A parenthesis about living a meaningful life.

“What you’re doing is as useful as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic!”

And yet, there we were, commenting on social media— extolling the virtues of living meaningful lives while binge-watching a carefully orchestrated stream of reality television!

Nonetheless, let’s say one of us decided that action was the very element that would lead to a meaningful life.
He decided he would scale a heinous-looking mountain each day to take food to a small group of poor people living at the top.
Of course, all the scrapes and scratches associated with extreme climbing would assist his elevation towards achieving “meaning!”
Self-flagellation might be frowned upon unless it’s for a good cause!

In such a manner the pursuit of meaning is mindfully engaged.
One treacherous foothold at a time.
It needs to be a tough and deliberate process!
Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the mountain had left without notifying anyone, therefore potentially rendering all hopes of deriving meaning from the mission potentially null and void?
But could there have been meaning in the climb itself?

Of course, it could’ve ended on a sour note as well, what if the people at the top were there, and rejected the food that was offered to them within a thinly veiled cocoon of validation?
Are there truly so many factors that bind the pursuit of meaning into a fragile thread?

Our dejected and disillusioned friend headed home and stopped at a toll-booth to pay that which the King was owed.
And without overthinking his position of importance within the universe he smiled at the lady who handed him his change in coins.
He was rewarded with a smile in return.
Without knowing it, his random act of kindness helped elevate someone else’s bad day into something that ended on a bearable note, infused with a civilized gesture.
But the intrepid rock climber would never know that.
Meaning isn’t always a handout, sometimes it’s merely a reflection, long after the sun has disappeared over the horizon.

The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets!

“The golden squid relinquishes the stranglehold of a thousand sunsets with the birth of one lonely star!”
I like motivational quotes.
Actually, no! Occasionally I love them.
The wordplay— Clever imagery and a few thought-provoking snippets can be enjoyable!
But I often deconstruct them as well.
I’ve seen thunderclouds that transformed into downright ugly beasts before they were swept away by cyclonic winds.
None of them had the chance to be turned into cute and inspirational fluffy “silver-lined” analogies for imminent good fortune!

How are quotes working for you in real life?
Just when you thought it was safe to cross the street a Hollywood-styled typhoon hits but you’re prepared!
You have a quote!
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Unfortunately, the storm doesn’t care about your quote and you’ll have time to reflect on the wise words while you’re erased from existence.
I’m guessing you’re not going to take a defensive stance and mouth off to the storm.
In all probability, you’ll run away or start praying!
Are “words of wisdom” therefore worthless?
Of course not!
Quotes can be inspiring though— They can kick you in the gut or prod you to try a different approach to thinking.
Quotes and things from self-help-motivational books can be quite entertaining if nothing else?
But I guess the main idea here is that inspirational words are as useless as vapid insults if they don’t become catalysts for action.

Forge these self-help snippets of wisdom into a proper sword and learn to wield it— Then it becomes valuable.
The trick is to make the words part of your armor.
You can’t search for the correct weapons during the fight— You should already have something in hand.
Words and wisdom are the same!
You need and understand that stuff before you go into battle.
If you’ve not assimilated “words as weapons” into your very fiber you can’t go scuttling about and anxiously searching for the “right thing to say” when push comes to shove!
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When does living “start?”

“Wait until you reach my age!”
I guess I’ll need to wait then? Because there’s no other way in which you’re going to divulge the secrets of the universe you’ve amassed by living a longer time than me?

“Aging” does imply the potential for constructing a holistic view of the universe by mere virtue of having access to more information and the ability to see trends.
But what if you read the same book for 30 years?
Is “time” the only prerequisite for arriving at the temple that houses the holy grail called “wisdom?”

A discussion about the “validity” of teenage love sparked these thoughts about youngsters “not always knowing anything” about life.
Does the fire burn any less if it only consumes you partially?
Can we claim to understand the fire within any emotions that aren’t our own?
We’re quick to dismiss the vapid emotions and experiences of youth, but yet we adhere to religious scriptures that extol the virtues of seeing life through the eyes of a child.
What if the “wisdom” we so easily ascribe to our “well-lived” demeanor happens to be nothing more than filters that obscure the way life was meant to be experienced.
Our cynicism, complacency, hurt, jaded righteousness and tired souls may not be the fruits of wisdom, but merely the results of fruitless repetition.

So when does “living” start?
Is it the first breath we take?
Is living only legitimate once we’ve reached that arbitrary yet mythical and mystical milestone set by someone else— “Wait until you’ve reached my age!”

The opening notes of a song may not be representative of the epic middle part of the same song.
And the closing credits may not be indicative of what a movie was about.
Any age carries the potential for acquiring wisdom, even if only within a context that others could never understand.
I believe each perceived “stage” of a life has meaning.

