Life Doesn’t Suck—How To Break Past Routine, And Live Spontaneously

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I’ve often wished that life was more exciting.

I wish it were more thrilling—like it is in the movies. In books. Especially these past few years. Growing older, I’ve realized how dull daily life has gotten to be. Heck—as an experiment, I’ve even started recording the hourly interactions I’ve made all throughout the course of the day, and at the end of the week I had planned to compare all seven daily recordings, hoping to spot some variance, or lack thereof. On day three, I trudged through half of the day, and tucked the notebook back into my bag. There was no point in continuing.

Leafing through the last couple pages of the book, the truth was already evident—I was living the same day over, over, and over again. What was the point in recording the rest of the days’ ‘events’? I already knew what was ahead of me. That was certain.

I am an individual—valuable, cherished, loved. I am an individual, with my own erratic creativity. My own quirks. I gravitate towards my own esoteric quips, comrades, dreams. So, how is it that I practically live the same schedule as six-hundred million other human beings? How strange that we all complain about the weekly grind, then collapse into Sundays with a sigh and an apprehensive yearning for more?

Life was meant to be more than this. There, I said it. Otherwise, how could there be movies this stifling, novels this engaging—characters created from the real-life imaginings of people, just like us?

We should not stay confined. We should not stay conformed. Do not adhere to the hushed, unrelenting law of ‘living solely for the weekends’—at this rate, you’ll be wheezing on your deathbed before you can even process this article. We are spontaneous, free-spirited beings—organization is a necessity for survival, but when it comes to living and dreaming, it is true to say that some things are best left turbulent in possibility. Let not our feeble aspirations be sequestered behind some mental barricade. You want excitement? Freedom? A good story not only to tell, but to live?

How about we take a step back. Let’s look at this from a familiar, objective viewpoint, a shifted perspective.

Just like the character in your favorite television series, this is you: just your Average Joe. If you’re a student, you’re a student—you get loads of homework, you hate Mondays. Some of your teachers are cool, and you love seeing your friends. You work hard, sweat and bleed through it all. University awaits!

This description could apply to thousands. Most of you may realize that once upon a time, you fell into this generic five-sentence biography. Now, here is another.

You’re an adult (age is irrelevant). What matters is that if you don’t get that paycheck, you can kiss that roof over your head down to hell. Rent flashes crimson on a weekly basis. Your coworkers are friendly, for the most part. Perhaps you like your ‘job’, though the work can get tedious at times. Too tedious. Sometimes…all you want is to escape.

Here comes the part we all know best, but have little personal experience in. Something completely unexpected happens. The student witnesses a street-fight on their walk home from school, and attempts to break it up. Worker-Bee takes a sick day, and while walking along in the park, he stumbles across a mysterious package left on a bench, unattended. These characters lives are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of drastic change occurring. Okay, the guy found a package. What if he decides not to find its rightful owner? Exactly—the story would end right there. But here is the choice that determines it all: Will he leave it sitting on the bench and go about his day, or will he try to chase down the stranger who left it there? A simple thing like this leads to a whole other chain of events, and while the first ‘event’ was hardly any change at all, if he never took that sick day and plucked his eyes from his laptop to go for a brisk stroll, he wouldn’t be helping some kid run away to Reykjavik after he’d gotten into trouble searching for his cousin’s squandered travel manuscript. Gradually, the choices build upon one another—and the change hits him like a meteor. This character is now officially deserving of an anime theme song.

My point. We weren’t put in this world to be thrust into a set schedule. We, human beings, have created time, for crying out loud. Monday is simply a word. Your checkerboard calendar could be torn to shreds in an instant. Life can be exciting—and it is. Unfortunately, when everyone fails to realize this, or fully acknowledge it, it is so hard to live on the edge. If everyone in the world is operating under this weekend-crash cycle, then who is there to put the package on the bench? (It’s a metaphor. Bear with me here).

So, how to bring that rarity of zest called “living” back into existence?

Be spontaneous.

I don’t mean you have to throw a party for no reason, or buy your girlfriend some chocolates when it’s not any commercialized holiday. Do not feel the need to force it. Simply let the spontaneity come to you.

When confronted with a choice, go with the option that is more unexpected, the one that is most unlike you.

Here is an example.

A few weeks ago, I went on a walk in this lovely little park near my house. I was just nearing the end of the loop around the green, and spotted a man huddled in a dark coat on a bench by the path, immersed in a novel. Immediately, a dozen thoughts crossed my mind:

“He looks like a bookworm. Bookworms are cool people. I wonder what he’s reading. Should I stop to ask him? What if we got into a really good conversation about books? No—just keep walking. What if the man’s a rapist? What if he’s grumpy? What if he’s deaf, and I look like an idiot attempting to make conversation with him? I’m tired, anyways—there’s no point in stopping. I’ll make a fool of myself. People don’t just walk up to strangers and start talking to them.” On and on.

