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Living with liberty

The human species is not designed for individualism.  It’s not designed for freedom.  It’s wired for tribal societies.  Learning to live as an individual and learning to live with liberty is an incredibly hard thing to do, and it’s something that everyone struggles with to some extent.

People who aren’t ready to become true individuals subscribe to different forms of group think.  Group think is the cradle and the womb for blossoming individuals.  Some people never grow up to be able to think on their own.

And who could blame them really?  The incredibly rapid civilizations that have sprung up over the past couple hundred years are like things that we’ve never seen on this planet before, and it only stands to reason that our minds would have to play a little bit of catch up to learn how to cope with this new world we live in.  It’s evolution in process that we can watch right before our eyes, and we have a whole slew of industries designed to help us along.

‘Man is free only to the extent of his self-mastery’ – Socrates

Becoming a whole person

So I read something interesting in Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen the other day, and I’ll quote it here:

“This wasn’t the person he thought he was, or would have chosen to be if he’d been free to choose, but there was something comforting and liberating about being an actual definite someone, rather than a collection of contradictory potential someone’s.”

I know that I’ve found myself so often in the position of ‘being a collection of contradictory potential someone’s’, and this is so true in your formative years when you’re still trying to figure out who you are.  You try on a bunch of different personalities and behaviors and actions and thought patterns to see which ones you like, and this is something that’s absolutely necessary.  But it’s also something that’s stressful when you have to shift back and forth between them all.

To seek and eventually find that one definite person that you are, or at least are comfortable being, is, in my opinion, the purpose of the entire first part of your life.  Until you figure that out, nothing else really contains much significance.  Everything that you do up to that point is a flailing, a trying, a desire to figure out who you are.

Then once you realize who that person is, is when you can begin to do something meaningful, and really contribute something.  Coming from a standpoint of Experience + Contribution, you can’t actually contribute anything until you’ve reached this milestone.   Everything before then would just be experience.  And experience is great, but experience without contribution is hollow.

Living your life solely for the experiences, for the pleasure, and not actually contributing anything significant is what leads to existential angst and a constant burning desire for more meaning to life.  Some people can live their lives like this and be perfectly happy, which is fine, but for many of us, we want and need more.

Well your contribution is that meaning.  And this is where life fulfillment begins.

Emotions are like clothes

So I’ve struggled with a depression for much of my life.  Lately it’s been much better overall, but every once in a while it still likes to come back to show itself again and try to take hold of me.

Last night I had another bout with it.  It came on quickly, largely just due to annoyances that I couldn’t get off my mind.  It lasted for several hours, and I became so encompassed by it as it continued to progress to the point where I forgot what it was like to not have a depression.

It felt like it’d been a part of me forever, and it also wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  But then as plans formulized for me to go meet some friends at a concert, it vanished just as quickly as it came, and it really made me wonder just how ‘real’ this depression really was.  I mean, for it to leave so quickly, after it had been so all encompassing, and then for me to be able to go out and enjoy myself like nothing was ever wrong.

Where did the depression go?  Did it even exist?  Furthermote, after I was out enjoying myself, if I tried to find that depression again I wouldn’t even have been able to.  I almost feel like this depression that I deal with is like a body of energy that can come and occupy you when it sees an opportunity, and then leave as soon as it can no longer be effective, as soon as your personal ecosystem can ward it off.

This depression isn’t a part of you at all, it’s just something that happens

There’s an interesting analogy about emotions in general, whether they be positive or negative.  We’ll start out talking about the emotions that you get from movies, and I want you to really think about them.

When you watch a good movie, you get a rush of all kinds of emotions, happiness and joy when something good happens, and fear and sorrow when something bad happens.

But the whole time you intuitively know that none of what you’re seeing is real.  You know that these characters are all fictional, and the actors behind these characters really have nothing at stake in the storyline.  You know that when Christian Bale in Batman is facing death, and you feel fear because of it, that no one is actually going to die, but yet you indulge in the emotion anyways.

Well if you think about it, all emotions are kind of like that.  Depending on your level of awareness, you may or may not consciously realize that ultimately nothing that happens here will matter, but that is the case.  And yet we all indulge in the emotions anyways.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

A life completely void of emotions would be incredibly hollow and boring.  My only point is that we should take care not to identify with the emotions since emotions are much like clothes, they’re intimately not you by any means, and you can change your clothes any time you want.

Sooner or later all clothes will disintegrate into nothing, much like any emotions that you have will do as well.

I’d do anything for just one more dance

The dance of life that we know is real

The experience is fleeting

But the memories of its glory last forever.

The reality of making it happen

It’s funny how for a long time along my journey, I had just been waiting for that Hollywood-like click to take place where all of a sudden everything works and a radical mental shift takes place.  But that’s not how it works, and that’s not how it happens at all.

In reality, it really is the little by little steps that you take and the hard work that you put in that make it happen, and to sit around waiting for that one special moment is foolish, since you could end up waiting a lifetime.

Success and Happiness

So for a long time I thought that accomplishing a goal was something to celebrate, something to rejoice in, and something that means you could now take some time off and relax.

