The Stranger and The Truth(?)

First off, the elephants pictured above have nothing to do with the post, but I thought they looked cool, soooo there ya go. Enjoy!

The acacia branches hung overhead, basking in the late afternoon sun. I was in Damongo, Ghana at a Catholic Homestay. In front of me was a shrine to Mother Mary that curved up about 8 feet, looming over her statue. Planted in basins in each side of the arch were more acacia trees extending upwards. I sat down on a fallen bench, really just a slab of concrete and closed my eyes, feeling taken by the energy of the special place. As I closed my eyes, I took some deep breaths welcoming in gratitude, compassion, love, and excitement into my life and releasing boredom, frustration, anger, and doubt. With my sight forsaken, I found my sense of hearing vastly improved and became aware of the plethora of sounds around me. There were birds calling in languages I had never heard, the quietness of the breeze settled around me. I could feel the energy of nature in every direction, without interruption by modern day distractions.

I was sitting peacefully in the sanctuary letting grace fill my soul when I heard a shuffle in the distance and was called to look. I saw a young Ghanaian man, maybe 5 foot 8 inches, dressed in light blue athletic shorts, a matching t-shirt, and a pair of black flip flops. He meandered his way closer to the shrine in front of me, his gaze catching mine. I gave him a smile and a wave and closed my eyes again in respect for his space. Immediately after closing them though, my curiosity got the best of me and I winked one open to observe his prayer. He closed his eyes and touched his heart, his head, and some other places. I’m ignorant to this type of prayer but I’ve heard of it before. Following his prayer he gazed at the statue, as if pleading for something that I could not name. I closed my eyes again and left him to his peace, sharing the space in commune with that which I cannot name.

After a moment my attention returned to the sounds around me. The birds still chirped and the breeze still blew. The air was warm and I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead and dripping down my face. My shirt began to stick to me. I struggled to listen to and feel everything without focusing on anything in particular. As the peace of the moment took me, a familiar sound burgeoned into life, jolting me back to reality. I placed it as the ground being swept with a broom. I opened my eyes completely and watched the man bend at a ninety degree angle and sweep the shrine of fallen flower petals and dirt with a makeshift broom of straw. He carefully made his way around the area of floor finding each petal, pausing every now and again to assess his work. I watched the whole time, letting the peace of the moment course through me.

I wondered if I should stay and watch or leave him be. For some reason, I felt I should stay. After he finished his sweep, he cleared the petals and put them in a bucket. He took the bucket and walked a distance away to give them back to nature. Then, he returned. The man sat down at the bench in front of me, beckoned by my smile and our eye contact. I said hello and introduced myself to him. He did likewise and said that his name is Bernard. He had a light accent and I could tell that his English would be good enough for us to talk.

Now that Bernard was close, I could see that he had warm eyes, a genuine smile, and a calm demeanor. I placed him at about my age of twenty-one, maybe a bit older. I assumed he was a priest or of some such position at the church and after our introductions, I asked Bernard where he lived.

He turned to me, his knees and feet facing forward, toward the shrine, and his body twisted back to look at me. “I am studying at the nursing school near here.” He pointed at a nearby building, his campus, saying “God has graced me with the opportunity to study here and for that I am grateful.” He came off as a very gentle human, especially after watching him spend his time sweeping the ground. I was surprised that he was not a priest and had no affiliation with the sanctuary, because that meant that he had swept the ground of his own volition. I felt grateful to be sharing space with him. He said that he would finish his education in three months and will have finished three years of studying.

I was curious to know more about this mysterious man in this unknown place and so I asked him what he does for fun. He looked at me, a sad smile in his eyes and said, “Oh not much. After class I will leave campus and go for a short walk, then come here and pray, and then return.” I felt unsure of how to respond, awed and impressed by the slow pace of life in rural Ghana. I didn’t think I could do it. Striving to bond with him, I asked if he played football (soccer). He said that he did in primary school but that he hurt his knee and hasn’t since, but that he loves to watch. With this connection, I settled down into our conversation.

I asked him his age and he said “twenty-five. How old are you?” I said my age, his junior. This is when our conversation became more interesting. He smiled at me with a look I could not read.

In explanation of his expression, he spoke. “Here, sometimes we have to drop out of school because we do not have the financial backing to continue. It can take many years to finish because every year we drop out, help our families, and then hopefully return the following year.” I told him that it can be similar in the US but that most people are able to finish at least high school.

I looked back at him, remembering his injured knee, and asked, “Bernard, why did you become a nurse?”

He brightened as he told me of his passion. “I love to help,” he began simply. “I see people struggling in hospitals and I want to help, so I became a nurse. It feels good to do good and when you help someone, they say thank you.” I felt a smile rise to my lips as I recognized a human walking down their unique path in life. An unshakable conviction gripped me. Maybe, despite all I have known, this man is living life the way it is meant to be lived. Doubts were extinguished and others awoke: What did this mean for America? Why are people so busy? Why do they chase money and power? Where does the ever-present anxiety come from?

I thought for a moment longer on my newfound understanding and then ventured, “you are lucky, you know. Many people chase what doesn’t matter: money, a new car, a bigger house. Many people are born, they strive for things that do not matter, and then they die. Not everyone has found a way that they like to give back, to make an impact.” I felt uncomfortable telling this poor man from rural, northern Ghana that he is lucky, but I felt the truth resonate with me and was inclined to share. I am glad I did. There is always a tipping point in conversations and relationships when the depth of connection extends beyond the surface to what really matters. Bernard and I had reached the tipping point.

After I said this, he began to share many things about his life and the lives of the people in his community. He told me how this community is a mix of many tribes and that people immigrated from far away. He continued and told me how there is not enough money and that people can only farm to live, making no money, trapped in a cycle of monetary poverty. I realized that without external connections there is no entrance for opportunities to come to these people. As an American I am surrounded by opportunities, constantly, to the point that it becomes overwhelming and yet these people have none.

Beyond money, he told me that the town nearby has many issues with water. The town is on a hill and thus a well can’t be dug because there is so much earth between the surface and the water. He told me that no money comes here because there is no water here and for life to thrive there must be water. He explained that when only the native tribe lived in the area, they could maintain health and balance with nature, but as more tribes immigrated, the balance shifted. Now the water in the lakes is undrinkable because the cattle of the new tribes poop in it. There are too many people and there is no water. He seemed to think that there was no hope, no solutions, and I reluctantly agreed.