Somewhere amidst these thoughts, I made up my mind. It wasn’t easy. I repeat: It. Was. Not. Easy. I felt especially unlike myself. I was sweating madly, legs stiff, chest retracting a hundred times a minute. Still, I went up to him. In a meek voice, I asked if I could sit beside him. He let me. After a moment of (very) awkward silence, I inquired about his day. He inquired about mine. So led to the best two hour-long conversation I’ve had in months. We ended up discussing everything ranging from classical novelists to our pets, politics, climate change, writing, music, and random things that we noticed in our own strolls throughout the park.

Sure, the guy was at least forty years older than me—forty, or more, years worth of experience, of knowledge. But age did not matter. I’d made an actual friend. For me, it was a big deal. I’m shy. Awkward. Reserved. I was confronted with a choice. If I had sacrificed my comfortability in my own personal bubble for a moment of social incompetence, this day would’ve been just another chip in the grand drag that is my existence. By choosing differently, it didn’t.

The choices you face may not always be obvious. They will slink into your thoughts so unexpectedly, so capriciously at times. Opportunities will not always be presented to you from someone, or something, else.

Spontaneity is not some gift, not anything that one can perfect over time. Spontaneity goes hand in hand with the choices you make.

We are all capable of catching a thrill, even if that means just the thrill of meeting someone new—but it’s up to you, only you, to choose to act. You can’t wait for something extraordinary to happen to you without first taking the initiative in making it happen. Even a musing so small as, “Should I make plans with friends/Grandma/brother this week?” is a very significant choice for you to make.

Be the one to put the package on that bench. You put the possibility, the opportunity, out there for others to engage in, and soon, more will follow. Soon, more excitement will be in the air, more mysteries will be unearthed, and more friends will be made.

Just Like Us

We’ve all seen him.

Standing there, pleading in the ice.

The cars inch forward, creeping past his dark figure. Together, all fifty of us are trapped in this void of tar and frost-studded smoke. We peek out the window, squinting past the traffic.

Yes, it is him. With trembling hands, he clutches the piece of cardboard like a life preserver, for he is alone amongst a whirlpool of crimson tail lights, of squirming black glares. He stands broken. Without fear.

Your car approaches.

Something kicks in your gut. It is so hard—so hard—not to look at his pallid cheeks. His tattered scarf. The cardboard, scribbled over in neon marker, reads, “Homeless. Anything helps.”

We can do two things. We can keep our music flowing into our ears at top volume, and stare blankly at the license plate illuminated before us. We can ignore him. We can save our souls from a moment of inherent unease. We can keep a locked heart.

Or, we can quickly unplug our headphones, and rifle through the glove compartment for a mere dollar. Maybe two. We can roll down the window. Feel our hearts glow with swirling anxiety, with love, as our eyes meet.

“Happy holidays,” he says, beaming as we hand him the crumpled dollar bill.

“Happy holidays, sir.” Shy grins.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to keep my hands warm, you know?” he continues. A broad smile is still sunny across his cracked lips. His eyes, though shadowed, are a brilliant, milky blue. His laugh is warm.

It’s all within five seconds. Before we know it, our car is yards past him. Our hearts are pulsing a mile a minute. Something wonderful has happened. Something strange.

Tears well in our eyes. How can this be right? How could a dollar be all we had to give? How could we not have let him in, brought him to our home, even for just an hour? For a good meal? For some kind words? How could a slip of paper ever help—at all?

We are not so different. One is male, one is female. One is starving. One is depressed. One is living the dream. The other is dying. You are existing. But we are all here, and we are all human.

Why are we afraid to spare a moment? Why are we afraid to give?

He has laughed, just like us. He has cried, just like us. He has sworn and gorged on dreams and lies, just like us. He has a family, somewhere. He has a past. He is human.

And yet, I have seen him on every street corner of New York City. I have seen him begging before the bookshops of little ram-shackled beach towns. I have seen him cowering, spindle-boned, beneath a sari. I have seen him hobbling along crowded cobblestone streets. I have seen him outside my very own home.

Yes, we’ve all seen him. We’ve all had to make that split-second decision. That choice that sends a us wake-up call—forcing us past the glow of our screens, the traffic of our thoughts.

The choice that seems simple enough.

But, tell me.

Is it, really?

 

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Thoughts From 09/21/16

“We live in illusion. In the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.” 

— Kalu Rinpoche

 

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Look around you.

 

What do you see? Your computer screen, the wall, the light coming into the room from the window. Outside, there’s a typical black road with some parked cars, your neighbors’ homes, all lined up in two straight parallel lines, gliding down into an intersection.

