The Mad Ones

Flower Child

A few weeks ago,
as I rode the tube from London to the countryside, I noticed a man get on who was nicely dressed from head to — well — ankle. He was kind of business-casual and everything seemed normal except for the fact that he was completely barefoot.

Instant intrigue on my part.

Being quite a flower child at heart myself, I was like, “Dude, this guy is legit. Look at him just go for it. What a way to live.”
Undeniably, I was a little jealous of his naked feet.

Like everybody else around him, I tried not to stare and simply pretended not to notice; but I was squirming with curiosity. There had to be a fascinating reason why he’d brave the harsh, nastiness of the London underground without at least the protection of a pair of flipflops.

At first I couldn’t bring myself to break through the conformity of social shyness to ask him about it; but then I remembered that I’m in my twenties and life is short and I’m the gatekeeper of my own destiny; and I decided there was no way I was stepping off that train without getting an answer.

So I leaned over.

“Uh, hello. Excuse me. Hi there. Um. Why are you barefoot?”

He kind of half smiled, half grimaced and said, “Just for fun.”

“Ah, okay. Cool.” I blended back into the “pretend-not-to-notice” crowd.

It just wasn’t good enough for me though.

I leaned over again. “So, uh, do you do this often?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Huh. So you just spontaneously woke up today and decided not to put your shoes on?”

Then his wife turned to me and said, “He’s having a mid-life crisis.”

I can’t say I was fully convinced by any of this. There seemed to be more behind it; but how far does one push in these scenarios, right?

Just before my stop, I said, “Sir, would you be offended if I took a picture of your feet?”

He said, “Yes.”

“Yes, you would be offended?”

“Yes.”

We both laughed awkwardly and pretended not to feel uncomfortable.

And of course, we ended up getting off at the same stop.

Unique Is Interesting

A couple weeks after that, as I was walking along the ocean shore in Broadstairs (barefoot, of course,) I found myself contemplating the thin line between being confidently yourself regardless of popular opinion, and striving to be interesting for the sake of significance.

Wait, what?

Okay, maybe another way of putting it would be knowing you’re awesome and living that out without a need for human affirmation, versus seeking the direct or indirect recognition of society by standing out from the crowd.

Perhaps that was just as confusing; but what I’m trying to unearth is how it often seems we have that natural impulse to be defined by being different, to be distinguished by being interesting. That tendency to find a sense of significance by being noticed, because being noticed feels like being valued.

It comes out subliminally in the colour of our clothing, or the way we choose to speak, or the stories we tell other people about ourselves. Maybe those things are true to who we are, but maybe sometimes the underlying motivation is slightly scented with the desire for just a little bit more self worth.

You wouldn’t put it in these words, but the subconscious thought sounds like, “I’m that guy who looks like this. I’m known by that. That’s how I’m recognisable to the world.”
Of course then we also take on this air of nonchalance, convincing ourselves and everybody else that we’re not doing it on purpose — that we don’t even notice.

Nonetheless, we already know an identity constructed on your perception of other people’s perception of you is quite crumbly.

Or maybe I’m the only one who’s ever done that. Who’s to say?

Either way, I think it’s a backwards mentality.
You don’t need to do something to mean something.
We’re all already intrinsically valuable.

I’d say that letting the way we live come from a value we know we already have makes us more beautiful and unique and interesting anyway.

And like all healthy things, there’s a balance to it. If you’re well aware of your own worth, then you’re more free to be crazy and audacious and outrageous, because you aren’t so molded or driven by the world’s opinion.

I’ll give the final touch with one of my favourite quotes:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
-Jack Kerouac

Peace

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The Search for Significance – Part I

Incidentally,

When  a human child is first born, we’re instantly convinced of its incontestable worth even though it’s done absolutely nothing for anybody or for the world or for God;
yet it seems that as we grow older, we begin to cultivate that entangling mentality of determining our own worth by what we can accomplish in life or how well we can do it.
I think it’s one of the most paradoxical trademarks of human nature; but ironically, despite being admittedly productive to an extent, this type of pursuit for significance becomes exhausting and, ultimately, unfulfilling.

