Time is the fuel of life and those who are really living--and not just existing--rarely have the time to be talking about it.
Do what you love and do it often.
Living in pursuit of what feels real will always lead to surprises, but no surprise is without its purpose. Every fork leads somewhere. It's not your choice that is recorded by the universe but what you do with that choice once you've made it.
Take the fork and all will make sense. Trust that life knows best. Have faith that you will be ready. Do what you love, live what you love, and each event in your life will join to form an infinite stream of serendipity.
In the end, when your entire life flows into a single moment of time, it won't be your possessions, your worries, or your missed opportunities that cumulate into that single moment, but rather how you truly you lived, how deeply you loved, and how completely you followed your heart.
It doesn't matter how much you love what has passed. It doesn't matter how perfect this moment is or how much you want to hold on to it. It's gone. Everything that has been, is gone. Everything that will be, is gone. All that remains, for an impossibly brief and ever-fleeting moment, is now, empty, pure, full of potential, a pile of dry kindling awaiting a spark of inspiration.
There is no permanence in anything but change, but change, like fire, must be fed with the breath of life.
So accept each and every moment as a golden opportunity, a moment that you've been given, a chance to do anything you want, or, if you so choose, a chance to sit idly by, daydreaming about what has been or what could be, losing yourself, and that moment, in exchange for absolutely nothing, a dull lifeless stare at a dull, cold, and lifeless pile of kindling, sacrificing precious moment after precious moment, never to see them again, until one day you arrive at the end and look back, upon this frozen and unchangeable wasteland of unused potential, missed, neglected, lost.
So open your heart and open your mind. Breathe life into this moment. The future awaits your hand in its creation, right here, right now.
Look not backward with nostalgic sadness into the frozen sea of changelessness, but forward with blissful gratitude into the warm arms of unwritten possibility.
Can fear replace purpose? Is it possible that in place of purpose, many are living in a perpetual state of fear, going about their daily tasks with the driving force behind all action being fear? Do they smile out of fear and love out of fear?
Am I being driven by fear? Is fear driving me to write this right now? Am I afraid that if I don't write regularly I will lose whatever gains I've made, that my skill will begin to deteriorate and that my readers will begin to lose interest? Am I afraid if I don't start writing right now that I will lose these thoughts I want to share?
What about all these people in their cars, driving here and there. Are they going places because they're afraid of something? Are they afraid of being scolded at work, or of being fired, or of not having enough money, or missing the due date on their bills, or running out of gas, or not having a refrigerator full of food in case the grocery stores are overrun and they're trapped in a hurricane with no means of survival?
Are they afraid of not getting to their next appointment on time, or running out of fuel for their generator in case they lose electricity and can't watch TV to see what else they should be afraid of?
Do they put on jackets because they're afraid to get wet, adorn unique layers of clothing because they're afraid to look like everybody else, lock their cars and lock their houses because they're afraid of being taken advantage of? Do they conform in life because they're afraid to stand out, to break the patterns, and to be different?
For most of my life I've marveled at the flow of automobile traffic, a seemingly endless stream of people going somewhere, headed toward a destination whose description was only limited by my imagination. But where were all these people really going? What was it that instigated them to take action? What pushed them to get in their car, choose a destination, and then do something about getting there?
What was their purpose?
I've tried to imagine all the different scenarios, to find a common thing that seemed to describe all the movement in a modern society. I looked at love as the primary motivator, but tossed that out when I saw hate, jealousy, anger, and selfishness far more prevalent than kindness, compassion, honesty, and generosity. I looked at survival, but I tossed that out too when I realized how overly abundant people were already living.
In fact, I looked at as many positive reasons as I could find, but nothing added up.
If our motivation and inspiration was something positive — if it was something that made us feel good — then why were we doing everything with such reluctance? Why were we so reactionary, so easy to anger, and so quick to blame?
I remember thinking a few years ago, while sitting in traffic on the way home from a 10-hour day at the office, if my motivations for living were positive, why was I doing things on a day-to-day basis that made me feel negative? Why was I wishing I was somewhere else? Why were my choices reflecting a fear of the future? Why was I acting and reacting to fears instead of doing things that moved me towards happiness and freedom?
If societies were motivated by positive goals and people were motivated by positive purposes, then why was everybody under so much stress? Why were societies and people so slow to change? Why were those in power more interested in correcting accusations made towards themselves than debating real issues that affected the people they've chosen to serve?
If you throw fear into the mix, suddenly everything makes sense.
We are so afraid. We're terrified of breaking rules, suspicious of change, and paranoid of the unexpected. We seek direction in authority and give our power to the status quo, no matter how dangerous and untrustworthy that status quo may be.
And it's killing us. It's killing us because it's holding us back. It's killing us because it's preventing us from growing and embracing our full potential. It's killing us because we're being suffocated by fear and choked off from the from the flow of life.
Fear has a purpose, but its purpose has no place in our motivation for living.
Edit: Moments after finalizing this journal entry, I came across a project called Humans of New York and I began to wonder if maybe we ultimately find whatever it is we're truly looking for, whether that be love or fear. But then I realized what each of the photos and stories in that project captured: presence. If we live in the moment, we cannot live in fear.
When I was younger, I thought that my future held my circle of friends; we seemed inseparable. When I owned a house, I put my heart and soul into its maintenance, sweating and struggling to hold onto it because I was so sure that it was in my future.