A light suddenly clicked on as my favorite kind of question popped into my head: one of immense proportions, one with weight. I excitedly asked “What is your dream, Bernard? Would you aim to be a doctor?” As soon as I said it, his eyes betrayed a deep sadness and I realized that I had touched a wound. I caught my innocent mistake too late. I have found in my conversations in poor villages in Ghana that people sometimes don’t get the chance to dream. He sighed and slowly looked up into the trees.

He watched nothing for a few moments, gathering his thoughts and his emotions, and then said, “When I was young, I wished to be a doctor. It has always been a dream of mine; to travel and help people.” He paused and I could feel his thoughts aligning in his mind, coming together, drawn from ancient memories. “It can’t happen,” he said as he dipped his head in resignation. “There would never be the money for it. It’s simply too much, too vast a number.”

“Have you ever looked to see how much it is?” I gently questioned, unable to let go of my attachment to dreams coming true. I have always longed for people who dream to achieve them and I have been especially adept at helping people open their eyes to bigger possibilities for their lives. I hoped to do the same with Bernard. I was still too innocent then and, honestly, part of me hopes to always be so.

He sighed again, this time a small smile rising to his face, as he laughed and said “I have not. I fear the number to be too high.” I could feel his unspoken belief come through. He didn’t believe that it would ever be possible for him to pursue his dream.

I did not relent. “What about scholarships?” I asked enthusiastically.

“I cannot access them.” He pointed at his phone, an old one and definitely not a smart one.

I felt my assuredness in dreams coming true slipping away but would not yet quit. “Do you have computers in your school?”

“We do, many actually. But in my three years at this school I have used them only once. We have no network to connect to.” Finally my confidence was depleted and I was forced to acknowledge his hard truth: perhaps dreams cannot always come true. I felt my privilege weighing on me like a ton of bricks, crushing me. I wanted to help this man who I knew had a soft, gracious heart, but I simply did not know how.

I let my emotions guide me and shifted the subject of the conversation, asking him if his people are sad. I explained my question to him by referencing food, water, and shelter as the essentials of life. I was wondering if people here could be happy with only the simple things, the necessities. I needed to believe it for my own sake. I needed to know that despite it all, despite the isolation of rural life, that he and others could still be happy and fulfilled.

“There is more to life than food and shelter. We may not be sad every day but when there is something that we want that we cannot have, then we become sad. When we live in a place like this, there is nothing we can do to get past this struggle for food and water.” He referenced again how no one comes here because there is no water. He spoke for his people, from a place of deeply ingrained, communal thought. I knew that there was more here than I could understand at the moment. I thought of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, returning to my seventh grade social studies class. Here, I felt the beginnings of the truth itching at my mind. I couldn’t grasp it yet but knew the truth would come fully, if I continued searching. As I thought, we sat in silence.

Finally I turned to him, understanding where my previous question had gone wrong, and said simply, “Are you happy?”

He smiled at me brightly, the question catching him off guard after our serious conversation, and said “You know, you wake up in the morning and you are alive. You eat some food and you are alive. Every day I wake up and for that I am happy. People complain and complain, but to who? Who is listening? They will not help.” He softly tossed his hands into the air above his legs where they had been resting and continued, “It is enough to just live. Your life is in your hands. Do not complain, be grateful.” I was struck by the simplicity of his answer and it made me happy to know that someone for whom life had been so challenging could find happiness in the fundamental aspect of being. I listened to my own heart and found it resonating with the sentiment. Something inside me had shifted. It was as if clarity had struck me suddenly. The world was loving and I was swathed in a blanket life. I sat for a moment basking in this magical energy and then felt moved to leave. I thanked him for explaining his life to me, a stranger. I told him I was going, smiled, wished him well, and walked away. As I walked through the trees on the dirt path I felt his truth overcoming my listless boredom and aimless unhappiness. I looked around, marveling at the magic of existence. I felt my whole being swell and merge with everything around me. Each leaf stood out to me, every smell was welcomed, each twig crunched under my feet. I was truly present.

As I have thought back on this experience with Bernard and my emotions leading up to it, I have thought more and more often about Maslow’s hierarchy. In his hierarchy, he proposes a pyramid. There are five levels to the pyramid and each corresponds to some genre of needs that a human must fulfill before they can move up to the next level, the final level being self-actualization, enlightenment. I have always taken it to be fact that the higher on the pyramid one is, the better off they are. It has always made sense to strive towards the higher levels of the pyramid, escaping the needs at the bottom. To rise from the first level to the second one must have the basic necessities of life: food, water, sleep, etc. Bernard and many of the people of rural Ghana are trapped in this first level, fretting over where their water will come from. In our conversations, I sensed a new question coming to light in my mind: Is escaping the first level of the pyramid even correct?

In the book Ishmael, author Daniel Quinn elucidates his theories about humanity. Since reading it, I had not been able to shake this feeling that all we do as humans is for naught. He writes of humanity’s history, of our journey from hunter-gatherers to agriculturalists, and of the effects wrought from this shift. He explains that people escaped animal culture by growing our own food. Once we were able to store food for later and avoid the constant hunger nipping at our heels, humans were able to expand and grow as a species. Because we could grow and store food, we could expand our border and explore without fear of getting too big to feed ourselves. Many might look at this innovation as perhaps the greatest human invention of all time, but Quinn cautions his readers. He begs the questions: What if we were not meant to escape being hunter-gatherers? What calamity has been caused because of it? Are we not using too many resources? Is the Earth not dying because we hefted the human race onto a pedestal, self-proclaiming ourselves gods in a world of animals? Were we wrong to escape Maslow’s first level?

All my thoughts are finally starting to click into place. Perhaps Bernard is the lucky one. Perhaps the stress and anxiety of modern day, fast-paced America is wrong. Perhaps Daniel Quinn wrote the truth. It seems that although Bernard longed for his dreams to come true, his happiness stemmed from the simple things in life. Humans always seem to want more. It is our cardinal sin. Even Americans, graced with all manners of privilege and opportunity, seek the quiet of the woods, the stillness of the olden days. The agriculturalists find an innate truth in the value of being a hunter gatherer, striving only to live through each day. Just as those who live day to day long to escape their horrible struggle and have abundance. It seems that all of us are destined to seek that which we cannot have, forever, no matter how the world may change. It is the destiny of humanity to be unsatisfied, always seeking, growing, adventuring into the unknown. But perhaps there is a saving grace. Perhaps we can all find respite from the tumultuous existence we share in the little things, in the small moments. As I finish writing this, I think back to the sanctuary. I can see the sun shimmering through the leaves of the acacia trees. I can hear the tittering of nameless birds above me. I can feel the stillness of the moment, the peace of being one with what is and always will be.

I finally glimpsed the truth through the eyes of a stranger. Perhaps it is possible to find balance in this wild life: Balance between the peace of now and the possibility of tomorrow.

WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE! No, but Really! It’s True!

It’s 3:48 PM on Tuesday the 16th of October, 2018. It is a beautiful day outside: the birds are singing, the sun is out, there’s a gentle breeze, and the spring flowers are astoundingly lovely. I am so grateful for nature and springtime and the sun and the clouds and the flowers! But, today, I am devastated, exhausted, and terrified.

I had been studying for a few hours and the tick of time reminded me to get my daily shot of Facebook scrolling in so I habitually popped open a new tab, clicked the F key, and hit enter. Boom, in. In under 5 seconds, I was interacting with the whole world. What did I see? The usual suspects: cats, political debates, and the like. But what was interesting to me was the substantial bulk of posts having to do with the environment, climate change, and nature. I clicked on video after video, watching them through and coming to the same conclusion – our world is dying and it’s on the brink of being too close to save.

I have taken classes on the environment, sustainability, and ethics. I am somehow the president of the SCU Sustainable Business Club that I have no idea how to run. The point is, I’m at least somewhat educated. I can spit facts out about where we’re at, about how one can help the environment, about what the benefits of not eating meat are. I’m not an expert and, in fact, I’m far from an expert. But, I’m an emotional being and I feel things deeply when I experience them. So, by 3:57 PM tears are falling from my eyes as the overwhelming sensation of hopelessness is washing over me, as if a great tsunami is growing right before my window insinuating the crashing demise that awaits me. I’m scared. I’m scared for myself, for the people who have less power than I, for the people who wake up in the morning only to find our trash washing up on their shores. I’m scared for the rich people who are too ignorant or greedy or even just stupid to realize that money won’t save them from this. I’m scared for humanity and I’m terrified because it’s up to us to save ourselves.

To be straight, factual, and very clear: Our world, Planet Earth is dying. Humans are sucking the life out of our planet exponentially faster every year, every day. We are burning forests, creating trash, consuming and producing meat, filling hills and mountains with trash, we are creating a planet of disposal. It’s as if we humans think we bought a phone that we can use and then replace with the newest model. It’s as if we don’t believe that the potential extinction of our entire race is imminent. It’s as if the fear is paralyzing us, forcing us to cast our eyes to the ground in shame and keep walking forward in life, refusing to take a stand. It is up to us, to every person to save our planet because it is dying and there is no one else who will save it for us. We are not going to fly to Mars. We cannot keep doing what we are doing. Period. Many scientists believe that the world is nearly beyond saving. We are at the precipice. We all have choices to make. Our daily lives must change, we must change, our society must change and we must make it do so.

It occurs to me that maybe we’re too late, that maybe the world is already beyond saving. This would be great in ways because we would be off the hook – we would be able to go down with the ship. But we don’t know if it’s too late or not – we still might be able to turn this thing around and that’s where the shit hits the fan. The scariest possibility to me is that the world still can be saved and that if we don’t do everything in our power to save it, it will die. I’m so overwhelmed by this. It seems kind of like the problem is too overwhelming to do anything about, so why do anything at all? But, what if the only way to literally save the world is to act in every moment with the intention that that action must save the world? What if by choosing to eat meat today, I’m just barely not making enough of an impact to reverse the end of the world? What if by choosing to create a stable life for my children and not fighting for the planet I’m actually putting them at risk of firestorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, and the unstoppable flood of trash into every nook and cranny of the world? As we use more and more resources and the world becomes less and less abundant, people will fight more, there will be more anarchy, more violence and war. People will die for our sins. So… What can we do?

Sure, there are the personal choices to stop eating meat products, create less trash, inspire those around us, or even start movements. But are these choices enough? I don’t think they are. Sure every snowball starts with one flake, so certainly these acts make a difference, but what’s really going to shift the tides? We have to change the game we’re playing. We have to escape the black void system we find ourselves in. We have to literally change everything including our own perceptions of normal before the world will accept us not as parasites but as symbiotes. We, humans, must evolve. I’m not suggesting growing gills or wings or learning how to live in space. We must evolve our minds, our mindsets, our capacity to dream bigger than we think possible. We must set out to achieve and create the tomorrows that we only are able to make if we act together, if we work hard together, if we come together as one people united by the imminent Armageddon that will rain hellfire on all of us. We must cease separating ourselves because of meaningless facets like color, intelligence, nationality, political affiliation, familial ties, gender, sexual identifications, sexual interests, level of disability, or anything else. If you are reading this, you are human. We are all humans and we must, I repeat, we absolutely must, inspire one another to act and to change the future of our shared fate to one of love, acceptance, compassion, and survival. We are all humans and we all have a moral obligation to ourselves and to our planet and to every living thing to dream big, to act big, and to make big positive changes.

3 Ways to Get Out of a Funk and Into a Funky Life

More than anyone else I know, I tend to have ups and down, slips and slides in my life. One week I will be a happy, confident, and on my game. I’ll feel like I’m on top of the world like I can do anything, make anything happen. Then, suddenly, I’ll slip into inaction, into comfort, into laziness and stagnation. This means that over and over I’ve had to recover from these down periods, which makes me somewhat of an expert (*cough* Yeah right! *cough*). Anywayyy, I hope that this can help some people!

I recently had this happen to me. A few weeks ago I was the happiest I have been in a long time and I was working out every day, eating well, drinking water, writing, reading, and really just hitting all the bullseyes. A few days later, I was staying up until four in the morning binging shows I had already seen, I was not working out at all, I was eating like shit, and I was being altogether pretty down in the dumps. I preferred to stay in bed all day with the curtains closed and the lights off than getting out into the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still would laugh at jokes on TV shows and have ideas about life, but it was off. It was like I was happily depressed. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but it’s a doozy. Getting out of bed was hard and there was no motivation to get out of bed, but in reality, there was also no need to get out of bed, so it was fine. There was nothing pushing me and I had the free time to burn, so I did. I burned my time. For about two weeks, I didn’t accomplish anything, I watched way too much TV, I ate canned food; it was a mediocre life. All of a sudden, again, I realized what was going on and change hit me like a very fluffy and well-intentioned freight train.

Recently I decided to get my life back together. A friend of mine sent me an audiobook to listen to by a really talented life coach. I started listening to it and immediately recognized two important things:

  1. I need to get back on track and I need to own my life as mine.
  2. I need to commit to staying on track and figure out habits that will keep me on track even when the going gets tough.

So today, I’m going to talk about some ways that I use to get out of bed and back into the swing of things in life. In the future, I will write a post about some habits I have been using to stay active and accountable to my vision for my future! On that note, Way #1

Way #1: Visualize. Whys > Shoulds.

