” and “love” and “community” and “humanity” and all that nice jazzy stuff. But let’s be blunt here: how many people actually do more than talk about it? It’s all in the image nowadays. We all must seem as if we’re tackling profound and lofty ideas such as these. We must all be perceived of as thoughtful and progressive individuals. Yet, half the time (and that’s being generous, isn’t it?), do we not find that the very people we find to be spouting these ideas and foisting this image of depth of soul and superior wisdom/experience on the matter are really only focused on surviving?
Look at the “fast-paced-ness” of our world (Yup, I invent words, too!). Look at the focus on earning and earning and earning and earning some more. And then consuming and consuming and consuming and consuming some more…aaaaaand consuming. Look at families today. Look at the time they have for one another. Or how about the workplace? Or the education system? Crime and criminals (blue and white-collar)? Doesn’t it all just scream “SURVIVE!”? Yet aren’t these people the very same ones who claim to be able to tell us how best to “LIVE”? What to do to make LIFE and make it more worthwhile?
Companies and commercials tell us that buying this or that will help us shape our lives. Bosses tell us investing more time and energy and turning a profit is what’ll make us a living. Parents tell children that they’re busy because they have to make a life for them (and that justifies their not having time for their children in almost every part of the globe, and authorizes others to take that time from them in the first place). The media presents us with something on a silver screen or something to listen to and then says “This is what life looks like! This is the way to live! Go here! Show up there! Do this! Wear that! Get one of these! Get a house in this region! Drive one of those! This is the good life, man!” Education ministers the world over tell us that a good education is what secures a good life for you, a future. Crime bosses tell us, “This is the only way to live: take what you can, get what you need or deserve by any means necessary and fend for yourself. You can only live in this cold world by adjusting and being even colder!”
And we do all this. With irreproachable levels of obedience and obstinacy! We buy and consume and buy and consume. And then buy and consume some more (often spending money we don’t even have). We work and work and find a second job in the meantime; and then work over time, and take 2 vacations in 10 years. We cry tears of blood and comfort ourselves in the fact that we can’t see our kids or parents often, but that it’s “all for the best in the end”, it’s all for the sake of “a better life”. We wear the latest styles. Drive the flashiest cars (even if it’s only borrowed so we could impress the girl or our friends). Work our butts off for that house on the hill. Frequent the hottest chill spots and events. Drink the most exotic wines. Struggle from the grassroots of anonymity all the way up to the presidency, or til we’re C.E.O of the biggest multinational corporation in life, or we’re some famous, erudite, sought-after professor at some big-shot institution. We rob and kill and perjure and forge and fight “the system” and push drugs. We get disgustingly rich at long last or we wrestle with abject poverty even despite our best efforts.
And you know what? We go home at nights feeling just as empty and uncomfortable and drained as we had left, if not more. It matters not the size of the paycheck or the bankbook (or lack thereof) in the end.
Isn’t something terribly wrong here? (Elephant in the room… Behold the awkward silence!)
So how do I do this?
What’s the secret recipe to life? Obviously it isn’t money or fame or achievement or possessions. Life entails far more than this. It’s more than just the “places to go, people to see and things to do.” Life is far more complex. We are merely watching the calm waters rolling past. But “Silent rivers run deep.” Anyone with a quick answer has never even begun to give this some serious thought.
Life is a journey. We daily navigate the Waters of Time. But these are deep waters. There’s far more to them than meets the eye.