Can anything be more idiotic than certain people who boast their foresight? They keep themselves officiously preoccupied in order to improve their lives; they spend their lives in organizing their lives. They direct their purposes with an eye to a distant future. But putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. Listen to the cry of our greatest poet, who as though inspired with divine utterance sings salutary verses:
Life’s finest day for wretched morals here
Is always first to flee.
‘Why do you linger?’ he means. ‘Why are you idle? If you don’t grasp it first, it flees.’ And even if you do grasp it, it will still flee. So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow. In chastising endless delay, too, the poet very elegantly speaks not of the ‘finest age’ but ‘finest day’. However greedy you are, why are you so unconcerned and so sluggish, extending months and years in a long sequence ahead off you? The poet is telling you about the day – and about this very day that is escaping. So can it be doubt that for wretched mortals – that is, the preoccupied – the finest day is always the first to flee? Old age overtakes them while they are still mentally childish, and they face it unprepared and unarmed. For they have made no provisions for it, stumbling upon it suddenly and unawares, and without realizing that it was approaching day by day. Just as travellers are beguiled by conversation or reading or some profound meditation, and find they have arrived at their destination before they knew they were approaching it; so it is with this unceasing and extremely fast-moving journey of life, which waking or sleeping we make at the same pace – the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over.
Seneca (50) On the Shortness of Life
Sometimes you just meet someone who kick starts your energy and passion into overdrive. A brief encounter with a butterfly on the other side of the world.
I met you dancing; where you put everyone to shame. Every guy wanted to be with you, every girl wanted to be you. You were a beacon of free energy and untamed passion. A symbol of care free fun. You are gorgeous. A siren; for any man that would approach was surely to be devastated.
We danced together for hours. Losing myself in that same care free energy. Everyone watched us intensely; whether in jealousy or just awe I don’t know. Soon it became time to head home, but not before talking over a very late bite to eat.
We talked for ages afterwards too; laying on my couch in the early hours of the morning. Delving into your creativity and passion in both photography and life. A creativity that is nothing short of inspiring and a passion that was powerful to be on the receiving end of; I was completely entangled. The night was about sharing an energy that could light up streets lamps for miles; to connect and be liberated. As the morning arrive, I couldn’t help but feel that the passion, creativity and energy wasn’t just a temporary feeling, but was now seared into a moment, one that won’t ever become just a memory.
We meet new people every day, we strengthen old friendships along the way, and we always have the opportunity to change lives. We all have something to offer, and should never hold it back. We each have the power to lead, to encourage those we encounter to be the best version of themselves. To inspire their passions and desires. As an introvert, I tend to believe that to a degree we need a good part of our energy simply for ourselves; however, you have made me realise that when you bring an energy to the table, and uplift others, it doesn’t run out. It multiplies. Like the plague. It changes people and defines moments.
Whenever you meet someone, whether they are new or old; always be inspiring, share your passions, share your energy. You never know what profound effect it might have.
This is a story with many meanings, all of them intertwined; but I won’t spell it out for you.
So there we were, the fourth night in two weeks with a solitary purpose, have fun. With a growing desire for a real distraction and dressed to the nines, we headed out after a party. After several hours of dancing, I blended into the atmosphere; vanished into the music, and was lost.
I went to the bar to get another drink, I turned, and I caught your eye. You were standing there and for a moment time paused, the crowd swimming around us. I watched as you made your way to the bar, pushing people out of the way as you went. You reached the bar and slide next to me, you turned, and we locked eyes. You were Megan and I was Craig, and for a moment I was lost forever. Your shoulder length brown hair, your cherry red lips and mesmerising eyes. I was caught by your smile, and for a moment I was more alive than I had felt in a while. Our friends met, and we followed your invitation to the dance floor. We turned, placed our drinks down, and you were gone.
I tried to find you. I never could.
Later that night, I received a call from a friend; she was scared of the way her boyfriend was acting. I met up with them, and ended up walking him to the Taxi line to send him home. On the way to the Taxi, he was assaulted from behind, a punch to the back of the head; unsuspecting, he went down and hit the concrete. Pure random violence. Luckily he did not lose consciousness, let alone die. He was loaded into an ambulance with head trauma, and left for the hospital with his girlfriend. My friend and I followed tail in a Taxi. We sat in the waiting room of the Emergency ward for two hours until we felt comfortable leaving (later we found out he needed surgery and three metal plates inserted).
We sat on the bench outside the hospital as we waited for separate Taxi’s to take us home. The sun was rising on a very early Saturday. The smell of a fresh morning was in the air, tainted with hope and opportunity. I turned and asked if you were just a hallucination. You weren’t. Yet there I was, in the midst of a violent, unpleasant morning, sitting on a bench with a warm smile on my face, with your cherry red lips and gorgeous smile on my mind. Looking forward to the new day that awaited.