This is the first step in any endeavor. Without a vision, there is nothing to work for, there is no purpose, no drive. So, the first step is to take a step back from everyday life and spend some time thinking about what is really important to us. For example, a few months ago I was experiencing one of my slouches in life. I was down in the dumps about life and myself and I was unhappy, self-conscious and full of anxiety – a veritable anxiety monster. So, what did I do to get out of it? I read a book titled Not Nice, by Aziz Gazipura. It’s a book about how we as humans tend to succumb to the pressures of society and the people around us – how we live because of the outside shoulds instead of the inside whys. Reading the book was challenging and made really internalize the fact that this life I am living is mine to make how I want. It helped me realize that I can set any vision for the future as long it is something that I authentically want. The book asked me the question: “What do you want?” I realized I that I don’t think about this question nearly enough and at that time, I didn’t actually have an answer. When it came down to it, I had no idea what I wanted. So, I found some paper and scribbled down some answers, I called my friends and family and consulted with them about what my dreams were when I was younger, and I did a lot of thinking, often emotional thinking. This process led me to find out that I do have dreams and visions inside and that I simply get distracted by the shoulds. How does one avoid the shoulds and work hard towards the whys? Realistically, there could be many many books written about this one, but for now… Check out #2.

Way #2: Owning my life. Becoming the captain.

The number of times I have said to myself “I don’t have the time or energy for that” or “I can’t do that, it’s too hard” is astoundingly high. I tend to convince myself that I can’t do something because I’m not in the right situation or because it’s too hard. This is something almost all of us do quite often. We are creatures of habit and when we habituate a reaction to challenges that tells us that we can’t beat those challenges, then we can’t. It’s as simple as this. What we think becomes reality. So, when I am in the dumps and when it’s hard to get out of bed, I remind myself that I am the captain of my ship, the director of my play, the king of my kingdom, and the master of my own destiny. This reminder helps me snap back to reality and remember that it’s up to me to make my life matter and make it what I want it to be. It also helps me internalize the fact the shoulds of life come from other people, who are the captains of their own ships, and that maybe the shoulds are good for them, but not for me. Another key thing to do when beginning the voyage as captain of our own lives is to get out of the house and stay out for as much of the day as is possible. Our spaces draw us in and make us comfortable. We have our nice blankets to curl up in, we have our snacks to binge on, and we have distractions out the wazzoo. On the other hand, when we are out of our houses, everything around us is an opportunity to engross ourselves in the present moment. This leads me to my next trick.

Way #3: Embrace today. Embrace now.

Many times when I am in a down period of my life, I tell myself things like: “I’ll do that tomorrow,” but as we all know, this almost always means… “I won’t ever do that.” The solution to this problem is to remember how wonderful our lives are and how our time is sparse. We have a limited number of todays to take advantage of. We will never have another opportunity to live today to the fullest… NEVER. Today is today and when it’s over, it’s gone forever. That’s just the truth. The other day, I blew my own mind when I was thinking about how much time each day I spend distracted by social media and TV. I realized that I watched about 2 hours of TV a day and was on social media for about an hour. This is 3 hours every day! Some days I would even spend way more time doing these things! I did some mental math and realized that three hours per day out of 24 hours every day meant I was spending about 1/8th of every day doing these things. This might sound okay, but then I realized, that if I spent 1/8th of my days this way, I was really spending 1/8th of my life this way. I was shocked and appalled with myself and the people around me. My life is more valuable than that. The average American male lives 77 years (wow young). 1/8th of 77 is about 9.5. If someone asked me, would you give away nine and a half years of your life for X, Y, or Z, chances are, I would say no! Almost 10 years of my life projected to be spent watching TV or going on social media. That’s just unreal to me. So, we must embrace today and spend the time we know we have available to us doing the things we really want to be doing, not falling into the habits of our addictions! We must embrace the harder things like reading and exercise and with time they will become normal. Be intentional, stay active, keep moving forward and remember that today is the only today ever and it’s completely up to us to make it what we want it to be. Every moment is an opportunity for intentionality.

I’m going to stop here for today. If you want to read my next post about this topic and others, click HERE!

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day! Remember, get after it and live your life! Go listen to some funky toons and do some dancing!

If you have any tricks for dealing with this kind of stuff, send me an email! I would love to hear from people 🙂

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A Short Autobiography

A Story

I grew up as a vibrant and passionate kid, always looking for some way to imprint my own personal reality onto the world, whether this was building a fort in the woods and pretending to be hiding from the enemy or creating my ideal character while playing Dungeons and Dragons. The world was my canvas and my brain was my paintbrush. I loved searching for tributaries with which I could deliver my reality into the lives of others. This has never gone away, but for a while, it was hidden. When I was thirteen, I enrolled in Monument Valley Regional Middle School, my first real public school experience. I had grown up moving from town to town, partaking in new but familiar forms of education in Montessori Schools, Waldorf Schools, and the like. I was creative, unique, and altogether a weird kid. When I entered into the abyss of public education, the creative bug I had was squashed by the vigorous factory-esque machinery of regimented recesses and silent study time. I lost my spark in the storm of the incessant buzzing of bees, who I thought held the keys to success. I chased shadows, silhouettes of my future self as I thought he should be – successful, popular, attractive, all the middle school attributes of greatness. I was entrenched in my own pit that I had been digging, seeking the treasure I thought lay under the Earth. For years I kept walking down this path, losing sight of the sun, the trees, unable to feel the breeze on my face or the warmth of a summer day. Each moment was spent in pursuit of this dastardly lie – that who I should be is defined by others, by the masses, by my parents.

When I arrived at college, age eighteen, I was immediately displeased, bored, insatiated. I had arrived at the palace of reason, the incumbent source of my success, and the next hoop on the destination map that had been found at the bottom of the aforementioned pit. I had reached success part one, I had been afforded the gift of knowledge and of learning. I did it… And yet I felt empty. It was lackluster, it was bland. I realized that the map had been a deception, written over the years by the controlling forces of society, the invisible hand of the market, I had been played. In this moment, college imparted its most important lesson on me: Any path that is not your path is a lie, any journey that is not your heart’s journey is a road not worth travelling… In short, one’s heart, passions, loves – these are one’s greatest treasures to be cultivated, protected, and finally shared with the whole world. College had forced me onto the path of wisdom seeking and of self-reflection. College had incited in me a spark, a seed, a growing maelstrom. For this I am eternally grateful, and who knows, maybe that’s the point of college.