 

Look farther.

 

Airplanes, packed with people, jetting off into the clouds. Traveling on a work mission, or on a holiday, perhaps. Going to a wedding, to a funeral, somewhere for a loved one, far, far away from here. Maybe they’re going on an adventure… Or, someone on that plane is really a spy from another country. What do they all see, when they look down at my little window? What do they imagine, if they think of me?

 

There’s war.

 

There’s war in the Middle East. There’s war on the market, there’s war right here, between friends in your hometown. But you can’t see the emotions being flung left and right, the glances passed between the hallways at work, at or school. You have no idea that in a week, your friend might be gone. Or your coworker. Or yourself. That one of your hearts are going to stop beating without notice.

 

You can’t see me sitting here, trying to explain all the thoughts in my head, not making a lick of sense, yet you’re still reading. It’s as if I don’t exist. If I stopped commenting from this point on, you’d have no idea what could’ve happened to me. I could literally disappear from your consciousness, as if I’d never been present. As if I never existed.

 

You could die right now, of a heart attack. You could get kidnapped tomorrow. You could get caught up in something terrible, or wonderful, you just don’t know. Every day, a million atrocities are being carried out, a million miracles are being performed—yet you sit here before a computer screen, completely normal, completely unchanged, completely stagnant in your own personal bubble.

 

Why aren’t you afraid, that slaughter is abundant in the real world? Why aren’t you running down that road, screaming for your neighbors to come together, come to help? We all have the power, the choice, to change things, if we choose to work together. Yet we act as if our routines are unshakable, that how we are today is how we are going to be tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

 

We believe it, and so it is true.

Nothing changes.

 

Life is on repeat. We wake up. Go to school. Stress. Come home. Eat. Homework. Fun. Sports. Eat. Go to sleep. Wake up. Repeat.

Summer. Then school.

Repeat.

Then Summer.

Repeat.

Then, college—fun, friends, jobs, and responsibilities. More stress, more love, more hurt. Happiness, and work.

Then, family. Marriage. Travel. Home. Watch our children continue the repeat.

 

Death rolls around, sooner or later.

 

It is said that we should live each day as if it is our last. I have always considered that piece of wisdom, but have never acted upon it.

 

Life is an illusion. What you think is happiness, or perfection, or equality, is going to be quite different from everyone else’s definition. We, human beings, have literally invented the words ‘love’ and ‘life.’ We bring meaning to words, to actions, to ideas that essentially have no meaning. Nothing is evil. Nothing is immoral, nothing is sad. Nothing is happy.

 

It is we who make happiness and sadness. It is we who create violence and compassion, universal laws, and logic. We, human beings, have created everything.

 

If I had never come onto the Web, you never would have known of my existence. But since you choose to acknowledge it, I am present. If humanity had never discovered the atom, we would not have been able to acknowledge it. It simply wouldn’t exist.

 

We witness so many conflicts and issues through the news, through books, even through sharing experiences over an online forum, and wonder why we can’t do something more to help. To change it. To reverse this ‘evil,’ ‘sadness,’ ‘hardship.’

 

But we can.

 

Who says we can’t? Who says that we, the ordinary beings of the planet Earth (of which we’ve named ourselves), can’t make a change? We complicate our subjective existence by making laws and regulations, rituals, definitions, asking questions that can never be answered.

 

In reality, we are only a flash in time. But at the same time, we have created…everything…out of nothing.

 

Look around…

 

Look at all we’ve accomplished…

 

And all we’ve destroyed…

 

…because of the choices we’ve made.

Inquiry on Creation

 

I’ve been wondering something, lately―

Why?

What is the point of every thing? I know, the very popular question seems to be, “What is the meaning of life?―of our existence?” However, I am mulling over a somewhat more objective inquiry. Why us? Why our doings? Why do we continue on with life the way we do?

We create these exquisite, captivating machines, buildings, pieces of literature, artwork, entire landscapes―but, why? We send our children to school, to learn about the world’s greatest masterminds, and to practice the fruit of their labor. As if we are trying to become them, ourselves…as if it is our fate to become one of the Greats. We, humankind, create vast, intimate stories using our imagination—draw from our beautiful, enchanting galaxy, and the sorrows of which we have precipitated ourselves in order to churn them into stories. But, why these creations? Why do we even bother, at all?

From the very beginning, when man first created fire―or, perhaps, the wheel―what were we thinking? Were we doing it because we desired stimulation? Did we think it would bring us happiness?

We leave our creations for the next generation to enjoy, to criticize, to praise, to be inspired from―and they do the same for the next.

But what is it all adding up to? What is the final creation―the final analysis?

The final critique?