Where is everyone rushing?
I am fishing today. I have cast my line and sinker past the point where the waves break, as the ranger suggested, and though he says there are redfish and shark, I doubt whether my borrowed tackle and hot-dog bait will capture much interest beyond the drifting seaweed. However I’m content to sit here on my chair in the sand and read Thoreau’s Walden under a gray blustering sky. Beyond the horizon, past the sea and behind me, I sense a great many people rushing about in anguish and haste.
When did we lose ourselves in the pursuit of career and profits and become seekers of shiny objects like the raven? In my own pursuit of such things I don’t recall ever pausing to ask whether that pursuit was mine, or someone else’s thrust upon me. Simply it was what people did, so I thought it my pursuit too—never did I ask if what people did actually brought them lasting happiness. The herd moved in one general direction, and if ever I stalled, a loud braying noise warned that soon I’d be left standing in manure, and I would not enjoy the smell.
It appears society has duped us into settling for dull mediocrity. No, society is but a reflection of our self-duping. We are the suckers. tweet
It appears society has duped us into settling for dull mediocrity. No, society is but a reflection of our self-duping. We are the suckers.
I would be content, I think, with the simple title “Fisherman” or perhaps more extravagantly yet, “Man with a Knit Hat and Pair of Boots.” This seems enough. A hat to cover the ears when cold and boots to walk where wet. Anything more welcomes anxiety—replacing hats and boots seems easy enough, when they become lost or too worn for practical use. And content in my hat and boots amidst my merry strolls, if I were to go fishing one day and reel in my line to discover I’d snagged a MacBook or—bless both Neptune and Poseidon!—an Audi TT, then I might enjoy it a while, but my own ignorance would be at fault for not eventually releasing it still breathing back to its waters, and my regret if I were to spend an entire life greedily watching the rod tip in the hopes of landing a big one. Look around, fellow ravens, there’s more than that.
We are born and greeted with a yoke and told to march, because somewhere out there and up ahead is a present moment where we can breathe and be happy. tweet
We are born and greeted with a yoke and told to march, because somewhere out there and up ahead is a present moment where we can breathe and be happy. This yoke is old as scripture, or at least our translation of scripture. The Word tells us to suffer a while longer, eternal bliss awaits, heaven above but not here, not now, but someday, little child, if you follow us! And so it is implied that what currently dwells on this soil is a sham of beauty, and we’re told to wipe our sweaty brow and trudge forever on until we hear the angels singing in some acoustical soundproof room that only heretics ever attempt to imagine—or if we strain and bow and judge ourselves harsh enough, we might just hear a faint angelic echoing, which sounds of coins dropped into collection trays.
There is a tall steepled church in the Spanish plains within which long beams of light enter dustily in the late afternoon and alone in a wooden pew an old woman cries for her dead lover, and is there not beauty in that? There is a poor withering child lost on an Arabian road coughing and bloody and raw and a foreign traveler bends to carry him, and is there not beauty in that? There is a man heartbroken and angry and directionless after sudden divorce and visited by a friend laughter springs from nowhere, and is there not beauty in that? There is a hopeless kid suffering addiction and loneliness and despair and yet finds himself again, and is there not beauty in that as well? If we fail to know heaven now, we cannot hope to recognize heaven when such an inconsequential entity as the body leaves us. So keep your Emptiness conquered and your Pure Lands and eternal happiness and peace everlasting, for I’ll live in Now and look for beauty in all things we humans do and feel and fuck up. It is our greatest art, this living and breathing and suffering and transcending, and it is beautiful and I would miss it. After my last exhale, if asked I will say, “Send me back and let me cry with my brothers.”
But the ancient texts also cannot be blamed. We are the translators. We are the believers and non-questioners. We are the ladder climbers to nowhere. And blinded from birth, if still wearing the unknown blindfold, even we cannot be faulted. We have been trained no other way.
If we fail to know heaven now, we cannot hope to recognize heaven when such an inconsequential entity as the body leaves us. tweet
In grade school we’re given tests so someday we’ll be big kids. In high school we awkwardly await college. In college we begin to worry about career. We get an internship, a foot in the door, then junior-level, senior-level, promotions galore—is it Friday yet!—management, CEO, looking forward to retirement now, and then—oh drat!—old age, poor health, medical bills and the only trip taken is six feet down. I’ve spoken to Old Timers and heard their regret, seen them hobbling about wishing they’d acted sooner, when young and spry. They finally see the truth but too late! The chase for future happiness is a deadly habit that leaves us with nothing but a piled heap of What Ifs that smell of graveyard dirt.
