musings

Further Life Advice, From Calvin & Hobbes

Poor wee existential Calvin. Asking the same question that ended my last post: What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Have we made the most of these precious few footsteps? Iterations of this big question has been running rings in my mind lately. Far more from curiosity than despair. It is, after all, the nature of yoga & yogis to seek, to be the eternal seeker (Siddharta is fresh in my mind still). Searching for meaning and offering advice on how to live life well are hella popular in this new century and amongst the minds of Gen X, Y and Z. Life advice blogs from the likes of Mark Manson, philosophical articles from Brain Pickings, endless peppy "live your dream" pop-blog posts from Elite Daily fill our feeds. Subliminal messaging gets through and I'm sure I'm not the only one left pondering the big questions, the millions of small questions, and wondering if I am leading life in the best, most creative, fulfilling, kind, loving, spontaneous, productive, carefree, organised way. It's not so much finding any purpose, but making sure the purpose I settle on and commit my creative energy to is a good one.

I already twigged on something last month. Take away my job, my home, my homeland, and familiar faces of friends, and it becomes a lot harder to pin yourself down to something, to grasp and grapple with something that could define who you are and, as a result of knowing these, why you are. It's tricky. It's hard work. It's perplexing. Sometimes I want to give up. On those days I just read a good book. But on the other days, I read articles and gather up as much advice as I can from different sources: philosophers, psychologists, friends, strangers in cafés. Piecing it all together is the fun part. And I hope not self-indulgent. But writing tends to help make sense of it all. Right now, I am mainly re-write the words of others.
 

"You may be surprised to find how quickly daily routine and the demands of “just getting by” absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your politics and religion become matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your life in terms of other people’s expectations rather than issues. I tell you all this because it’s worth recognising that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, yes, this is obviously where I was going all along. It’s a good idea to try to enjoy the scenery on the detours, because you’ll probably take a few."
Bill Waterson, Calvin & Hobbes Creator
 
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
 

I love it when great minds somehow meet and overlap with their words.

There's comfort in the words of others, that suggest the author too experienced the same thoughts as you. And that others read them and may find mutual comfort  and increase the circle of those who know how you feel. So I write openly about my musings knowing some friends have the same perplexities on autorepeat, and to bring the comfort of "me too" to anyone that might read this with the dizzy confusion of figuring out those next steps. I doubt anyone goes from Here to There without that internal spaghetti junction rush hour traffic jam where you took a wrong turn and your GPS lost signal, twice. Just not many people explore or express the messy bit in the middle. 

So where am I at right now? I'm being curious about almost everything. I'm engaging in conversations I have not often had due to ignorance or feeling out of my depth: politics, shaping the world from where it's really at not where we're told it's at. I'm studying again: new skills, like graphic design, and new knowledge; anthropology, post-colonial issues. I'm stoking fires I've already had burning: women's rights, being honest about mental health issues and figuring out how I can help, human trafficking, human rights. I'm waking up my long-time dormant writer's brain. I'm creating new habits. I'm exploring a new city. And I'm in Bangalore again. It's a good vantage point for all these things.

 

A Collection of Words on Seeking & Purpose

If I were a collector of anything, I would be a collector of words. Other people's and my own. Cataloguing them neatly by category, or the moment in time I read them, or the reason I was so drawn to them. Well, this is something that is already done, of course: dictionaries hold all meanings but lack emotion, thesauruses expand and introduce new words like a play park of potential, books of quotations hold inspiration, anthologies expanding greater horizons containing whole narratives.

In my mind's eye, however, it is a more organic, living, breathing collection. Recording the words on first reading, my impressions and thoughts, the mark they make on me; only to be revisited later and a new meaning deciphered. A body of work.

Here, then, are some words I have read recently that have inspired me, guided me, and grounded me in my wanderings.

" 'When someone is seeking,' said Siddhartha, 'it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal... What could I say to you that would be of value, except that perhaps you seek too much, that as a result of your seeking you cannot find.' "
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
 
"He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."
Nietzsche, quoted by Victor Frankl  in Man's Search for Meaning,
in reflecting upon his time in a Nazi Concentration Camp
 
"We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for the individual."
Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
 
"By declaring that man is responsible and must actualise the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic "the self-transcendence of human existence."... The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love - the more human he is and he more he actualises himself. In other words, self-actualisation is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence."
Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
 
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life
?
Mary Oliver, from "The Summer Day"