I heard stories of guys like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, how the day after they win championships they’re getting up and going to the gym at 6:30 in the morning.  No time off, no big celebration, no relaxing.  I always thought that they weren’t allowing themselves to enjoy their victories and relish in what they’d accomplished, and instead being too focused on some other future target.

But that line of thinking came from not understanding about success, and how the path to success can lead to happiness.  I thought you were supposed to work towards something, then stop and enjoy, then work towards something again, and then stop and enjoy what you’ve done.

I feel like a certain part of this comes from the conditioning of society and the way that our working world is set-up; i.e. that you bust your ass in your job all month and all year long just so that you can go and take your two separate week long vacations in the Caribbean, and that is the enjoyment, that is what you had been working and sacrificing for: to lie around in the sun.

For me though, what I’ve learned lately is that life is about the practice.  Life is about working and growing and how you build towards this on a day-to-day basis. If there’s one thing that I’ve really internalized in the past few months of taking a very proactive, work hard approach, it’s that life and happiness is about learning, growing, and what you’re doing to accomplish your goals, not the goals themselves.

You can see it on the faces of kids who are learning how to walk or learning how to talk or learning how to do any number of things that are necessary for functioning as a human being.

And then you can see it in adults too, where those that typically seem the happiest with their lives are those that are constantly pushing themselves and growing and learning new things by overcoming obstacles; the ones who understand and value the importance of going through the day to day grind in the effort of a greater future whole.

On the other hand, the ones who turn off the learning part of their brain and don’t proactively try to better their selves or accomplish goals sink into the petty things and become unhappy and dissatisfied.

Over time this could lead to disillusionment, where people don’t know what’s going on because they’re no longer engaged with the world.  And they may be unhappy because life hasn’t given them what they want, not realizing that you need to be engaged with the world so that you can respond appropriately when you need to direct your life in the direction you want it to go.

I’ve now learned that although you should take pride in accomplishing a goal, completed goals are not stopping points, but rather just benchmarks along the path.  The true happiness comes through the act of trying to achieve them and overcoming the obstacles that come up, not finally having them achieved.

But then again I don’t want to make it sound like I think this is the only ‘correct’ path available.  It has its pros and cons just like anything else.  When you have this life set-up and you have these goals that you need to get accomplished, it’s going to cut into your social life.  You may find yourself at 9 pm on a Saturday night going to the gym just because you had made the commitment to do so and that was the only time you could fit it in.

Living this life you may at times make you wonder why you chose such absurdity, when just chilling with friends and hanging out would be so much easier and possibly more fun.  And different things work for different people.  I know that for me personally despite the occasional loneliness that can come with this sort of path, too much just hanging out with friends would leave me bored and itching for something to do.  And I guess that’s how you know which one is right for you.

And for anyone reading I wanna know what you thought!  Do you agree with what I said? What type of path are you on?  Are you happy doing it?  I wanna hear about it!!

This is a crazy world we live in, this life.  In the past few months I’ve had these weird experiences where for a split second I feel like I can really see the world and I can see reality for what it is, or moreover I can feel this reality and I can see my surroundings with an incredible laser-like clarity.

And then just as quick as it came on, it’s gone, and all you can do is smile and move on.  I wonder if one day I’ll be able to sustain this feeling for more than a fleeting moment, but then again maybe that would just ruin the specialness of it.

It’s sad to me when I see people who are so incredibly far from having any experience of this sort; people who are so unhappy and miserable with their lives, not realizing that being happy is a choice and all you need to do is show your mind that it’s a choice and at the time they’re simply choosing to be upset.

I wish that I could help them in some way, just one little thing to help guide them in the right direction, but the problem runs so deep that I wouldn’t even know where to start.

It’s weird too, me being all introverted like this at the moment.  I’ve been so introverted in the past so I’m no stranger to it, but recently I’ve been so busy and go go go that I haven’t had the time, but it is refreshing to come back.  One thing I’ve realized recently is that people who are very introverted and whose thoughts weigh them down also put the weight of their thoughts on other people when they interact with them.  You can feel their burden, and so on the contrary interacting with extroverted people can be so light and easy.

Not to say that I’m not without fault though, for much of my life I’ve been a depressive.  It’s gotten far better in recent times, but still once in a while it can come back to say hi.  When it does, I just wait for a moment of clarity and ask myself why I’m feeling this way, with usually little reason to be depressed and almost always more reason to be happy (it all depends on what you’re focusing on) my only hope and saving grace is that I have developed enough control of my mind to direct it where I want it to go.

I want to feel more love in my life, or maybe just more of a connection with something.  I feel like I’ve developed such a strong appreciation for so many things in this world, but I still don’t really feel like I’ve developed the right kind of people in my life to share this appreciation with.  The easy way out is to say that they don’t exist, but the healthy and effective method is to look at yourself.  Maybe you’re just not opening yourself up to these types of relationships.  Closing down.  Self-preservation.

Maybe that’s why I won’t stop on my journey of social dynamics, even though sometimes I wonder if its the right way.  Wonder and questioning of this sort though is an activity that should be reserved for brief moments, and then followed by taking action in some sort of direction.  So for now this is my life, and given the circumstances I think that the pros of it definitely outweigh the cons.