This is a book born in my heart, born in the pain of ending one life and beginning another, born in the excitement of the continuing search for life’s meaning. Some people do not have to search, they find their niche early in life and rest there, seemingly contented and resigned. They do not seem to ask much of life, sometimes they do not seem to take it seriously. At times I envy them, but usually I do not understand them. Seldom do they understand me. I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love. This is a book for wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves. ― James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves
Of course. Of course I have a more difficult time figuring out who I am, what gives my life meaning, and what I want to do with my life. I eschew convention, and insist on deciding for myself. I investigate these questions deeper than most people I know (or maybe people just aren’t sharing it? please share!) When you take away everything that society tells you you should be and should want and should do, it’s easy to feel lost in a sea of possibilities.
What does it mean to identify? Is it how close you are to the other members of the group? Is it how important this characteristic is to you, and how it affects your thoughts and feelings? Is it how important this characteristic is to society, and how people treat you? Is it how proud we are to be it? Is it the degree to which we attach it to our personality?
It’s interesting to see the words that people choose to identify themselves, and also what they identify with more. We all choose our own ways to describe ourselves. This is how I identify, with stronger items that are more core to my being at the top of the list. Some items on the list refer to a mindset, which is just as important as tangible conditions.
- I am a part of the world.
- I am transient (*mortal).
- I am an earthling.
- I am human.
- I believe in love. I believe in loving all beings, in love’s power to conquer all, and I’m a pacifist.
- I am open.
- I am female.
- I am a young adult.
- I am middle-class.
- I am the child of immigrants.
- I am an optimist.
- I am inquisitive.
- I am intellectual.
- I am independent.
- I am creative.
- I am adventurous.
- I am a biker.
- I am an environmentalist.
- I am a US citizen.
- I am black**.
- I am tall.
- I am plain.
*I had an extensive conversation with a linguist-enthusiast friend about using transient to mean mortal. Mortal focuses on death and the end of life. Transient has a broader lens. It’s about existing in this world for a short time; passing through. It has larger implications: that this world, this experience, this dimension is perhaps not all there is. Of course, I mean this in the Stephen Hawking/ Rick&Morty way, not in the heaven/hell way.
**I realize that this is shockingly low on the list, especially compared to how high on the list “female” is. Racially, I’ve had a unique experience, I guess. A uniquely pleasant experience. Past the age of 8, I lived in mostly white communities. Affluent, educated, worldly white communities where I’m treated as an equal, a neighbor, a peer, a friend. I don’t expect prejudice when I interact with white people; I expect to be treated with respect. That’s an important distinction, I think: seeing racism as the exception, not the rule. The effect that this has on one’s mindset is profound.
I want honesty, openness, vulnerability. I want to be direct. I want to ask for what I want. I want to share how I feel. I want to know how you feel. I want to ask all the questions, even the hard questions that challenge my prejudices, my opinions, and the idea I have of who I am. I want you to ask the questions that linger on your tongue for fear of offending me, or getting hurt. I want to be REAL with people. I want to talk about pain and fear and dreams and hopes. I want to hear about your hard times, and what you learned from them. I want to be with you through your lows as well as your highs. I don’t want to hide under a social media mask that only shows the pretty, cool, impressive, successful parts of life. I want to value the less palatable experiences just as much, for I’ve learned that they have the potential to bring so much grace, patience, and understanding of people and the world at large. They offer a rare opportunity for true, deep connection between people. I have suffered alone too many times, and I know far too many people who have suffered alone as well. As Alan Watts said, “Just as manure fertilizes the plants, so the contemplation of death, and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You get wonderful things out of that.”
I’ve failed a lot on my quest for more authentic relationships, and I’ve lost a couple of friends along the way. But I’m not giving up.
And that’s ok with me. I’m just surprised I didn’t admit this to myself sooner.
I look at the people who succeed here, and I’m not like them. I’m never going to be eager to fulfill my boss’s needs. I’m never going to make small talk or networking a priority for me. I’m never going to have a 5-year plan for professional growth. I’m never going to dedicate my ambition to a company. I simply don’t want to do these things, and the benefits they bring don’t have value to me, nor are they worthy of my energy.
I’m like a grumpy dog, too stubborn to do tricks for treats. I’d refuse to get off my ass. You want me to roll over? Beg? Shake your hand? FUCK YOU AND YOUR DUMBASS TREATS! That’s basically how I feel about the corporate world – doing a lot of fake, dumb, meaningless actions to get treats (income, prestige, and a way to impress people when they ask what you do).
I’ll cautiously take this one step further. It’s more than just the corporate world. I feel this way about society. Society is our harshest judge, and our most fickle critic. Why should we judge ourselves by the values of others? Why do we assume society’s values instead of thinking critically and finding one’s own values? Because it is difficult. It takes a lot of strength of self to eschew the masses and hold on to one’s self. There is immense strength in each artist that chooses to sacrifice the will of society and the pressures of the world in order to pursue their own work. There is immense strength in people that are unsatisfied with the answers they are given, and choose to look further, think deeper, explore existentially in order to find something that speaks to them, that makes sense to them.
