Sitting here working on that novel I've been wanting to write for years now, listening to old Nine Inch Nails that reminds me of no worry, no weight of the world bearing down on me. This realization, in contrast to when I break my concentration, when I mentally look at the normal concerns of my mind, makes me wonder: why do I need to worry about all these things? Will my world collapse if I stopped mentally juggling these anxieties?
I suspect the answer is no. And for now I'll stop juggling.
Until I remove my headphones, walk outside, and the pins and unicycle call for me again.
As you get older and the world grows more complex and nuanced, you face a choice: fight to maintain control over your reality, or lose confidence in your ability to influence the world.
It occurs to me while looking at my past behavior—that of “managing” people, lying to get my way and control a situation—and in that of my mother and father: a strong desire for control over the world around us.
Yet my mother and I share the same quiet behavior: drinking to excess. My theory on this Sunday afternoon is that being drunk gives us sweet contentment: an unspoken awareness that we don't control the world around us, and the plain outward acceptance of that. We strike up conversations we never would've otherwise had, smoke cigarettes we “quit” years ago, and carry on with strangers that we don't see a future with.
Our fight for control is an unconscious one that manifests in very conspicuous behaviors and routines. Perhaps the only way out is realizing what I'm really doing when I go for a drink. Around friends or not, I'm looking to give up my tight illusory grasp on my environment; to forget, for a night, my fantasy of control.
The word for my mental state perhaps popped into my head last night: neurotic. Anxious about all the things I realistically can't control; a constant babysitter; gently, incessantly concerned for things.
A little Google search provided an answer: think about death.
Hey, not a bad idea.
It sounds funny, but I've been here before. The times I was only concerned with my own world, when I constantly invented, I had death on my mind. It was strangely, immediately present; right in my face. I had to get the most out of my day because I was going to not have a day at some point. I felt this coursing through my body with every beat of my heart.
Every minute was important because it was that minute. The simple fact it existed was enough to make it significant.
I've lost that feeling with the infinite distractions I've decided to entangle myself with. So I'm back to thinking about death. Whereas it came naturally then as a means, here I have the end in mind — and I must consciously follow this path there.
I'm going to die some day. Feel my heartbeat; breathe deeply.
I get a little tipsy, and at some point I decide, this is so good, you can't stop me now. There's no need to stop. Because this is so good. Ride this feeling for as long as you can be conscious or whatever — it doesn't matter, I don't think that far ahead — but right now I'm feeling so good. Surely only good things will follow from here.
Maybe in my world-loving state I'll encounter something incredible.
They say some among us have seen many lives — the “old souls.” These have lived so many times before that wisdom comes to them effortlessly. Empathy is an instinct living in their very bones, after having lived with so many people of so many ages in the course of dying and being reborn again. Others say that if some soul has an easy life, it's because they've seen such hardships in past lives that they were destined to get a cosmic break at some point.
Money. 10:44 AM. Is that what I'm “making”? Is that all I'm doing? And what have I really “made” once I've made money? Is my belly more full or my life complete (I can die happy)? Certainly money can buy things that fill my belly or life — but my belly isn't made full by its mere existence. My life isn't instantly fulfilled the second I receive my paycheck. All these intermediary objects and experiences separate what I spend my life doing from living actual life; experiencing life, time, my own senses and mortality.
That is what Seneca meant. Working all day just for a paycheck isn't using life well. Your body and creative mind atrophy as you do what you're told, try to do more, get shut down, do only what you're told, and on and on. Every day is a waste when it isn't in line with your self.
Do not despair that the world is warming.
Do not pine for the coral
or the cold parts of the planet
you'll never get to see before they die;
as they were before the 20th century.
Do not fear a world changing —
life is only change.
You can affect it, yes
but only so much.
Do what you can
but do not
I'm generally, subconsciously, unknowingly concerned with the dead parts of me. I idly tongue overhanging beard hairs throughout the day; pet down my beard to find the ones that don't stand in line with the rest; pick the dirt from under my dead, grown fingernails (I stopped peeling them as a kid after too many cuts turned inward towards fresh, sensitive skin underneath).
When I get home I go to the bathroom. Scissors, razors, and nailclippers all within reach. First the rebellious mustache hairs are fished out [my tongue remembers where they are], then mercilessly truncated by my scissors. And of course there are always more to be found; I trim those too.
A razor heads for the sprigs between my eyebrows threatening to form a unibrow, those tough little hairs that I might've been picking at throughout the day. A quick swoop and they're gone.
On days when I've spent too much time picking dirt from my nails or noticing how good of scratchers my fingers have become, the nailclippers come out — cutting closer to the bed every year — and take my fingers down only to their live, necessary selves. Sometimes there might be a little buildup of dead skin at the edge of my finger's pink, where that white had began, and that too gets picked, cut, and removed.
As your life progresses, you must keep track of, pick, and trim the dead from your decaying body — whether they be skin, keratin, or thoughts. Like a bush, pick and trim, so that new things can continue to grow in their place.