At what point do you actually do enough to become enough?
And enough in whose opinion, anyway? Your own? The opinion of other people? What you think is the opinion of other people about you?

Way too often I’ve found myself sustaining the moments where I felt compelled to justify my existence on the earth by what I could do for it whilst I’m here. It seems to me personally that a lot of us subconsciously feel that we need to validate our life — or at the very least our sense of self-worth — by our effectiveness in the world
(or our approval by the world; but that’s another post.)

We all have the need to feel needed, right? That’s a good and normal thing. The problem rolls around when our security is stacked up on our abilities, talents, capacities, or effectiveness, because then suddenly when we can’t find a place for those things, or when we’re not needed, the despondency of uselessness slips in through the gap, and we feel purposeless and consequently worthless.
Some of the same colours paint the mindset for the fear of failure. It would stand to reason that if who you are depends on what you do, then making a mistake or failing at any endeavour would define you as an essential failure, which leaves no room for anything less than an impossibly high standard of perfection.

Image result for batman quotes it's not who you are underneath

Somewhat dismal, isn’t it?
Perhaps Batman was talking more about our actions displaying what’s inside of us, which is necessarily inevitable; but the question here lies in whether our actions give us value.

I have a colossal regard for making the most of the time we have —  chuck the excuses, pull a Nike, and just do it. Life is too short and too precious to try to have it all figured out before getting started on anything worth achieving, big or small.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

But I think the crucial point hinges on our motivation and why we do things.

The last two months dragged me through the mud in a process of realising that I’d been scrambling to find and fulfill my purpose in an effort to earn my right to approval.

Maybe that’s backwards, though.

Perhaps instead we can learn something from the love for infants and refashion our effort into a pursuit for a significance that comes from approval and value for who we are before we’ve done anything to earn it. Why would the inherent value given to us at birth (or at conception — or even before then) effervesce simply because we became older, bigger, and smarter? We inherit a responsibility to act, of course, when we mature, because to whom much is given, much is required; but what kind of metamorphosis would our lives undergo if we were able to accept the truth that the value placed on our lives has less to do with what we’ve done, and more to do with what was done for us?

Yes. I am referring to an unconditional love from God and the sacrifice of Jesus.

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness.”
-Thomas Merton

I believe everybody has a purpose. I think it’s a given that we’ll be given a calling; but maybe sometimes we try to harvest something from our calling that it wasn’t meant to provide for us in the first place. Somewhere along the line we started believing that purpose gives meaning. I think part of the key to deciphering the enigma, however, is in unlocking the realisation that the call on your life to impact the world is a gift to display your already-inherent value, not a requirement to prove it. Ergo, failure becomes more bearable because it doesn’t affect who we are.

We ought to work from a place of love, acceptance, and significance, not for it.

I think it’s a life-long process, like most crucial elements of being human; but starting down that path can entirely revolutionise the way we live.

 

P.S.

I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on these things. Speculations, skepticism, criticism, appraisal, comments, random irrelevant cogitations. All the toppings. Whether you agree or disagree, I’m open to hear any opinions. All feedback is welcome. We can build on each other’s perspective, and it will inevitably help me write better, juicier content.

Peace.

Greener on Which Side?

You’re probably already well-acquainted with the “grass is always greener on the other side” feeling, aren’t you? And you’ve probably already had a few run-ins with its more sleazy counterpart — the feeling that the greener grass wasn’t quite as green as you’d formerly thought, correct?
It’s the naturally indoctrinated mindset that if we just escape this brown, prickly life of ours and hop the fence to trot off to some adventure on fresher pastures, that life will somehow automatically become fantastically fulfilling for us. The sign above the gate reads, “I just can’t wait to get away from this life, outa this town, and go somewhere better. Then I’ll be happy.”
By now, though, the world has long since discovered that skipping out on what’s around us doesn’t fix everything, because discontentment and unhappiness are prescriptions worn on the eyes of the mind and heart, and that’s a perspective that would go with you no matter where you went. (In simple terms, what we try to get away from is usually inside us, not around us.)