So, for the next year or so, in the midst of discovering new classes, new friends, new excitements and remorses, I began growing my own tree, lost for half a decade, found once more. I sheltered it from the cold of the judgemental world, protected it from the speculation of those closest to me. After it had grown into a small sapling, I started to show it to people, share my tree, my fire, my storm. I showed it around and it shocked people, some hated it, some were scared for me, some looked upon it with awe and realization. I began imparting myself onto the world once more, as I had done when I was a child. I was again the creative, searching, excited, and wise child I had been.

Yet still, something was off, my heart was morose, a twisted knot like one on an old tree took root inside me, a constant reminder that I had yet to find the answers I needed. I was overwhelmed by sadness, I felt like I was wasting away, not letting myself grow, as if my sapling was stuck as just that, a young, inexperienced tree, unworthy of greatness, unable to create change. I was scared I wouldn’t grow taller so I took off into the world, searching for more nutrients for my sacred tree, fire, storm. I travelled to far away lands, walking the streets of Asia, longing to find a source for growth, some good soil, some good wood. I began to scratch the itch of my unconscious mind, learning about people, about myself, and about how everything is interconnected and how opportunities lie in every connection. The world began to take on a new light, I could see the next handhold on the wall I was scaling. I started to read books again, I consumed everything I could get my hands on, my eyes were ablaze with the passion of growing, learning, and becoming better. If there is one thing I can say about myself, it is that I am always striving to better myself, to beat yesterday’s me and grow into the best version of myself I can create tomorrow, sometimes to a fault. It’s a treacherous path.

Finally, I was back at school, trapped once more in the perpetual swing of society’s pendulum. I felt the boredom returning again, different yet stemming from the same source. I was happy, or rather content, with where I was. I was content, yet unfulfilled. I knew there was more, I knew I could be more, do more. I wasn’t satisfied. I lived in this land of lackluster for a few months as I waited for the next chapter of my life to roll around. I was transitioning, transforming, adapting, and it felt slow, arduous, and terrible. Eventually, I was off to study abroad in New Zealand, the land of elves, hobbits, dragons, Middle Earth. I was back on track, returning to my roots, or so I thought.

My time here in Middle Earth has been one of the hardest times of my life, and because of that, the period of time in which I have grown the fastest. I felt myself slipping away, I recognized that I had no purpose in life, no driver, I was empty. I identified that I was afraid to be myself, even the thought of being me, authentically, and without hesitation caused me so much anxiety I physically felt pain. Every moment was a scrape against the blackboard, a moan of the sick. I was dying, not living. So I set aside my responsibility, my friendships, my society and took off on the quest to find myself, my purpose, my heart. I devoured books about how to be confident, searched my soul for meaning, experienced the greatest moments of sadness I have felt to date, lost track of days and weeks and finally found myself sitting on a bench in the gardens crying as I finished reading the last chapter of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had read the book before all the way through and loved it, had my mind blown by it, but I hadn’t taken it to heart, I hadn’t recognized the truth it held for me. That sunny Wednesday afternoon I had finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and with that done I reread the last chapter of Zen. Things clicked for me and I realized that I had been lost, my soul had been watching me bumble my way around for years, yearning to reconnect, but knowing the time hadn’t yet come. I walked into the forest and looked up at the sky and time slowed down, everything became sharp – I could see each vein in every leaf – clear, sounds disappeared, and I felt myself descending into my body. With a metaphysical kathunk, my soul had been welcomed back into me. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I had put in the work of unravelling the knot in my chest, massaging my way through the growing pains, and after seven years of aimless wandering, I had been formed, wholly, once more.

Now, as weird as this all sounds, I think it happens to everyone. People lose themselves when they forget that we live to be a conduit for ourselves to manifest in the world, not for someone else to use. People are constantly ignoring their hearts in favor of the trend of today or the security of tomorrow.

I am an artist, a creator, an imaginer, a diviner. I am an inventor, an Atlas carrying the hopes of tomorrow. I am striving to change the world. Fear is an impediment, distractions, in any form, a cause for aimlessness. I have always felt as if my true potential is locked up inside myself, surrounded by walls or growing inside of a shell. I have always wondered how to let out the dragon, how to unleash the power. I can’t say I fully understand how yet but I can wager a pretty good guess. I believe that the power of humans and thus humanity lies in every individual’s heart, in their passions, in their connection to their loved ones, and in their innate desire to grow. When we, as humans, take the time to connect to our literal life source and when we commit to living life authentically, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know exactly what I want to do or how to answer the common interrogatory question of ‘how will you change the world?’ but I do know that I won’t stop growing and learning until I have lived up to my own insurmountable, mountainous intentions for my life.

Moments in Snowfall

I once walked home from my bus stop in the midst of a gentle yet commanding snowfall. In the snow I watched the echo of myself be left behind with every footfall. I was struck at the brevity of each moment, at the complex simplicity of time. In my past, I could see myself leaving an audible trace on the world. In the present, I had little comprehension of the significance each step would have on the trail behind me. In my future, a distant goal enshrouded by snowfall, and a blank journey waiting to be traversed. My present moment, beyond precious and yet gone in an instant, snatched by the ever-present past. This moment and each moment beyond, while short, merits such a true love, a love at first life.

The immensity of love, such an intense caress of emotion on my heart, is the kind that makes me smile for no reason but for lack of having a reason to not. This is the love that blossoms out of bravery – a courage to breathe in the rather ordinary smattering of moments that coagulate into life as if each individual moment has the best aroma ever to be smelled. To stop and smell the roses is to stop a routine not so much of ignorance but of ignoring – for in fact roses grow everywhere around us. In every moment there is an immense universe of truly deep beauty like that that lies in the petal of a single rose. Imagine, then, the significance of the lives we are honored to partake in. If every moment can be as full as a universe of moments and we have, simply put, an infinity of moments, then perhaps we have the key, the truth, dare I say.

I believe that in a moment lies a simple a truth. The characteristics that define a moment are infinitesimally small as well as indefinite in their constitution – any given moment exists once. This is the truth of life. We cannot relive moments and to regret a moment is to lose some number of moments in one’s future, moments that can never be changed, as they are lost to the past simply in their existence.

Do not let me frighten or discourage you, for we live in a world where there is profound depth, simplicity, and overwhelming loveliness. In each moment there is a world different than the world of the moment before. As I write this, the world is adjusting atomically, chemically, physically, emotionally, in every way possible, the world will change, and us in it. This moment is different than the moment before, for in this moment I am smiling as I immerse myself in the beauty of a new song, in the heartbeat of human passion that has made such incredible sounds, sounds that change the world, my world.

The key is not to fabricate incredible moments that we surround ourselves with but to appreciate the moments we have, as they are unique and beautiful like any other. The indiscriminate truth in life is that the future is open, unknown, blinding in its brilliance.

