Explode into Space #60 - How to Work on Not Working So Hard

Me atop The Junk Cathedral. Austin, Texas.

Dear Readers,

Every week is a challenge to write something definite and crystal-clear. I need to tie up my loose ends and make a message out of my words. And some weeks it just doesn't come and I have to admit I submit to the clock and send something out anyway. No doubt it shows to some of you. The problem here is the endless battle I want to talk about this week. Where are we supposed to live, in the present or working for tomorrow?

There is nothing wrong with this moment. Think about it. At first, it is a freeing mantra. A weight is lifted. You can breathe, you can be grateful and you can move right along. Repeat it a few more times and it's bound to get creepy. You second-guess your words, your mood, your beliefs. There is nothing wrong with this moment? C'mon. The truth is we often feel like there is something wrong. The division between our identity as it is and who we think we should be rattles the cages constantly. 

I'm the first to admit I do it. (Big surprise there, right?) I bully myself like no one ever will. There are demons that possess me enough to make me feel weak, stupid, and boring. I don't hate myself but I say some awful things to get my ass off the couch. Hell, staring at my computer in the pitch-black of Wednesday night without the mental clarity to nail down my words, I was cursing myself for not being on-schedule with this. The problem is this is the problem. There is always work to be done. Now, reading Stephen Cope's Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, I'm finding the struggle to ask myself, Where is the love? Where is the acceptance? Is there really nothing wrong with this moment? 

What comes with the achievement of transforming yourself is that there is no end. Sometimes, though, the clock builds the illusion that life is a race. We're pushing ourselves as hard as we can to get to that ideal life with little acceptance of the reality that blankets us. And it infects everything you do when life seems to make us a punching bag. And the clock keeps on ticking.

Of course, I'm not the first to make this stuff up. Philosophers and thinkers for centuries have argued that our one and only similarity as humans is that death will define us. Futurist Jason Silva breaks down the ideas of Ernest Becker from his award-winning book The Denial of Death when he says there are three solutions Man has made for living our lives in the face of death: the Religious Solution, the Romantic Solution, and the Creative Solution. We've been beaten over the head with the first enough, and the second, the deifying of our lovers, seems slippery considering the rate of divorce and how hard it is for us to love ourselves, much less others. The Creative Solution is (surprise again) where this newsletter falls. The idea that you can go beyond death with your contributions, the products of your neurons and hands, fuels my life enough to just keep on doing, even though sometimes I have no idea how to answer that age-old human question of Why?

The crushing reality of believing in the Creative Solution, or anything at all, in the eyes of death is, again, it can sometimes feel like a race. With all the emphasis we place on getting a good education and doing the work that will make you rich or happy or both, there is kick-back in those trying to live the YOLO philosophy. The furious pace of the idea that you only live once is exactly what is dangerous about living for tomorrow and anxiously doing it all today. The juice here is that you are doing it wrong if you're not doing it all the time. There is something wrong with this moment if you're not currently rolling in piles of money or sky-diving naked. Sounds exhausting and painful to me.

Just as there is always work to be done, there is always fun to be had. The Sun doesn't care what we do, it rises and falls either way. All we have to decide is how to handle it. George Carlin once brilliantly said, "Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that..." When we're so occupied with work or trying to manufacture fun, we forget to ask the questions that make us uniquely human. It is not just our job, it is not just our family, it is not just our health. They are pieces of the puzzle that go on and on.

In meditating on the idea that there is nothing wrong with this particular moment, I'm stuck at a crossroads. Whereas I believe in morphing this life into something great enough to change the world for the better, relatively speaking, I'm also no stranger to the furious pressure of reaching that impossible ego-ideal. Is it best to breathe in the seconds as they try to escape, or is it worth pushing past our comfort zone to make ourselves and the world even better when we leave it? 

In Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, Cope remembers a great metaphorical story by the Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa that I think is a good place to end on this week. Trungpa explained that in the guise of chasing our dreams of some ideal, we develop a sense of false self equivalent to a fortress. We hammer and nail and shore up the walls of this structure for days, months, years. We sweat and ache, consumed with the project, until we realize the joke is on us: the fortress is best seen from the ground and when we step down to stand there in awe, we realize the fortress only stands a foot high. It's not to say our dreams and accomplishments are minuscule and useless in the sands of time. It's a reminder that the false self we develop is far less important than the solid ground we can stand on. Our contribution to the world is not how we lie to ourselves but how we deal with the acceptance of reality that we will, one day, close our eyes for good and leave behind everything. Find what is important and real to you about this moment and the next. Hold onto them and know that your mind makes it all real. 

Until next time...

explode into space.