Since my third move back to Nashville, Monday before last, life has been more or less a nonstop adventure. True, logistics have occupied much of my days – driving back and forth between here and there in a calculated zig zag of errands, but even these have been enjoyable. There was a time when I used to think such tasks a waste of time, endless hours in the car better spent practicing or composing, but now I see them as necessary steps in a larger picture.
I seem to have given up the ghost when it comes to wishing I had “more hours in the day”… now I am perfectly happy with doing whatever I happen to be doing in the hours I happen to be doing them. And if I can’t get to a certain thing that would be nice to get to, I simply think to myself, “There’s always tomorrow, or the day after.”
I didn’t used to be like that. Not so long ago I would grow frustrated and impatient with the demands of Life. I think I was like this before getting hurt. I remember flailing, moving from one project, job, or place to the next without conscious intent. But when I got hurt, and I had to lie in a bed for three months and not be able to continue the crazy impulsivity that had rendered me immobile in the first place, I slowly began to calm down and take an objective look at what was really going on around and inside me.
I started to ask questions like, “What do I really want?” “Why do I write slash play music?”
“What drives me?”
This last one is a question I believe we all share, at least as people who create. I believe that we do what we do because we strongly feel the need to know that, after so many thousands of hours spent honing our craft, and the indescribable shit we have gone through to do so, there will be something to show for it, some great reward. I’m not talking about the feeling of satisfaction after having created something – that soon wears off. I’m talking about a tangible payoff. Usually this boils down to two things:
Money and recognition (fame).
When neither money nor recognition show themselves in a fashion suited to our expectations, we feel we have been cheated. We feel that our efforts, which deserve the highest of return, have gone into the ether and evaporated, unnoticed. And we are right in feeling this. After all, we’re human – of course it makes sense that something should come of all this.
For those of us who go so far as to identify what we do with our lives, the absence of a return on our investment is heartbreaking. We go into periods of depression, sometimes long, sometimes short, sometimes intermittent. We lose motivation. We wonder what the point of it all is. And we start to question whether or not our lives have meaning.
At least, I have. If something I do, something I know I’m put on this earth to share and to cultivate, goes over flat, then, well logically, that must mean my life is meaningless. And if my life is meaningless, well, what’s the point of living?
But I did some more thinking and realized the point. The point is…
Well, the point is whatever you like. If you like there to be no point, there is no point. If you like there to be a point, there is one. Does this mean life is still meaningless? I don’t think so. Because if it were, I don’t even think we’d have the option of deciding whether there should be a point or not.
So much grief comes from thinking there should be a “payoff”. I guess another name for this is “attachment to the outcome.” We all know that’s bad, but it’s another thing to not be attached. Who can’t be attached? And therein lies the rub.
Maybe we can’t not be attached. Maybe we’ll always unconsciously be expecting something in return for our unrelenting struggles. And then, a phrase comes to mind. It’s a beautiful phrase, one that offers such a succinct point of view on the matter. It’s a phrase that sheds new light on an old issue. Here’s the phrase:
“Who gives a fuck?”
Who gives a fuck if you ever see any return on your investment? Who gives a fuck if after a lifetime of devotion, you hurdle into oblivion? Who gives a fuck if all you have to show for your countless hours of composing or painting or playing or writing are shunned by everyone, even God?
What if you just decided, right now, to stop giving a fuck? What would happen? I don’t mean stop doing what you “love.” What if you decided that by God you were just going to enjoy life, and forget about the return, and just sort of go about your day, a carefree swashbuckler? And whenever you had a little time you would write or play or paint or compose. And the rest of the time you would have fun, and eat good food, and meet people of the opposite sex or enjoy your spouse, and have adventures, and breathe?
The magic of “Who gives a fuck?” is not more nihilism. It does not provide an excuse to be lazy, to be discouraged, to have all the more evidence that life is meaningless. Quite the opposite. It provides space. The person who doesn’t give a fuck can look into the void that is life and say, “So… it really doesn’t matter if all of this is for nothing,” and not be disappointed. In fact, she should be exhilarated! Because if nobody gives a fuck, the world opens up to her. She stops identifying what she does with who she is. She stops worrying about whether Money or Recognition will come, because who knows if they will come and who gives a fuck.
And all at once, all this pressure gets taken off.
She looks back at her blank canvas. She takes a deep breath of oxygen. She knows that she can walk away from her easel and never paint another blotch of color ever again, because, who gives a fuck.
But chances are, she won’t.