The real Pursuit of Happiness is not a pursuit at all; it’s a coming-to realization that happiness lies at our feet.
Once a person breaks from this loopy scheme (and he is deemed more credible if he has actually participated in it) he can then look upon it with fresh perspective. He needn’t quit his job, sell his house and venture off into the jungle. He sees the game, can take a seat at the table or step away when he wishes. This is the one with true freedom of choice. And he scares the living hell out of the squares.
The real Pursuit of Happiness is not a pursuit at all; it’s a coming-to realization that happiness lies at our feet. tweet
“Carpe diem,” “March to the beat of your own drum”—we say these things but are quite taken aback when confronted with an individual actually living this way. Often the individual is met with judgment and silent ridicule. It is in the polite response and diverted eye, the passive sarcasm and needless defensive qualifier. His actions are thought irresponsible and crazy. He’s considered somehow not to be using his brain, when he might just be the one asking the wisest questions. I wonder how many are secretly hoping the Misfit—because a Misfit he is—fails in his attempt so their own life might be vindicated. Fear moves the critics, or more precisely, doesn’t move them. Even if the Misfit ruins his life (and who is to judge what constitutes ruination?), at least he made the attempt to live his life originally. Even if he die penniless, he will not die poor of experience.
I have earned $6,000 per month and felt complete financial insecurity. I have earned $1,000 per month and felt absolute serenity. The only difference was a changed perception of what caused happiness and a letting-go of future expectation. My father said it doesn’t matter how much money you make, you’ll find ways to spend it. With money I had a bigger apartment, a premium television package, a closet filled with expensive clothes and a developed taste for finer foods. To satisfy these cravings I had to work longer hours, push and stress for promotions at better salary, suffer jobs at best I was merely comfortable with, at worst I hated, but provided steady paychecks. Just so I could spend a couple hours each night on a plush couch watching television while eating truffled goat cheese (the cheese was almost worth it, by the way). When did working 80% of our waking life for a few scraps of pleasure on weekends and a handful of vacation days become a good idea?
A child will be put in much better stead if the parents are following their dreams. Misery breeds misery. We are showing our children wrong by sacrificing our happiness. tweet
Some will say this all sounds well and good, doing what we want and such, but we have certain responsibilities: children, mortgages, not enough money in the bank…
I call bullshit on this.
If you’re happy as you are, then splendid. Enjoy the journey, forget the destination. But if you get what you thought you always wanted and still the question nags—Is this it?—stop chasing all that glitters. If you’re not happy and have the fortitude to admit it, stop sulking over outside circumstance. Anything can be changed. There are solutions infinite to every obstacle. For every couple saying they’d love to travel but can’t because of job, expenses, etc., check where the expenses are really going and just how valuable that job is.
A child will be put in much better stead if the parents are following their dreams. Misery breeds misery. We are showing our children wrong by sacrificing our happiness. We can show them that working hard for meaningful ideals is different than just working hard. We can show them that the greatest responsibility is staying true to oneself even at the risk of being labeled an outcast. The great chance we’re taking by not doing this ourselves is we’re handing our children a ladder that leads to dullness, fatigue and a disillusioned heart.
Demand great things from Existence, and watch how strangers gather to lift you up so you might step off toward your dreams. tweet
With such arrogance I speak! Who do you think you are, Mister, going against the grain, messing up the pretty picture above the mantle? I’m nobody. Just a fool, if that pleases. I am no better than the masses. Admittedly I have been given certain privileges others have not—my parents have supported me both financially and emotionally through low times—and I wonder even now at my own hypocrisy in writing these words, if I would speak so bravely if left alone to my own devices. But also I believe that where there is an honest will, help comes calling. Demand great things from Existence, and watch how strangers gather to lift you up so you might step off toward your dreams. I have seen underpass-residing homeless men exceed all our visions with nothing but a newfound honesty and an eagerness to be better men.
This is only my view, and sharing this view my hope is to wake one person up. This person deserves my truth not my pity—there are pity suppliers on every corner these days, and I remember being my own greatest supplier once. Self-pity is the worst condition a human can experience; it is debilitating and pathetic and I was a master.
Feel that twinge of venom stirring there? Something like anger that comes when IHOP brings cold pancakes? That, dear sir, is the secret doubt that perhaps you aren’t so certain about your life ambitions as you pretend to be. Seek truth and, once glimpsed, get off your ass, stop blaming the world and shatter your norm. And, please, go dance in a camper in the middle of nowhere. It’s a whole mess of heavenly fun.