I’ve read thin books that contained vivid imagery.
Even though the plot was often equally wafer-thin, the excruciating and beautifully-conveyed honesty made up for lack of bulk.

I recently reached the “age” someone “warned” me about 20 years ago.
And I’m still waiting for a revelation that will crack open the sky with incandescent pearls of wisdom.
But truth be told, I don’t give much thought to what I was supposed to be “waiting” for.
Life is happening right now, this very minute, and so is the truth and wisdom we might choose to notice or ignore.

Tricks of the light— Is “everything” important in your job?

I just had a conversation with someone who believes “everything is important!”
Unlearning the staid concept of “everything” can be more than a bite-sized challenge for many people!
I cringe when I hear absolutes like “everything is!”
If there’s one thing I would like to tattoo on my forearm it would be “Nothing ‘is,’ but anything can ‘become’!”

When everything is important, nothing matters.
We end up prioritizing priorities just to add an abstract layer of “importance” onto topics we have no real interest in.

If all the words on a page are highlighted, then none of them are.
If everyone is your friend then you’re truly alone.
“Everything” isn’t only impossible to deal with, it’s downright demoralizing and debilitating.
We hear so many stories about those who say they are “responsible for everything in the company!”

So what’s the real test for determining the importance of “everything?” — Do “nothing’ for a day.
That which is truly important or relevant to you will come knocking at your door, demanding attention!
Let’s not go overboard here and all abscond from work!
It’s merely a suggestion for facilitating an exercise to determine which things in your life cast dark shadows that tend to overwhelm you.

We often see long shadows without thinking about their origin.
But it’s still merely perception!
It’s a trick of the light.
Shifting the proverbial light source can change the entire way in which you perceive all that “is,” allowing it to “become” something completely different.

This is how we fall for scams each day!

Of course, I know you’re far too savvy to fall for phishing scams.
When you drive home you’re on the lookout for unmarked black cars following you!
They won’t ever take you alive!
You will never click on a suspicious link!
“Malware detection” is your middle name!
You know that just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!
You encrypt all your password and personal correspondence with 256-bit military-grade encryption.
All the family skeletons are firmly protected under lock and key.
None of the losers out there will ever blindside you with a sucker punch!

But every day “losers” draw your consciousness into multiple threads on various websites.
They scam you with subversive trolling tactics, by writing controversial content— Deliciously appealing content you just couldn’t resist. Content that prompted you to “show them who the hell knows better!”
And we type, and we bitch and we comment and we click and we teach and we mock and we scold and swear!

And when the day is done we’ve been scammed out of that which we value most— Time!
Without thinking twice we invest a king’s ransom of our time without expecting interest, or any value in return.

How smart are you? Don’t tell us if you’re really clever!

Are you “smart enough?”
Do you worry about it?
You really shouldn’t!

If you’re not the “smartest” person on Earth it’s fine!
“Smartest” is an absolute based on perception, preference, and opinion.
It cannot, therefore, be measured within universally-accepted parameters.
Within specific disciplines, there are certainly people who excel, but then occasionally seem “less adequate” in other areas.

Unfortunately, we’ve been indoctrinated by the “sad and lonely genius” stereotype in movies.
That’s the person who is portrayed as a reclusive or undiscovered genius, and visual props, such as chess, maths or musical proficiency is used to convey the “intelligence.”
The same happens in books.
Our perception of “smart” is very subjective at times and easily impressed by “intelligence-cliches!”
We’ve been conditioned to believe someone who can play 20 chess games simultaneously is smart beyond belief.
Does the ability to master ostentatiously complex math equations push you into “genius” territory?
That’s possibly quite true, but can the math genius necessarily solve a survival puzzle on a desert island when he is completely out his depth?
Can he build an escape craft using only the materials at hand?
We don’t know, do we?
What about the poor sod who does not like either math or chess?
Should he be relegated to “average?”
Is the master mentalist who exhibits an uncannily sharp perception and a knack for recognizing social patterns any less intelligent?
I don’t think so!
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You don’t listen, but you care too much about “what they say!”

You don’t listen, but you care too much about “what they say!”

“A salivating monster with serrated teeth and severe halitosis is hiding under your bed.”
Ok, some childhood fears may surface!
For a few seconds, you’ll imagine that beast with bad breath waiting for you to fall asleep!
Once you’ve crossed the threshold of REM sleep he will reach up, shred your belly, and laugh while your entrails spill onto the floor.
But of course, you won’t pay much attention to my ramblings, because you know it’s a fabrication!

What if I improve these imaginary monsters a notch and escalate them into the “grownup world!”
I could mention in passing that “I think the company is experiencing some financial difficulties?”
I could add a devious additional embellishment such as “The cute blonde from the fifth floor said they were cutting telephone bills to save costs!”
Pretty soon all references to financial stuff get woven into an insidious, yet fragmented pictures of doom and gloom.

