Friday, August 13, 2010

the art of living

 What is it we all do on a daily basis but practicing the art of living.  Some of us are more aware of it than others, some more engaged, some less. But learning how to live, how you want to live, it is an art form. It takes practice, diligence, skill, attention. It is the ultimately rewarding art, that most fulfilling creative act whose end point is true growth (even through pain), and ultimately, happiness. 

I have no illusions that this is a simple task. It is incredibly difficult. I would argue that is the most difficult of all art forms. It takes consummate discipline. It requires that everyday when you glimpse your own reflection in the mirror you consciously desire to grow today, to attend to your weaknesses with care, and to make a plan to change them.

Well, I have made a long list and a short list of how to practice the art of living. The short list is more behavioral, little reminders of acts that can help me grow each day. It goes something like this: take walks, drink water, smile, take time to taste your food, be good to someone, notice the weather, stretch, read, watch very little tv, don't consume anything that doesn't nourish you, remind someone how much how love them.

The long list is more of a work in progress. It is those things I believe will make my life the best life I could lead. It is this:

A. Let curiosity rule you. Make everything a question and take time to find every answer.

B. Let your mind expand and be cultivated by the plethora of information that exists in our scientific society.

C. Always be open to viewpoints that are not your own, and be able to make clear rational arguments against them in order to strengthen your own.

D. Oscillate between routine and spontaneity: find space for the extremes of solitary meditation and travel and the gradations in between.

E. Create. Find a skill and hone it. Become a master at many things.

F. Do not become indoctrinated; and try to break yourself from falling into a categorization.

G. Constantly strive to improve.

H. Keep your daily emotions rational and stoic, reserve extreme emotions for extreme situations.

I. Have at least one person in your life whom you can speak openly and honestly with.

J. If possible, live in a community where you know and can rely upon your neighbors.

K. Believe in yourself and your life choices and fight for them.

L. Interact with nature daily: animals, plants, weather, etc.

M. Keep constant awareness of the tyranny of the status quo and confront it.

N. Be present and aware in every thing you do.

O. Only acquire material possessions that have a necessary function or have deep meaning; be able to think about the things you have.

P. Learn to love learning about the past, and decipher meaning from human and natural history.

Q. Be able to explain yourself. Have an opinion. Argue rationally for what you know and believe in. Learn more to be able to make stronger points.

R. Respect your body and use it to create (by farming, carpentry, dance, painting, etc). Be cognizant of the food you put into your body.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the wheel of fortune

For a whole host of intimate reasons that don't belong on this public blog, I have left trucking and am now back home in Chicago and again grappling with all the most important questions in life (it seems this grappling never ends).

What kind of life do I want to lead? Who am I? Who do I want to be?

First, there is always the shock of transitioning to a new kind of life, and this one was particularly shocking. So, I took some time to recover from the deep wounds and kind of allowed myself to flow in the tide of Chicago summer. I was ruled by moments of sunlight splashing my face and cool breezes on evening bike rides. Now, as the heat peaks, the whisper of summer's end is blowing gently through the moist treetops and reminding me to face reality.

Now what is reality, exactly? Is it any job at any cost? Is it just making money or finding something official to do with my time? I think it is more like learning to care for oneself fully. Practicing the art of being in the world. Managing the balance of your own expectations, beliefs, desires.

I am in the process of opening my mind to something new and learning - through trial and error - where exactly I belong. So, I attempted to get an office job through a temp agency to try out this world that so many of my peers are immersed in. I mean, they all seem to stick with their jobs, so it can't be that bad, right? Wrong. The moment I found myself under the sterile glow of fluorescent bulbs and shivering from the endlessly wasteful icy air conditioning, I knew I could not subject myself to this fishbowl of terror. The more I listened to my co-workers, the more I read between the tortured lines:

How are you today, honey?

Well, I'm getting better now that it's close to 5!

Heh, yep, I hear you girl.

I cannot count the number of times I heard, in just one week, a variation on this theme. Then why stay? Why are you doing this to yourself? Never subject yourself to consistent unhappiness if there is any other way. Break free. Take risks. Life is nothing more than an endless challenge to grow or die. Never choose death. Choose life.

So, I told them a horrible excuse, and then I quit. And the wheel of fortune spins on and on.