Where it counts, we’re all the same

Today I am in England. Tomorrow I will be in Tunisia.

Superficially, some things will be different there: fashion, weather, currency…

But mostly it will be the same: people trying to get through the day and do right by whoever they feel they ought to do right by.

Our differences make the world an interesting place, but where it counts, we’re all the same.

Today’s song: Your Fine Petting Duck by Devendra Banhart

Either a prison or a playground

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Anaïs Nin

The world can be a prison. But it can just as easily be a playground. Given the choice, I’d pick the playground.

Start by asking questions…

Everything that feels rubbish, unfair, unjust, stacked against you, shit in any way… pick it apart. Dissect it. Float the possibility that you could be wrong – that there is more possible one way to look at things.

Do this for a while, and you’ll find that the only person making the world a prison was you all along.

Today’s song: Lady, Tell Me Straight by Mike Uva

To live is to explore

That feeling of being in a hurry to get where you’re going, or even to figure out just exactly where you’re going so you can hurry up and get there?

A choice.

Another choice is the one to – so long as you can manage to keep your head above water – explore. See where life takes you.

Not sit about. Not mooch. Not do nothing.

Explore. Take in as much of the world as you can. Let your mind go crazy connecting the dots behind the scenes.

I would wager that the life you’ll be living after just a few months of being a little bit more open and exploratory will shit all over the alternative – desperately, fearfully picking some arbitrary direction because “that’s what you’re meant to do.”

If you know in your heart just what you were meant to do and how to do it, don’t let me stop you. But if you don’t, let yourself do some wandering.

Today’s song: Flying Theme (from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial”) by John Williams

What if you were broke forever?

Some say it’s a good idea to imagine what your life would be like if you never had to worry about money again – if that part of your existence was “sorted” forever, how would you spend your time?

It’s an okay idea. But there’s a much more powerful one:

What would you do if you were always going to be broke?

You won’t come up with the same answers as when you imagined having infinite money. Your mind will strip away any of those ideas that revolved around second-hand ambition or desires you inherited from others around you, and lead you to some deeper, more personal, genuinely fulfilling answers.

Today’s song: I Was in the House When the House Burned Down by Warren Zevon

You already have everything you need

Everything you need, with which to do the right thing, you have inside you. Right now. At this very moment.

The reason you disagree – that you cannot believe this to be true – is that you misunderstand what is meant by the word need.

You think that before you can truly do the right thing – whatever it might be – that you need more money, more resources, more time, more contacts, more opportunities. And so you allow yourself to continue avoiding your duty to do the right thing.

The only two things you need are the willingness to ask the question “what is the right thing to do here?” and the courage to do whatever answer you get.

Everything else? Cherries on top.

Today’s song: The Ballad of Big Nothing by Elliott Smith.

You can only take one step at a time

I watched about 80 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey earlier, before my wife woke up and wanted to watch something different.

The half of it I did get to watch blew my mind… yet again. And it made me think about the conundrum that faces everybody with ambition.

We are somewhat grandiose – we want to create something in the world that is as grand and epic in scope as 2001 is. It feels like anything less than that is futile. And yet if we even make an attempt, we seem to inevitably fall short of our great ideals.

One possible solution is to reduce the size of our ambitions – to take on something we are more likely to succeed at. I think this is a terrible idea.

We should make our aims as grand and epic in scope as that film. But we should also realise that both the most enormously magnificent projects and the most mundanely shit ones proceed in exactly the same way – one step at a time.

Assuming that aliens didn’t build the pyramids, human beings did. Brick by brick. Until they were done. Yes, they took planning and strategy, but that was also undertaken one step at a time. It can be done no other way. Nothing can.

Today marks the first day I am including a song recommendation in my daily meditation. I have created a playlist on Spotify, and I’m going to be adding to it every day.

Today’s song is “The Crystal Ship” by The Doors.

Your life is more important than “the news”

Given the choice between being what news-addicts would call “ignorant” – but genuinely enjoying my life – and being “informed” – with the resultant depression and despondency – I know which I’d choose.

And yet it’s very tempting to think that if you want to be a good person, you should take the things you see and hear on “the news” seriously.

That you should put your personal, subjective experience second, because you think that some stories told to you by a corporation are more objectively important than the thoughts in your own head.

Don’t. You get to decide what’s important to you – nobody else has that right.

Watch the news if you like – maybe you enjoy it. Just don’t let it become more important to you than your actual life. That’s tragic.

People are going to hate you

It’s a bit dickish to go around purposefully making other people’s lives difficult…

But that doesn’t mean you are here merely to make other people happy – to make not upsetting anyone the sole purpose of your day.

You are here to be you. And if you do it right, some people won’t like you. If you do it really right, vast swaths of people will hate you.

Embrace it. It means you’re living.

You cannot “tempt” fate

I cringe whenever I hear somebody admonished by another for merely speaking about something morbid.

Don’t tempt fate,” the other party will say, as though Fate were intently listening with a cup to the adjoining wall, and now that you’ve reminded it of something unpleasant, it will decide to gift you with some of that very unpleasantness. As though, had you only kept your mouth shut, you would have been somehow “safer.”

What a load of shit.

Fate cannot be tempted. Fate marches to beat of its own drum – it acts purely on its own whims, whatever they happen to be. It is the height of arrogance to presume that by merely mentioning something unpleasant, you have the power to tempt Fate one way or another. Fate couldn’t care less about you.

So if it is impossible to tempt Fate – either to your benefit or to your detriment – what is left to do?

Simply to adapt yourself – in advance – to whatever it does dish out. Be ready for shipwreck, be ready for calamity, be ready for things to go completely wrong. Because that stuff is either going to happen or not going to happen, completely independent of what you do or say.

What is quite unlooked for is more crushing in its effect, and unexpectedness adds to the weight of a disaster. The fact that it was unforeseen has never failed to intensify a person’s grief. This is a reason for ensuring that nothing ever takes us by surprise. We should project our thoughts ahead of us at every turn and have in mind every possible eventuality instead of only the usual course of events.

Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Today creates tomorrow

The moment you find yourself in right now is a gift – a gift from the you of the past to the you of the present.

Are you happy with what you’ve given yourself?

If you are, then well done. You need do nothing more than keep on enjoying yourself.

But if you’re not, think about what you might want to change. And start changing it.

What you do today creates your tomorrow.

If it’s possible for someone…

… then why isn’t it possible for you?

I’m not saying that is possible – I couldn’t possibly know. Nor am I advocating any kind of delusional “positive” thinking where you try to trick yourself into believing you are omnipotent.

But when you watch a concert pianist and you think “I know I couldn’t possibly do that…” you must realise that you shoot yourself in the foot massively. To arrogantly presume that you know for sure everything that is and isn’t possible, and yet… if you were really so smart, why would all these things be so apparently impossible for you?

On the other hand, when you instead think “Crikey, that looks bloody difficult… but I suppose it’s technically possible…” you might not realise it, but the ramifications are very, very different. You have loosened your stranglehold on reality, and opened yourself up to a wider, much more expansive range of possibilities.

You can’t make the impossible possible, but you can stop yourself making the actually-possible impossible.

Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; but if a thing is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Book VI, 19)