In a world where millions of snowflakes fell around me, I found a thought I at once treasured, an idea that I was sure I must keep safe until it developed. As I have grown, I have kept this moment close to my heart, and now I share it with you. In my snowy winter wonderland, what was my role? I have discovered that my role in this journey is to relish the truly immense reverence I have for each and every moment, given that it is my moment to live and that I can live it as me, Faolan.

The world is wide open. I encourage you to ruminate as I have and beleaguer and eventually conquer any resistance to accepting and loving life as it is. If you can do this, I have utter confidence that moments will become brighter and more full or color, and that the significance of every little thing, from a blade of grass with a droplet of dew on the end, to a cloud with the face of a dragon, to a sky as purple as a cherry, to the laugh of a friend will become more valuable than is even comprehensible. For me, I live as if every moment were not my last, but as though I must recognize the inexorable truth that moments by their existence are gone even as they are born and should thus be given the respect they deserve: one of a past love, as every moment should be loved.

I wish you all much luck in the snowfalls of life and may you find roses abounding.

Happiness Lies in the Bootstraps of Those Around Us

“A pendulum could lift anything into the air but it could not lift itself.”

-Gabriel García Márquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude

This quote seems to be rather meaningless but when I read it I was profoundly struck with a pretty interesting metaphor. I thought to myself about the meaning behind this phrase and how similar it is to the old idea that it’s impossible to lift one’s self up by one’s own bootstraps. Earlier in the day I had been reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness in which he talks a lot about the importance of compassion. He says that by being compassionate, a person will find true happiness. Putting these ideas together my metaphor began to form.

I, Faolan, cannot pick myself up by own bootstraps, just as a pendulum can power anything else but itself (there is some artistic licence at work here, both by myself and by Márquez but go along with it). However, I am perfectly able to pick someone else up by their bootstraps, even though that would be rather awkward and I would likely just end up tripping someone. Oops! The point still stands: I cannot lift myself up but I can easily lift someone else up.

While this all seems pretty basic, the interesting piece came along because I had been reading about the Dalai Lama’s ideas on compassion as an avenue to deep happiness. I suddenly imagined a situation in which I could put my energy not into trying and failing to pick up myself by my own bootstraps but in which I would use my energy to help pick up other people. If I pick other people up, when they are unable to pick themselves up, then I would hope someone would do the same for me. If this happens, then everyone ends up being elevated to a plane that was impossible to reach with only one’s own individual efforts. This is pretty neat and applicable, I think!

In a more concrete and scientific sense, it has been proven that people who are compassionate beyond the societally accepted baseline are happier than most others. When a person is happier, they are more resilient, more energized, and more passionate, not to mention they are more compassionate! Next time you have the opportunity to do something nice for a person, however small, go ahead and do it, and then keep doing these small things and I guarantee you that in the long run you will feel more fulfilled as person!

There are few methods that I have found work for me to become a more compassionate person and to make more small acts of kindness on a daily basis and these methods are as follows:

  1. I go into every day with the intention of brightening the days of the people around me
  2. I write down a list of small acts of happiness that I want to try and then I add checkmarks next to them when I complete one
  3. I stop focusing on myself and start focusing on the needs of others
  4. I take the time to go over the times I made someone else smile at the end of the day and adjust my goals for the next day to try and inspire more of these moments

Good Luck!

Balance and Some Distributaries of Thought

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To start off, here is a cool picture I took!

Getting to it… As I grow older and gain more independence and freedom there is one thing that seems to reemerge into my day-to-day life all the time. This thing is the need for balance.

Clearly, there is something to be said for the importance of balancing different parts of life but up until this year, my life has been fairly predetermined. I had a home life with my family, school and homework, sports, and relationships. While this may seem like a lot to balance to outside eyes, there was not, in fact, a ton of freedom in my schedule. Everything I did was according to a predetermined plan created partially by my parents, society, and perhaps some by myself. Even with the volitionary activities that I participated in like soccer, most of my time was scheduled according to my coach, as opposed to me controlling myself.

When I was nearing the end of my senior year of high school one of the most important things for me was my independence. I desperately wanted to escape from the dull, repetitive, conundrum of a controlled life. As I moved closer and closer to the date when I would move away to a new home 3000 miles away, I realized the importance of the loved ones that I held dear to me. I began to independently take the time out of my normal routines to spend it with my family, both immediate and less so. My mom never controlled me but she would often highly encourage me to spend time with the family, and like the typical know-it-all teenager, I was extremely opposed to doing anything my mother said (this I have learned since, was unwise, as she’s always right, but this is a story for another time). It’s interesting to look back with some perspective on even last year, and realize that once I had the freedom to decide what I would spend my time on, I wholeheartedly put myself in a situation that I had been vehemently opposed to just months before. The summer after my senior year was extremely formative to my independent understanding of both myself and the world.

While I did begin to prioritize the things that were important to me and that would become unavailable once I moved, I lacked the motivation to do the things that I had been dreaming of doing with my friends. Retrospect leaves me with regrets over the things that I could have done and a profound (not really) understanding of the importance of today (I’ll get to this later!) At the end of my summer I had done some of the things that I had wanted to. I spent a week on the beach with some of my best friends, I made the decision to travel to a far away place so that I could shake up my understanding of the world, and I dedicated myself to spending as much time with my family as possible. Overall, it was a copacetic summer, but I have digressed beyond my intended point. To get back on track I’m going to talk about my year at college and what I’ve learned about balance.

First and foremost, when standing on tall things whilst on fun adventures, balance is of the utmost importance! Failing at balance results in falling, which I can’t really say I enjoy. I’ll bet you think I’m just being silly with this adventure stuff, right? Well, what if I were to say that to me, life is a fun adventure in which I climb many tall things and perch on top? I’ll bet that would shake up your definition of silly.

Think about it. What more is life than a series of ups and downs? What is important while climbing these peaks and descending these valleys? Balance, forethought (and adaptability), and a truly adventurous spirit.

To me, the lesson that has become most clear as I have partaken in my first year at University is that finding balance in life is incredibly important. This sense of balance is not so simple as standing on top of a mountain or even standing on one foot on top of a mountain in tree pose. This innermost need for balance seeps into every crevice of my life, often slowing me down and reminding me that it is there, that I must succumb to a deeper and better thought out version of the life that I am living.