Exposure to fake news and poorly researched stories can have the same effect.
Yeah, we’re always so ready to leech onto dramatic drivel and inject it with enough emotion to light a small bonfire.
Instead of “listening” to the whole dynamic, our fast-food and fast-everything mentality taught us to skim over logic.
We’re so quick to formulate conclusions based upon “half-interpreted” potential facts.
Do we really “listen” anymore?
“It was on Facebook, therefore it has to be true! I recognized the name of someone I knew in that news report!”
“The opposition leader in parliament spoke his piece, so therefore it must be important!”
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Do you have “free will” or do you simply like monster trucks?

Slap your face!
If it hurts, then you’re rooted in reality.
Or not!
Because these days all reality is subjective and everything is a construct of our imagination and our experiences are merely chemical reactions and we’re plugged into The Matrix and life is meaningless.
Maybe all of that is true!
But whoever slapped my face made it hurt!
Was it me, or was it a temporary manifestation of my other self from a parallel dimension?
Living is tough these days, it’s hard to separate reality from imagination.

And then along comes the Free Will debate as well, lumbering forward like the “Higher Education” Monster Truck!
I don’t think it serves a purpose, but it is entertaining.
It’s a big thing you know! We need to take notice!
It makes a big noise and can crush stuff, but does it serve a purpose?
Don’t know?
You can decide.

Let’s suppose we have no free will.
We do stuff automatically.
Our lives are run by scripted algorithms and predetermined chemical whatnots and thingamabobs.
I’m not a scientist, but that’s apparent from my dismissive attitude towards the “latest studies” about free will.
Because someone studies something the findings have to be true?
When stuff is written in a book it’s also true!
Quoting someone gives you authority to be a guru yourself?

I’m not a complete savage though.
Many scientific advances are overwhelmingly brilliant.
And I can acknowledge that.
But something about this “we don’t have free will” debate seems a tad off.
A few random cool and great people I admire now spring to mind.
Leonardo, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Rembrand, Hendrix, Frank Lloyd Wright, Asimov, Einstein, Turing, Madonna, Hedy Lamarr…
And a thousand others as well— Far too many to mention!

If “they,” those people were merely automated scripts responding to external prompts, chemical stimuli, and whatever else, then I’ll be damned, I want the upgrade to my software!
I want to be able to “automatically” do what they did!

Even If I’m only a delusional creature on “autopilot” I want to be able to build a ship I can pilot to Mars and invent the perpetual motion machine!

[Photo: Owned by JohanyJutras.com]

“Enlightenment” is a flashlight strapped to your head— So what do you “see?”

Enlightenment to me is nothing more than strapping a big light to your forehead and finding your way down an ominously foreboding and altogether nasty little alley.
The stronger your flashlight, the more you see!
It’s going to show you a path and help you to avoid crates, litter, broken bottles, and vomit.
You’ll also be able to see a dead cat and perhaps the odd homeless person near the fire escape.

Naturally, I can’t imagine knowing what “enlightenment” means for each individual.
It remains a personal quest, and personal experience.
I believe “enlightenment” requires a flow of energy, stemming from learning, observation, service, empathy, and understanding— and all of that good stuff flowing towards practicality.
Very often we complicate and obfuscate so many things for ourselves and push it into esoteric realms.
But it’s simple.
You already know your purpose in life— It’s to be alive.
Finding something useful to do gives your life meaning.

Everything else might be extremely interesting and entertaining.
All you read will certainly enrich your perceptions about life, should you choose to learn from it.
If this seems like a reductionist approach to complex issues so be it.
I’ll choose that before I adhere to an additive method of needlessly layering complexity onto everything.

Strap on that light, keep your hands free, you’re going to search for a dingy alley!
Enlightenment won’t be found on the internet, or in shiny shrines dedicated to the gods of retail.
Yes, perhaps you won’t even find enlightenment within the proverbial alley.
Chances are you might find something better, a “changed perspective” inside the absurdly beautiful mess called “life.”
And within that mess, you can choose to help the forlorn guy near the fire escape, because now you’ve “seen” him!

Why is it that traveling doesn’t automatically broaden your horizons?

Did that parcel you sent to Equatorial Guinea miraculously “broaden its horizons?”
Of course not?
It’s just a wooden box containing some or other obscure artifact.

So why would you transform into a better, more enlightened version of yourself if you move your body to another place on the globe?
You won’t change a bit.
Not unless you’re open-minded and receptive to new experiences.

I’ve been on trips with seemingly jaded people who were more concerned with their phones than the spectacular scenery they were exposed to.
Perhaps we can give them some benefit of the doubt.
Maybe they’ve been “there” before.

On every trip, the mind needs to accompany the body.
If you can manage to find something enjoyable within the bland construct of your daily commute imagine how many new worlds will unfold before your eyes— On the day that you take your body someplace new!