I thought the same thing about my job, that my future held a high-paying career as a computer programmer, or a security consultant. At one point I was certain that my future held a position in the military. I was sure it held my ex-girlfriend.
But I was wrong, about all of it.
I learned that by telling ourselves day in and day out that we know what the future holds, that it must hold this thing or that person just because we always thought that it would, we lock ourselves into self-limiting and self-destructive patterns.
We hold onto these expectations because it’s safer that way, because our primal instinct wants to feel secure, because it wants to know that we’ve been somewhere and that we’ve done something and that all of this must mean we’re going somewhere, with someone, or with a specific group of someones.
We want to see ourselves making tangible progress, moving laterally from one direction to another, swimming toward a specific destination and making specific, measurable progress. We don’t want to think three-dimensionally, to look down into a dark abyss and imagine sinking to a undefinable place that holds so much unknown, to a place that has no certain depth and no measurable end, a place where anything can happen.
We don’t want to imagine that, but that’s exactly what the future holds, a dark unknown. We have no light to shine on the future. We have no map to lead us through. There is no rulebook that determines what happens and what doesn’t, who lives and who dies, who comes, and who goes. Life isn’t a two-dimensional surface with birth and death clearly marked on either end. It’s dynamic. It’s unpredictable. It’s raw.
You are not who you were yesterday and tomorrow, you won’t be who you are right now. But who you are right now is real. It’s tangible, and the only thing holding you back from blossoming is what you take with you into tomorrow, and what you expect to find when you get there. Your vision of the future is flawed. It’s a mirage. It’s an island that you’re swimming toward that doesn’t even exist.
Every heartbeat is a heartbeat you’ve never experienced. Every breath is a breath you’ve never taken.
Envision a future that is so unwritten, a future that is so strange that you have trouble holding it in your imagination. Envision a future so blank, so pure and unencumbered by the past or the present, so savage and wild and deep that it remains unrestrained by preconceptions of yesterday and unchained from expectations of today.
Envision a future that is so impossibly unimaginable that it creates an abyss of nothingness, and then, allow yourself to float into that unknown, leaving behind everything to embrace a future you that is flawless and free.
There’s a park here in Hobart that I’ve walked through maybe a dozen times since arriving in Tasmania a few weeks ago. It’s a beautiful park with manicured gardens and strips of black pavement that crisscross bright green grass that always seems to be freshly cut.
But there’s also something quirky about this park. Stone structures that look like giant gravestones are occasionally thrown about and there are different types of trees growing in seemingly random locations.
I walked through the park today and stopped to read a small metal placard that was embedded into a stone at the base of one of the smaller trees. It said the tree was planted in 1932. That’s eighty years. I put my hand on the tree and looked up at it with a new sense of respect and admiration. Eighty years old and still young and strong.
I continued my walk and looked around at the other elderly giants surrounding me. Some of these trees must be hundreds of years old.
The park is a common route used by both commuters and students traveling to and from work and school. My host, who often walks through the park on her way to and from work, mentioned to me once that it would be a fun project to take photos of the trees while looking up at the sky from underneath them, and then trying to identify where in the park each photo was taken.
I find myself always looking up when I pass through a park now.
Perspective has a strange way of changing how we think about the most obvious things, those things that we take for granted and pass over, or under, without thought or pause for reflection.
At the other end of the park I came across a sign with more information and some historical background about the area. In 1804, the park began as Tasmania’s first cemetery, but became badly neglected within a few years and fell apart. Escaped convicts would occasionally vandalize the graves and sometimes they would even climb into coffins to hide from pursuing police.
The city of Hobart continued to grow and expand around the cemetery and before it was turned into a recreation area in 1925, nearly 900 people had been buried there. A few of the prominent gravestones were repaired and now they share the landscape with several giant trees, including American Redwood, Elm, Spruce, and Tasmania’s native, and giant, Blue Gum tree.
Nine hundred people. I tried to imagine that number of skeletons resting underneath the beautiful green grass, the roots of these giant trees weaving in and out of them, slowly converting what was once a living breathing human back into the basic elements. I’ll never walk through St. David’s park the same way again, as my perspective has been permanently shifted by the few words on that deteriorating sign.
It doesn’t take much to alter our view of the world, to shift our reality in such a great way that what we see and feel changes so dramatically that we become a different person, making different choices and thinking different thoughts. But a change in our perspective always starts with present-minded observation, with understanding where we are right now in relation to something else.
I walked though that park many times, but it wasn’t until I slowed down to understand and observe my surroundings that I acquired a new perspective and a new appreciation for the park.
In the same way, unless I remain curious and present to the activities in my day-to-day life, I may end up walking through unaware and oblivious to the great depth and richness that exists all around me and within my life.
We all die. We all get hurt, make mistakes, and experience pain that seems impossible to overcome. Life isn’t safe, but a life spent trying to avoid all risk and discomfort is the best way to avoid living at all.
It’s true that some risks are not worth taking, but most risks will mean the difference between living a life on repeat and creating a life forged in sweat, on the steps to a breathtaking summit.
So believe in something impossible. Dream. Search for meaning in your actions. Apologize and forgive. Find harmony in moving forward. Risk. Take action. Do something worthy of your own admiration. But most of all, love, and embrace who you are.
Life is short, and it’s fragile, but it’s worth it.