There’s a Fundamental Misunderstanding Here

May 10, 2010

It begins, as it usually does, with a question – an innocuous one at that.  People have asked me a dozen, a hundred times in the 6 weeks I’ve been home, a few thousand before I left, and nowadays it usually comes after I’ve told them some crazy story of my adventures, a love story or an escape, a hike into the jungle or a profound truth revealed to me by dire straits.

“That’s really cool man – I’m happy for you… (pregnant pause) so what are you going to do with your future?”

It’s an awful question.  It’s a terrible question.  Most of all it’s a loaded question, one where nothing I say can be both true on the one hand, and accepted well on the other.  It doesn’t even matter who asks – the answer isn’t going to satisfy you unless you’re the sort of person who would know better than to ask.  Still, I like to think I’m a pretty honest guy, and if someone goes through the motions of asking me a question, I’ll do my best to answer it.  So here’s that – my best answer to that apparently burning question of what the hell I’m doing with my life.

I do whatever feels right at the time.

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That’s seriously it – I just do whatever I judge to be the best possible action at any given junction.  No grand scheme, no hopes of running the world, no desire to micromanage the universe – I’ve seen and tried enough of that to know it doesn’t work well at accomplishing what I want out of life, because all I really want is to feel happy, fulfilled, and like I’m making a positive difference in the world I inhabit.  This isn’t something I came to out of choice – it just happens that whenever I try to make plans they blow up in my face and leave me worse off than before I started.  This is my reaction, my defense against the great unknown and the greater known – I observe the world, learn what I can, and act as I believe is in my best interest – there’s no end goal aside from doing my best to be my best wherever and whenever the universe throws me.  I mean, so many people are terrified of what they can’t control or foresee, and a lot of that comes from these intricate, well-intentioned plans that people build up.  They don’t work because we can’t possibly plan for every unknown, and when things go wrong and work against our best intentions we have to work harder just to get back to where we wanted to be.   Given enough hurt, enough bad juju, and a long enough timespan, it becomes a colossal effort just striving toward equilibrium.  Thus, the fear – change means adapting the plan, and think of how much effort has gone into that brilliant shining hope!  Keeping the perfect lie alive has become more important than finding satisfaction in reality!

I don’t even want equilibrium.   I equate that with stasis, with decay and with death.  The only way I’ve ever found to keep living is to keep mobile, roll with the punches, enjoy every drop, every instant of my life without getting so attached that I’m unable to function when it comes down on my head.  It’s survival – basic evolution – as life changes we must adapt along with it or perish as we’re left behind.   Every form of life, every idea, everything  that exists must adapt to stay relevant to the matrix of reality that envelops us.  To stop is to become irrelevant, to be cast aside in favor of another who keeps adapting.  A few hundred years it was kosher to duel to the death over an insult, a generation ago it was acceptable to test nuclear weapons in the open atmosphere, a century ago we were overwhelmingly a planet of farmers, twenty years ago the coolest kids around had pagers or car phones – everything changes, and that change is accelerating.  The faster it spins, mutates, evolves, the less stock I put into making any sort of plan – where’s the relevancy?

How many times have you seen someone clearly left behind by the world around them?  A person tied emotionally, financially, or otherwise to a reality that no longer exists isn’t uncommon – I think that most people upon reaching a certain age lose their ability to adapt, settle for whatever satisfies that them in that moment, and spend the rest of their existence fighting against the irresistible current of change to hold onto their past joys.  It doesn’t matter if their chosen path becomes untenable, self-destructive, or even impossible, these people will forever fight to grasp onto that which once fulfilled them.  They’ll die before they change.  The old woman who refuses to drive because that just isn’t done can survive just fine so long as she has a child, husband, or neighbor around to help her or her mobility is good enough.  The same woman, if she loses these advantages, must adapt or starve to death in her house.  Likewise fucked is the holdout against a government Eminent Domain plan to build another bloody bypass – sure, the world has a whole lot of bypasses, sure I can lie down in front of the bulldozers all day, but when it comes down to the wire you’ll get stuck in the mud and run over one day, and even if you don’t the goddam Vogons will just blow up the whole planet to build an interplanetary bypass anyway, so why not grab your towel, fire up the sub-etha Sens-o-matic and just hitch a ride into the stars – it sure beats extinction.  That which does not adapt, which does not change, will find itself outdated, useless, and dead before its time.

Let’s bring it back to the question at hand – what am I going to do with my future?

The way I see it we balance on the precipice, a cliff down into the mist on one side, a jagged body-strewn drop-off on the other.  There’s so much changing, so much shifting and sliding, exploding, rebuilding, dying, reviving, that I’m going to do the only thing that makes any sense at all to me – I’ll walk the razor’s edge, between unknown danger on the one hand and the known I consider worse on the other.  I’ll keep my footing solid, my spirits high, and try to recruit the best companions I can along the way, but as far as where I’m going… well, that’s a question best answered by the path I travel.  I don’t know what comes next, but so long as I keep doing my best along the way, staying happy, smart, flexible, strong, then I’ll find myself where I was supposed to be all along.

It has worked out pretty damn well so far, and I see little chance of that changing in the future.  With the world changing as fast as it is, it’s really a matter of choosing which potential future you want to prepare for, and while I’m not ready to throw my hat in with the canned-food and ammo collectors yet, I do think they have a better grasp on reality than the dumbfucks going into finance degrees hoping to make a fortune screwing the rest of us out of our inheritance.  It’s a matter of faith more than anything else – why invest so much effort into the ether?  Please, don’t ask me what my plans are for the future, because if I’ve learned one thing it’s that anything I promise gets wrecked up real fast.  I work better without the self-imposed chains, have enough of those anyway, and I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  You don’t either, and I reckon I’m better at living on the road, on the ground, in the shit than most of you are.

It’s evolution, dear Watson – why do you think there are so many rats and roaches and so few cute fuzzy panda bears?  You can have you high-falutin’ life map, your 5-year plan, your career and your mortgage and pension.  I’ll keep my eyes and mind open, my baggage minimal, and take whatever I can scrape by on.  Call it a waste of life, but don’t get offended when I laugh at those dull echoing words, and don’t be afraid either – living in the moment is as easy as saying “yes” to the next unexpected idea, starting a conversation with the next interesting stranger.  It’s quitting a job you hate but are working because the money is good, it’s not settling for the things you’re expected to have that don’t make you happy.

What will I do with my life?  Whatever works in the moment, because you never know which moment will be your last.

Make every moment count.

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