Since coming to college, I have been overloaded with so many different opportunities, emotions, people, and experiences. There have been peaks and valleys, both literally and metaphorically. I have met more people in a smaller time than I ever had previously. Most importantly, I have finally been given the freedom and the allowance to pursue myself before all else. In the past, life has been a series of boxes to check for me (excluding the love for the people and relationships I have with those who I am closest to). It has been a series of “learn this, participate in that, feel this, express that.” The genesis of almost everything I have done for my whole life has originated outside of me. College has really taken my perspective of the world and forced me to believe in myself and my dreams, to grab them out of the sea of thoughts drifting inside my head and make them mine. If this sounds amazing to you, then we are in agreement. However, let me express my profound realization that I was talking about earlier before I continue.

I have a limited amount of time in my life and every one of my moment’s worth is defined by the amount of care I put into creating it, sharing it, and living it to the fullest.

Remember how I said that I had a profound realization? Well, that’s it. It’s not pretty and it’s not original but I think that it’s something that every person who is successful in life realizes at some point. This realization led me to a panic over the significance that my life holds, in terms of simply being me and needing to live to my fullest extent. In addition to this self-centered idea, it was scary to think about how significant my life is in terms of how much I can affect the world if I simply put my mind to it.

My life and my time are so incredibly valuable and significant.

So significant, in fact, that I am incredibly terrified. I feel the crushing weight of every future responsibility that the perfect version of myself could bear. Imagine Atlas holding The Earth. That is how I felt when I first had this realization. I understand that perhaps it is a bit egotistical to think of myself like this, but in actuality, I really feel like I can change the world in huge ways, as can anyone else. It is a daunting thought if you have the courage to internalize it into your own mind.

Following up on my last post, I believe that I have a responsibility to follow the dreams, visions, and inspirations that seem to be tugging me forward. I have the responsibility to myself and the world to do what I can to help everyone out.

Sometimes I wonder, though, If I should live for myself or for the world. I think many people struggle with this problem. I have a deep-rooted dream to see everything that there is to see in the world: I want to see the seven wonders, I want to see where they filmed Lord of the Rings, I want to climb Mount Everest, and I want to fulfill all the dreams that I have fabricated for myself. These dreams are immense and require me to apply myself to such an extent that I don’t believe I have ever actually done in my life. Yet here I am using my time in college. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this, but sometimes I wonder about why I am here and why I am not following my dreams today as opposed to tomorrow. In thinking about it, I realized I am here because I feel an obligation to exist for the sake of the world and I believe that being in college is my most efficient way to follow that path forward. The thing that keeps me positive is that I know that eventually those that choose to give their lives to benefit the world end up being the most fulfilled, but I can’t shake the constant reminders of the dreams that I try to put to rest in the back of my head.

The balancing act that I most struggle with is the balance between my dreams and my aspirations. These words may seem to be the same but to me, dreams are things that dictate the heart of a person and aspirations are those that dictate the mind. To me, dreams are the things that make people’s hearts ache and aspirations are the things that people stay up all night thinking of. Those of us who are most fortunate are those whose dreams and aspirations coincide.

Balancing such things as the mind and the heart is not something that is really explainable. To me, when I do a good job I feel like my body is alive and I am happy simply to exist, however, when I fail to care for my dreams or aspirations, I consequently feel exhausted, discouraged, and deeply rejected by the world around me.

In balancing two things comes the relinquishing of some of each. In economics, there is a simple principle that explains that when an economy is more equal it is actually less efficient. I like to think about it like I have 100 units of time and energy to spend and if I want to balance my dreams and aspirations, then I’m only putting fifty units into each, which is literally a halfhearted effort.

Soooooo, to wrap up (I think), I want to emphasize the big lessons that came out of all of this:

Individual life is significant. Time should not be taken for granted. The best lives are those where people’s dreams and aspirations are one and the same. Finding a balance between the things that are important is challenging but worthy of some introspection.

I end this post with a frustrated sigh at my computer because while I have summed up a lot of thoughts that I have been having over the past few weeks and clarified my thoughts both to myself and those around me, I have not made much progress on the decision-making tree of my life. I am still faced with the same challenges that I was before writing this. Maybe next time I’ll write about the virtue of patience and how I have none!

Creativity and Action

When I was younger I was incredibly creative. My mom encouraged me to look at the world as a place of possibility. I remember when I was younger I was fascinated with how things worked, with what I could make, and with how I could use my imagination to create a future. I used to make fairy villages out of acorns, leaves, sticks, and anything else I could find in the forest. I would carve sticks and pretend they were swords, and my friends and I would run around yelling and hitting each other or invisible monsters, literally manifesting totally new realities in a matter of moments. This kind of behavior has led me to be the kind of person I am today and interestingly enough, it has not always been a fairytale.

Creativity is so stigmatized in our society. Why is it weird for a young boy to make fairy houses? Why is it wrong for a young girl to play army as opposed to Barbie. These gendered examples only touch the tip of the iceberg and, in fact, this stigma reaches all the way through many school systems and even into many parents’ brains. Everyone knows that children are the most willing to let themselves be creative.

For children, creativity is the norm.

Creativity is lost in many people as they get older, more experienced. Many people develop a fear of expressing their most true selves, myself included. This disingenuous representation of a person is built on a lack of confidence in one’s self. For me, I find myself consistently disappointed with both my own actions and the actions of others and yet I still simply stand by and watch because I think the following:

“Who am I to change the world? Who am I to be myself?”

I think many people experience a similar sort of feeling in their lives, especially people of my age group.

College is advertised as a place where dreams come true, where people find their passions, and where we meet our soul mates. Looking at the facts, I have found there to be some truth to this, but that the concepts actually expand beyond just college.

All of these things are categorized under the title:

Potential Future

The trick is to change Potential Future to be

Actual Present

When it comes down to it, there is nothing stopping us from finding our passions, making our dreams come true, searching for our soul mates, or doing anything else that we want, for that matter, except our own perception of what is possible.

Over the past few weeks, I have been learning about the power of action.

Act. Do. Manifest. Create. Make.

This idea is so unrecognizable in our stereotypical society that we make business plans, we plan to ask people out, and we plan to go to the gym without ever doing many of the things we plan to do.

The power of action lies in its ability to snowball.

        To snowball is a term used in many gaming communities for a player who does well at the beginning of a game and gains incremental advantages because of it. The idea is representative of a snowball rolling down a hill and eventually becoming massive and unstoppable.

Imagine yourself as a small snowball at the top of a hill.

Here’s what you know:

        There are things I could run into as I roll down this hill and I have to do my best to avoid them. The longer I avoid them, the bigger and more powerful I will get. From this, it follows that I should stay here and plan my route around the trees I can see, right? Right…?

Wrong!

