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!

The Map Is Not The Road

Yesterday I was driving home from one of my all-time favorite places, Denny’s, and I was using my Garmin, as I am in the habit of doing when I go almost anywhere whose route I don’t know by heart, and it struck me that I did know where I was going, but I was still intently using my Garmin.

I knew that if I just continued down the road I was on, in a couple of miles I would make a right turn onto the road that would take me home, but I was so used to using GPS that I forgot that I had my own internal GPS.

This got me thinking about Life in general. Sometimes we just don’t know when or where the next turn will be, so we look to somebody else’s compass to guide our own way. We get caught in a one-dimensional view of reality (like the screen on the Garmin) rather than take a look around and get our bearings. Ironically, we lose touch with the real reality in favor of a map that’s designed to represent it.

Maps and Garmins are useful, but they are by no means the real reality – they are by no means the road we are traversing. Sometimes the most useful means of navigation is the one inside.

The Problem With The “Attraction Hypothesis”

There’s a couple of different ways of explaining why what happens to us happens, and why we get what we get.

One way would be to say, we created it. We had ideas, we had experiences, we had desires, and somehow these “attracted” the circumstances in our lives. We “reap the fields we sow.”

This may be the truth of how things work, but I would hope that everybody doesn’t buy into it. If everybody buys into it, you’ve got everybody expecting something. For example, according to the “attraction” hypothesis, if I want something bad enough, I will eventually attract it.

But this puts the idea, experience, or desire first. It suggests, “This is what you need to do, or think, or be, to have X.” But why would I want to have X in the first place?

The problem comes when I think X has anything whatsoever to do with my happiness. The problem comes when I think X has anything to do with the idea that I don’t have X, but I could have X.

Why not just start with Zero? Zero doesn’t create expectations. Zero doesn’t lead to disappointments. Zero is just Zero.

I am what I am, and I have what I have. Why? Because I am it, and I have it. The “attraction hypothesis” is flawed, in my opinion, because it mixes up our priorities. I believe the first priority should be figuring out what or who we are. Once we start there, we might find that our ideas, experiences, and desires have even less to do with us than we thought!

Proof of God

Sometimes I have to remind myself how little my thoughts have to do with reality. And, of course, when I’m tired, my thoughts have even less to do with reality than usual.

It can be odd to disassociate oneself from such a seemingly real experience. But really, once self-awareness comes up, that’s exactly what we start doing, isn’t it? We are forced to start peeling off our thoughts, which have somehow stuck themselves onto the way things are. And through the tinted glasses of Thought, the way things are often show up distorted.

It seems to me that if there is any proof of God, self-awareness must be it. Once we become aware that we are, in fact, human – that, for example, humans have a tendency to make predictions based on past events – we are distancing ourselves from ourselves. This is how the Universe evolves, or becomes more conscious. And if that’s not God, I don’t know what is.

The trouble is, we’re not always in this miraculous state of consciousness-evolution. Most of the time, we’re caught up in Thoughts. And as I’ve already pointed out, Thoughts make it quite difficult to see the forest for the trees.

Our brain is inestimably powerful. Just pick up any book on neuroscience or psychology and you’ll see the countless scientific and practical cases of just how much in our lives and our world is affected by this piece of flesh in our heads. Our brain can serve us, or it can sabotage us. It can help us to see reality, or it can drive us into the Ditch of Distortion.

I really don’t know where Thoughts come from any more than I understand how the human brain works. But the best part of all of this is that we have a built-in system that allows us to acknowledge when we’re being tricked. And sometimes all it takes is noticing.

Playing the Chips You’re Dealt

My voice is tired.

Change is good, but always involves re-adjusting. One of the re-adjustments I’ve had to make involves the new demands on my vocal cords. Three to four shows a week, at three and a half hours of stage time per show, coming out to between 11.25 and 15 hours of stage time per week. Now, I split this stage time with my partner, so as far as actual singing time, we’re looking at between roughly 6 and 8 hours of all-out singing per week, not including harmonies. I don’t care who you are – that’s a lot of singing. And that’s a reserved calculation.

Now, I’m used to exerting my voice – I had been doing the freelance Dueling Pianos things now for just about five and a half years – but this takes it to a whole new level of responsibility.

All of this being what it is, I’m noticing that my voice is starting to show some signs of strain. I’m also noticing that I am becoming increasingly preoccupied with this fact. I might even go so far as to say that this preoccupation is accompanied by some concern, even worry.

We’re all familiar. Everything else may be going just beautifully, but this one thing just seats itself here, and we can’t help but focus on that one thing, and now it becomes a problem. It becomes a problem because we know that, although small and bothersome now, like a thorn in the side or a chip on the shoulder, it could grow into something much more tangible and challenging, if unattended.

I’ve found that, in my experience at least, I am usually carrying around at least one of these little “problems” on any given day. If it’s not one, it’s another. I don’t think it actually ever goes away.

So the “little problem” that could become a Big Scary Problem is always hanging out, always there, in some form or another. “But it’s different this time,” I might say. “We’re talking about my livelihood here.” Yes, and?

The reality is, it seems to me, that this “problem,” this “chip on my shoulder”, bears no more potential harm than yesterday’s “chip”. I had one yesterday, and I don’t really remember what it was. I’m guessing that’s because I took care of it.

So, if you’re anything like me, and your Movie is just great, and every scene wonderful, except for this “one thing” … Calm down. Chill out. You’ll get it taken care of.

You’ll get it taken care of, just in time for the next one.