Now, now. Don’t get me wrong. Before you come running at me with your portable pitchforks and travel-sized torches, let me assure you I have nothing against traveling, in the least. Rather, I promote it. It’s good for you. I think everybody should do it. Adventure is a legitimate need of the soul for a healthy lifestyle.

The reality though is that sometimes the grass is greener over the hill; but because humans have that pesky yet oftentimes so necessarily useful capacity to acclimate, even if we walked on the greener grass, we’d usually quite quickly forget about it and start daydreaming about another side, where surely there must be even greener grass.
Movement and progress are always good of course, because complacency is like the old stale cheese that you forgot in the back of your refrigerator but decided to leave there because it wasn’t really in the way; but a lack of the capability to appreciate where we are will always prompt us to feel that what we have is never good enough, leading to what I’d think is an unhealthy type of discontentment.

But which one is it then? Are we supposed to always long for more, or are we supposed to be content with what we have?

Um….yes.

Perhaps the real question resonates more to this note: How do we prepare for greener grass?

One of the best ways, I think, to travel for the experience of beautiful things is by first learning how to appreciate the world you already have around you. As Marcel Proust articulates it, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Beautiful. Sniff. Just….beautiful. Pure gold, right there.

I’d guess that type of appreciation helps to cultivate the balance between a healthy contentment for what we have and a vibrant yearning for more.
Mind you, again — it’s appreciation, not apathy. One is the conscious intentionality to put the iPhone facedown and really pause to breathe in the soothing petrichor of the first real day of spring after a cimmerian winter; the other is like the stale cheese.

In the end, not to sound cliché or anything, but I actually believe that thankfulness — a genuinely deliberate mentality to cultivate gratitude in your mind daily for the things we generally take for granted — is one of the first best steps towards truly “living in the moment,” as so many of us like to talk about but really have no idea how to do. Once you start nurturing a personal sense of wonder for the world already around you, everything you experience in the other pastures — every smell, every sight, every touch, every taste, every sound — is increasingly enriched and made all that much more delightful.

It makes you a beautiful person from the inside out. None of that exhausting pressure of trying to live up to a seemingly-unattainable image or standard you have for yourself. It’s something people see without your effort to show it, and it usually begins to rub off on them too.

Peace.

Sentimentally Significant

Wonder.

It’s why I love the movie The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe so immeasurably much. Aside from being based on one of the greatest books in history, there’s an attention to a specific type of detail that I value in particular, especially since it’s lacked in most other movies.

Wonder and sentimentality.

Wonder 1 Wonder 2

There are so many scenes that focus for an instant solely on the characters’ faces and their expressions; and deliberate time is placed into slowly developing a moment up into something special.

Value is placed on the little beautiful things.

I’m not sure what’s so legitimately great about that yet; but there must be something to it for how impacting it is.

I apply it to life, though. It’s worth taking the time and energy to slow down and notice the small beautiful things that are usually too easy to take for granted. For instance, the way dandelions glow in the moonlight, or how a rainbow appears on a spiderweb if you look at it just right in the sun.

Or how exorbitantly beautiful a girl’s eyes are, the closer you look.

In specific scenes, within a movie, these things feel important, but it seems that sometimes the only way to make our own scenes feel important in real life is by posting them all over Facebook. We feel that our actions and special moments are only validated if other people know about them and care. Problem is that not everybody can always know about them, and most don’t care. Even if they did, though, so what? How much value does a “Like” or a comment or a trophy or cheering crowd really have, in the end? You’d think we should have learned by now that our significance is not determined by what other people think.

We need it to be determined by something, though, right?

Something pure and objective and eternal and loving….

I still like finding and creating special moments in life though, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. They’re like the chocolate chips in your cookies . It just makes life so much more delicious.

Today, this is my favourite song. It’s even more delightful if you sit outside and watch the butterflies whilst you listen to it.