        You can only actually see the very near future. Humans are proven to be terrible at planning!! Why would you take the time and energy and waste it on a plan that will probably fail? Get in the game! Try stuff!

I often use this analogy in my own life when I am doubting myself or when I am feeling reluctant to DO as opposed to think or plan.

Another trick I have is to do something every day that pushes me out of my comfort zone. Many people will laugh or scoff at this theory when they see it in practice:

“That idiot, why is he singing so terribly in front of everyone?”

Things like this tend to hold us back from taking action. A comedian named Hassan Minhaj talks about how his father used to say, “What will people think?” whenever it came to making a big life choice. This attitude is essentially assuming the worst of a situation before it even happens.

This makes it impossible for us, as rational human beings, to want to pursue things.

Why would we pursue our dreams or goals if we presume that we will fail?

There is almost no incentive for action in our society. We have Stagnated.

Okay, so now that you have heard my spiel, take a second to jot down some things that you wish had done, that you dream about every day. These things could be anything from flossing your teeth more to asking that special someone out, to going to the gym, to having some time for yourself, to journaling, to going outside more, to literally anything! There is nothing too big or too small to write down here, just get it on paper. I will wait 🙂

Awesome! Now that you have your dreams mapped a little better, try and think of the reasons why you haven’t done these things. Some probable answers are:

“I’m afraid that I will fail”

“I don’t believe in myself”

“I don’t have enough money”

“I don’t have the time or energy”

“I’m not good enough”

“My disabilities hold me back”

Well…..

“What can you do right now to take the first step, however small, towards your dreams?”

We are all the deer in the headlights. We fear action that leads to failure more than we fear stagnation and mediocrity. Who are we to waste our days on these minuscule things? Why are my dreams too big for today? When will I be ready?! The world says, “maybe never,” our parents say, “maybe when you retire,” but I ask you, yes YOU, not them,

“How bad do you want it?”

        The remedy for this fear lies in action. It is so simple that it makes me sad because I have taken so long to realize this simple truth. Taking the first step towards a dream will unlock the next step and so on so forth until we have hiked the tallest mountains, reached the stars, and started on to even greater unimaginable things.

        Each of us has a responsibility to reach into ourselves and unlock our creativity that we have lost, to unlock our capacity for action that society has locked away, and be our genuine selves.

Every person has a unique role to play in this world. What is yours?

GO! START! DO! ACT!

Trust me, you’ve got this!

PS. Please harass me about all of my grammar mistakes! Thanks!

On Luck and its Creation

When you hear the word luck where does your mind go? I would imagine that most travel to an idea about a four-leafed-clover, a leprechaun, something that happened in one’s life that is unlucky, finding a dollar, being in a good relationship. What I’m saying is that everyone defines the word differently, based on what they know and have known. This is unique, in our language, because words often are given meaning by books, dictionaries, you know? Luck is a word that is given its definition by me and by you and by anyone.

Luck for me is not something that manifests fortune. Luck is something that defines the qualities with which I live. For a while I would look at my life and think, wow, I am lucky. Everything works out for me and I am happy. Recently, I have realized that I was wrong because it is not luck nor the things that luck brings that make me happy, but the ability to be happy that makes me lucky. I have always been able to go with the flow, to be alright, no matter the situation. I have realized that because I can feel happy with anything, anything that happens brings me happiness. This is luck to me, the ability to bring happiness to my life simply by being okay with all and by perpetuating the happiness that is there, to begin with.

I appreciate what I have. I’m not saying that I do not want for more, or that I have conquered my own being. I am simply saying, that the attitude with which I live is one that brings me back the feelings that I give out.

In a video, a man said the following, “I don’t analyze or question life much. I can cruise through life and always be in the right place at the right time. I always have amazing things happen to me. I’m really lucky in that situation…. But that comes from believing in luck, or believing in the power of attraction, or believing and attracting the goodness into one’s life. And I think that can be seen as luck.” This man, who has lost the use of his legs and who has traveled the earth is happy because he is accepting. He speaks of contentedness, of equal and opposite actions and reactions. What he sends into the world comes back to him. He believes that he is lucky, and so he is.

Luck is simply the understanding that life is life and that happiness is not based on anything but our own perceptions. How we feel comes from within and we can manifest this by believing. The president of Uruguay says “Either you’re happy with very little, free of all that extra luggage, because you have happiness inside, or you don’t get anywhere.” He understands that life is not about anything but creating what we want to feel. Life is there to be taken advantage of, to give us luck, and to be our savior. Many people get lost in their lives, unable to discern for themselves what matters and why. He continues by saying something along the lines of  

“I am not advocating poverty. I am advocating sobriety. But since we have invented a consumer society, the economy must constantly grow. If it fails to increase, it is a tragedy. We have invented a mountain of superfluous needs. Shopping for the new, discarding the old… That’s a waste of our lives! Because when I buy something, or when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it. You’re paying with the hours of your life that you had to spend earning that money. The difference is, that life is one thing that money can’t buy. Life only gets shorter.”

-José Mujica, President of Uruguay 2010-2015

Life is something that we cannot buy and yet people will spend their lives striving for the next thing: the new phone that is coming out, that expensive and popular clothing line, a new video game, a new TV, anything. We use our time on the earth to farm materials that we think have meaning – that we think will help us in our lives. But then we see the people who have very little material possessions and yet possess more happiness than we can imagine. To be this lucky, we think. How can I live without anything and yet be happy? It is in the mindset, I would imagine…

And yet, here I am, writing on my twelve hundred dollar MacBook, that I sat on, broke, and fixed for another eight hundred dollars. I’m sitting on a nice and comfortable swivelly chair, in my room, which I’m sure is larger than some people’s entire homes. I have food on my plate. My family is healthy, I am healthy. I am educated and going to college. I have been incredibly fortunate to be in the position that I am in. In the classic sense of the word, I am lucky: lucky to have opportunities and to be positioned both physically and mentally for potential. The world seems to have said, “go and take these things that you have been given and live.” I am but one man, with only a few years on my clock. I have had many more free and empowered seconds than some people will ever have and for this I am grateful. I am grateful and also responsible. I am responsible for the opportunities that I have. The words, “don’t fuck up” echo in the back of my head.

I’m thinking about how naive I am, about how little I know, and about how, out of all people, who am I to write this? I’m no one. I hold no real weight in the world. I write because I want to because my idea needs to be released and formed. I know that I may not be the best vessel for backing up my claims, given the life I have. However, I offer this writing, not to show off, or to ask for praise, or to mandate a practice in life, or even to tell you my own stories. I simply wish to share with others the success that I have found in the simplicity that is the manifestation of luck and the power that comes with it. Be happy, attract happiness.