I look at this modern world, and don’t see the world. I don’t see the Earth, our humanity, our animality. Rather, I see us abandoning our truth. Our true selves are not groomed, edited, styled, nor poised. Our true selves are messy, scared, naked, curious, emotional, and humble. We lie about ourselves. We hide ourselves. We cover ourselves in makeup and fashion, showing only our best angle to the camera, and to the world. We curtail our speech, we suppress and ignore our thoughts, saying only what we hope will be well-received. And in doing so our true selves are subdued, often to the point that we don’t even know our true selves, and sometimes to the point of near non-existence. The profoundness of our sadness, the transcendence of our ideas, the brilliance of our questions, the delicacy of our love, the creativity in our ponderings, the sincerity of our fears, are all lost in the effort to be palatable to society. Society doesn’t value these things, so we have learned to hide them in order to protect our vulnerable selves. But what is more human than the things we experience so deeply within ourselves? What is more real? So much of what we do and what consumes our minds and our time serves not us, but others, society. And that is a betrayal to our selves.
Who are you? What will be revealed if we strip down the bullshit we layer on ourselves to insulate us from society’s judgement, and satiate our ego? Who are you without the job, the house, the car, the posh friends? Who are you without the rules of society, without the expectations of others? Who are you without the ideas our peers have of us being the funny one, the artsy one, the athlete, the DJ, the hipster, the goth? Who are you without the impressiveness of your accomplishments, your fancy vacations, your athletic achievements, your GPA, your instagram followers, your sarcasm? Who are you without the cute shoes, the smokey eyes, the (sic) swole muscles, the #beardgamestrong? Who are you without the pretense?
It’s not that these things aren’t valuable. The question is, is it valuable to YOU? Do you do it for yourself or for the effect it has with others? Are you an athlete because you’re good at sports, or are you an athlete because you intrinsically love it? Be not an athlete. Be someone that loves athletics. Be not a writer. Be someone that loves to write. Be not a misfit. Be yourself. Stop obeying what others tell you, and decide for yourself.
“There are men too gentle to live among wolves
Who prey upon them with their IBM eyes
And sell their hearts and guts for martinis at noon.
There are men too gentle for a savage world”
-James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle To Live Among Wolves
- The world is jello. When I move, you move.
- I am deeply, deeply, deeply grateful to be a woman. Ironically, my pathological fear of pregnancy would be much worse if I was a man.
- I’ve vehemently not wanted children for a decade. Is that currently true, or have I entrenched myself in a neuropathway so deep I can’t get out? I can’t imagine wanting kids, but I’d like to be able to explain that sentiment more eloquently.
- I simultaneously seek and hide from my true nature. I can’t even bring myself to say what I’m referencing. I don’t want it to be true.
- I love learning so much that I liked to imagine heaven as a place where you spend eternity asking “god” questions and getting complete answers.
- Note, I imagined it not as a place with answers, but a place where you spend eternity learning. The process and the “conversation” is key in this fantasy.
- I also liked (and still like) believing in magic. Maybe it just exists in a different way than is contemporarily imagined. Maybe what we believed was magic is now called science. Maybe the chaos of life is magic. Maybe life itself is magic. Maybe magic has lost the world.
- I’ve spent my life searching for answers to questions I can’t even conceptualize.
- Things I want to learn about:
- words (diction)`
- Things I want to be:
- a philosopher, obviously
- a research psychologist, duh
- I am attracted to intelligent independent thought.
- The thoughts, ideas, and questions that fill my brain are in a completely different realm than most people’s. In some ways they’re macro, a 50,000 ft view of human behavior. In the exact same way, it’s a micro view . I don’t know if I’m obsessing over trivial things that only exist in one’s mind, or if I’m trying to grasp really BIG things that explain everything we experience.
- Why does society succumb to authority so easily, and why do people think it’s a good thing to obey?
- I’m losing a tangible hold on the world. I just want to be naked in nature, close to the earth. So few things in this modern world are real.
The frustration of an unanswered question has always been the feeling I dislike the most.
During the brief time I considered the existence of a god, I even imagined heaven as a place we would hang out with the omniscient being, ask questions, and receive thorough, true answers to any question we could conceive until the end of time. The constant flow of absolutely truthful knowledge; what a dream.
The existence of an absolute truth is not absolute.
That is, sometimes fixed, invariable, knowable, unalterable facts don’t exist. Sometimes the answer doesn’t exist.
This is hard for me to digest, as I really really really like cold, hard answers. But in cases of “he said vs. she said,” sometimes the truth is literally unknowable. It brings to mind the whole white & gold vs. black & blue dress thing: somewhere out there, the real dress (the absolute truth) exists, but that doesn’t mean it’s accessible (knowable) to us. Same with Adnan Sayid. Maybe he did it. Maybe one of Hae’s friends did it. Maybe someone passing through from another dimension did it. We may never know, and in that way the truth does not exist. And Jack the Ripper. And JFK’s murder. Etc. There’s so much that’s unknowable in this world. How does that make me feel?
This is where I’m tempted to agree with those that say the past doesn’t exist (presentism). It only exists in our imperfect, incomplete, mismatched memories. But I think it’s a big leap to go from saying we don’t or can’t know the past to saying it doesn’t exist.
“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” – Alan Watts
René Magritte described his paintings as “visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, ‘What does that mean?’. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable.”
Solipsism: You are the only thing in the world that you could possibly verify as real. Solipsism states that the only thing we can truly assert is the existence of the thinking self. Other minds outside of the self cannot be proven, which leads one to doubt their existence.
Idealism: Reality is a construction of the perceptions held within the mind. If one cannot perceive the object or idea, it has no real existence. The ultimate being who is able to perceive the world is a divine being, holding all the ideas of the universe within its mind.
See also: 12 Angry Men
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