There comes a point when you realise that you have little control over your own life; not real control anyway. We always think we do, I mean, we work in jobs we enjoy most of the time, we live by the guidelines set out for us, we buy the products we need and we enjoy the free time we have outside of work. What this should really say is, we work to make someone else a profit, we buy produce and goods that are served and heavily marketed, we follow the rules set out for us by someone we assume knows best and we spend a good portion of our free time trying to recover from the working week. This is where we come unstuck. This is where we are wrong. It’s also easy to fix and a lot easier than we think too.
So how do we right this wrong? Lets start with why we are wrong …
In the past 20 years, marketing has sky rocketed, and so has conformism. When I think of marketing, I don’t think of it as happy messages that a company wishes to convey, I think of it by its Military term: Information Operations. These Information Operations are designed specifically to alter the way you think, to embed an idea and convince you of it; all without you realising it’s happening. Information Operations is also the broader term used to group activities like Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) … scary right? I should know, I’ve written an essay on it and have even taken part in it. So what does this have to do with conformism? If the mass media and global corporations are convincing everyone to believe their message, it makes it easier to swallow and be part of the crowd.
So how do we fix this? How do we live life on our own term?
In his influential essay ‘Self-Reliance’, Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
He also states:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
We are told from a young age to be different, to follow our own path; but so few of us do. Some of us, myself included, fear being wrong. We fear that someone will tell us that what we are doing and what we believe is wrong; simply because we are not conforming. That fear controls us; it stops us from reaching our potential and being truly free. So we need to break from fear. I strive to live by the following sentiment: ‘What is the worst that can happen?’. Sure, someone can tell me I’m wrong (most of the time they can’t even justify it), but I know in my heart, with my soul and in my mind that I am right, and what I believe in is true; what’s the worst that can happen – People think I’m crazy, and I get to be happy.
I wear Vibram FiveFinger shoes because I know they are better for me and they make me feel free, despite the weird looks I get.
I devour classic literature and philosophy because I believe that it develops and liberates the mind and the soul; despite stark criticism for being someone who ‘reads’.
I grow as much of my own produce as I can, I strive to be environmentally friendly, and I love the smell of burning incense; despite being criticized as a greenie or hippie.
I smile and wave at kids, because when I was working in Timor Leste for most of 2012, I learnt the power of compassion and the simple giving and sharing of enthusiasm; sometimes all happiness needs is a shared smile.
I do these things because I know them to be true, even if no one around me believes in it. I do it because it makes me happy, and it makes me feel alive. It gives me the freedom to choose.
I have a few ties to cut before I can truly live life on my own terms, but that shouldn’t stop you.
Always question preconceptions.
Always think outside the box.
Never stop dreaming.
Don’t blindly follow the rules.
Fight for what you believe in.
Don’t let anyone ever stop you from following your own path.
… Live life on your terms, and for once, have real control over it.
In a society grown rigid with ideology, Vaclav Havel said, you come to accept that you live according to that society’s values and assumptions. If you were to refuse to conform, there could be trouble. You could be isolated, alienated, reproached for being idealistic, or scorned for not being a team player. You know what it is you are supposed to do, and you do it, not least to show that you are doing it. You go along to get along, he said, and so you confirm to others that certain things in fact must be done. If you fail to act as you are expected to, others will view your behavior as abnormal, think you arrogant for believing you’re above the rules, or assume you’ve dropped out of society…In truth, Havel said, that story is not natural; there is an enormous gap between its aims and the aims of life. Whereas life moves toward plurality and diversity and the fulfillment of its own freedom, the system demands conformity, uniformity and discipline. The system, Havel said, “is a world of appearances trying to pass for reality.”F.S. Michaels (2011) Monoculture: How one story is changing everything
You know I never really liked this place anyway. Air conditioning doesn’t work in the summer. Heater doesn’t work in the winter. Rents a crime. After the attack I never … never pined over any of my old crap. Never missed it. Stupid view of the parking lot. Broken toilet in the bathroom. You know, everyone I know is fighting to get back what they had. I’m fighting because i don’t know how to do anything else.Kara Thrace – Battlestar Galactica
As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity against me as an individual, nor I against them. They are ‘only doing their duty’, as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep any the worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.George Orwell (February 19, 1941) The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius
Traveling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.Ralph Waldo Emerson (1888) Self-Reliance
Let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the fear of adversaries who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proved by the even.Niccolò Machiavelli (1532) The Prince
At times I almost dream I too have spent a life the sages’ way, and tread once more familiar paths. Perchance I perished in an arrogant self-reliance an age ago. And in that act a prayer for one more chance went up so earnest, so… Instinct with better light let in by death that life was blotted out not so completely, but scattered, wrecks enough of it to remain dim memories, as now, when seems, once more, the goal in sight again.Robert Browning (1835) Paracelsus