Appreciation, or the Absurdity of Predestination

This started out as a journal entry, but I decided to post it as a blog post because I felt inspired to do so. This is my first blog post in a few months! It starts out a bit personal, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take in this day and age of transparency. I hope it encourages some fresh new thinking. Please keep in mind that this was all written by hand in a fevered rush of authenticity, and that it’s not to be seen as an essay or a manifesto – simply a glimpse into a Feeling. As such, I would ask that you take nothing here as my true, lasting beliefs, opinions, or convictions.

When I was dating [a certain young woman], it always seemed as though I kept having a certain perception of her – even viewing the circumstances surrounding us as only temporary and fleeting. I would often remind her, and myself, of this temporary feeling, almost as if the things that were happening between us were simply “interim” events.

I now see the folly in this, and how deeply I wronged her. For to see any experience as nothing more than a forerunner of a future anticipated experience is insanity. [This same young woman] is but one example of the countless times I have been guilty of this. I have, in fact, treated my entire life, up to this point, as a means to an end – always looking toward something better ahead, something more “me”, a time and a place that is my “destination”, where the current time and place is an inconvenient means to that end.

How much life have I missed in this way of seeing the world! I’m not condemning my hopes and dreams for a brighter future, or an authentic desire to go somewhere I’ve never been. But to think that all of this is just a transition, a pre-requisite, that is the cause of discontent. And while there may be something noble about a sense of adventure, a longing to see what’s out there, there is nothing noble about discontent. After all, my free-wheeling has led me here, has it not?! And how can I expect that I shall find more of a sense of rightness, of belonging, anywhere else I may wander?

The only way I can ever hope to find this Home Sense is by having a greater appreciation for all the moments that are NOW.

I am certain that predestination is a myth. For I was surely given an abundance of Free Will. I’ve had everything – I acquired so many opportunities, so many gifts, [with the aid of] my free will. I once stumbled upon the entire volumes of the memoirs of Casanova, front to back, for just twenty bucks! Those volumes – were they predetermined to fall into my hands? It would seem so, but due to some mistakes I made in the following months (all of my own free will), those volumes fell out again, and were lost. How can I say that I was meant to find Casanova’s memoirs, only to lose them again? No – I found them, call it luck, call it God – and then made a choice that caused them to be lost. And so, the WILL is the cause of Destiny, the WILL determines what will come next. For at any moment, I can change the sequence of events with a wave of my hand. Something that I may have been “meant” to have, according to those predestinationists, can be taken away by my own self with just one simple choice. Where, then, is the meaning in that? There is too much chaos in life for predestination.

All the more reason, then, why we should soak up each moment, not as if it is our last, but as if it is our only. We should drink up each experience with such gratitude, grasp at it with such greed that Bacchus himself would look at us with envy. Even the shitty ones – especially the the shitty ones. For they are none other than our Life. They are slipping away, oh, so stealthily. We’ll never get them back again. Let me say it again – we’ll never get them back again! So, live large, speak grandly, be extravagant! Say and do all of the things you haven’t said or done for fear that you would be scolded, ridiculed, or politely dismissed. Let them dismiss! Be nothing more, or less, than Yourself, with your bold ideas and your absurd wisdom, your insane sense of humor, and your irreverent lust for life. Let them taunt you, let them ignore you, let them thrash you, let them hate you. For only then will you find your true kindred souls.

Above all, honor this place, this time. Live it as a Gift, for that’s what it is. It’s not a bridge to somewhere else – it IS the somewhere else! You’re here! You’ve arrived! This is it! Be glad of it!

A Song I Like

The song “The Pretender” by Jackson Browne has long been one of my all-time favorites. I love the music and the lyrics, but I also love the sentiment behind it.

When we’re young, we look at the world through rose-colored glasses. Possibilities are endless; we can be anything, do anything. As we grow older and wiser, the rose tint fades, and we start to rid ourselves of “delusions of grandeur.”

I am in love with the song’s main character, who has rid himself of the trappings of  glamorous expectations. He’s content with a simple life in a “house in the shade of the freeway” and a day-to-day job. He’s found refuge in being a “happy idiot” and “struggling for the legal tender”.

It’s not that he’s given up, or settled – he’s just decided that being “happy” is more important than the dream of “one day” being happy. He’s not asking for much, he doesn’t need it.

What I think is most beautiful about the sentiment behind this song is its strength. It’s anything but a cop-out. It’s about Reconciliation. It’s about Gratefulness. I suppose it could be interpreted as having a sad undertone. Maybe, but so what?

The only thing better than being “young and strong” must be wise and strong.

On Sleep

Sleep has become a new focus of mine. I first became acquainted with the importance of sleep only recently, when listening to one of my favorite podcasts, the James Altucher Show, in which he interviews Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post and author of the book The Sleep Revolution.

I won’t go into statistics or start listing off facts, but yeah – let’s just say sleep is pretty cool. Most inhabitants of Planet Earth are underslept, and are oblivious to this and wondering why symptoms in their health, work and personal lives are showing up. I am no model sleeper – I still fall into this category. But I’ve become fascinated with the science and practicality of sleep.

A few days after listening to Sleep Revolution on audiobook, I had the first full, good night’s sleep in a long while, and I remember feeling refreshed in a way that I hadn’t felt in weeks. (That’s because sleep reorganizes and rehabilitates your brain as well as your body, providing you with an improved mental attitude and allowing new perspectives to form). That’s when it really “dawned” on me (see what I did there?) – I was hooked.

The importance of perspective when it comes to simply being “Happy” cannot be denied – Happiness Advantage author Shawn Achor writes, “by changing the way we perceive ourselves and our work, we can dramatically improve our results.” [p. 78] If good sleep can provide a playing field for new, healthier perspectives, it makes sense to do everything one can to set up his or her life to maximize good quality sleep.

Since that night, I’ve become addicted to the question of “how can I get not only sufficient but uninterrupted, deep sleep as many nights as possible”? Turns out that this question can’t exactly be answered in a single blog post. To actually accomplish this requires, like any indispensable facet of life, looking at and factoring in how it fits into all of the other puzzle pieces. What do I want to get done the following morning (or, in my case, afternoon)? When will I be turning in that night (or early morning)? Did I have naps that day? Caffeine? Are the conditions ideal for good sleep (blacked out room, earplugs, eye mask, etc.)?

I like Sleep, but not only for the reasons one might think. I like it because it forces me to ask bigger questions about my life. Sleep is one of the Big Three, the other two being Diet and Exercise. I see these three as being the roots from which all other facets of life spring. To become curious about them indicates that we’re starting to ask some bigger questions, which, if we stay curious, will improve the quality of our lives in general in the long run.