The meaning of Life

 

I am in New York.

Walking the streets, arriving at the southern tip of Manhattan and step right off. I step of solid ground and fall straight down into the water.
The crystal clear water embrace me, I can see far off into the distance. The steep beachline next to me, going far down into the depth of the ocean and I start grasping for something to hold on to.
But the sand is not solid enough. It can’t hold my weight. When I grasp for it, it slips through my fingers. Leaving me floating in the water.
I start to panic but realize that my search for security will not work.

I let go.

Give up.

I start sinking to the bottom, moving out, away from the shoreline. I realize that this is it. Nothing within me try to resist it, nothing keep the fight for survival up.
And just when I’m starting to run out of oxygen, I wake up.

I wake up, get up from bed and start my morning routine. I make my bed, get in the shower. I get dressed and make my breakfast smoothie. I sit down for a thirty minute meditation. Drink my smoothie. Brush my teeth, pack my lunch. Put my jacket on and leave for work.
The entire morning at home, the hours at work, when I brush my teeth, meditate or write e-mails to my customers. When I talk to my co-workers or listen to my new favourite music, Mogwai, it is there.

The feeling of having died.

I can’t say what would have happened if it was real. Had my instinct to live made me struggle for survival? Had the reflex kicked in to do whatever it takes to keep on going to the extent that nothing else would have been left in my conciousness?
I can only answer that if it would happen.

But what I think about those long, long hours is the meaning of it all. What is really the point in living?
And before I go further into this, I just want to make clear that I have never had the thought of ending my life, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I can’t find any kind of meaning in life.

People always speak about the meaning of things. The cause of it. That we must find something meaningful to do, find what meaning is for ourselves. Ask what the meaning of life is. When I read the blog post on Elixir (swedish only), I get inspired to think more about this. But I can still not find a reason.

Life do not have meaning. Life is completely meaningless. All the reasons we can find is the ones we have created, made up.

Because, there is no reason or cause for the tree to grow. No reasons to get up in the morning. No reason that we have a job or that the sun is shining.

Trees grow because trees grow. That is the reason. It’s only cause. I get up in the morning because I get up in the morning. I work because I work. End of story. And as the philosopher Alan Watts once said, just like an apple tree apples, the world we live in peoples.
We can say we work to survive. But that is really the meaning of surviving? Why should that be so important? And if it isn’t important to survive, work has no meaning. At least not one we can prove. That is why we can look at animals and wonder what purpose they serve. Feel that it must be extremely boring to be a cow and stand on a meadow eating grass all day. But it is really only boring for someone who try to find purpose, looking for some fun. The cow does not have those concepts, it just do what it does until it doesn’t.

Why is it not enough to say that we work because we work. And that we will continue to do so until we no longer don’t. Then, we’ll do something else, or nothing at all.

It might sound horrible. Too much. Depressing. But when everything is meaningless, I feel a strange kind of freedom.

Meaninglessness is suddenly very meaningful.

 

Say what is on your mind

 

I have always had problems being completely honest about who I am. To say exactly what I think and feel in every situation.

It’s not that I lie, I can’t remember when I conciously did that the last time, but I find it hard to be straight with people.

Part of that is because we don’t want to make people upset or sad, that they will think less of us or suddenly don’t want to be our friend. The fear of being alone is probably one of the greatest fears we encounter.

Part of it is also that I’m afraid that people will think I’m strange, but if you think about it, isn’t that the same thing? The fear of being pushed away by the herd. Isolated. Abandoned.

But the older I get, the more honest I get. Maybe because today more than ever, I’m ok being alone and abandoned. Maybe because today I trust that whatever I do, I will never be completely alone or abandoned.

We only become afraid of being ourselves with people that we think we need, or that we think can give us something we want.

That is why we play so many games around people we want to have sex with, or with people we are in love with. We play games with our managers, teachers and parents. People that have some kind of power to give or take away something we think we need.

I have found though, that honesty is great. To just throw out whatever’s on your mind without thinking too much about it. Being around people with whom we must carefully choose the right words take a lot of energy.

We must be ourselves and let other people worry about their own emotions. It’s really the only sane way to be.

It’s a new experience for me.

The weird thing is also that I feel that my relationships has improved because of it. Maybe because you can see that their is no hidden agenda. Sure, sometimes it makes sense to avoid saying certain things, especially if it makes someone elses situation worse, but being straight and honest gives a really nice feeling inside.

The really nice thing about being honest is also that it makes life easier. You don’t have to keep track of things that you have said. You don’t have to waste energy thinking “can I say this to this person or not?”. “Have I said something about this before?”. You just say what you think and sometimes people will get upset, sometimes not. The only way to avoid it completely is to not talk.

Also, I think people deal with honesty easier. Maybe they will feel hurt but it will pass much quicker. Because they intuitively feel that you don’t really want to hurt them, that you are not hiding things or trying to manipulate them.

Writing this blog has in many ways been a kind of therapy for me in that sense. In the beginning I was really scared what people would think, how they would react, but every time I published something personal, that fear became less and less. I felt a new sense of freedom. Pushing my boundaries. Trying my wings.

One day, maybe I will provoke people so much that I end up having no friends. But right now, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

There are things I have avoided writing about here, even though you can probably figure it out if you read between the lines. But I will write about that some other day.

If growing up means to learn not to trust others, becoming an adult means to be ourselves anyway.

 

In Rainbows

Have you ever considered how we find out new things we like sometimes?

 

Like with music for instance.

Sometimes you hear a name of an artist or a band millions of times. But you never listen to them.

My ex-girldfriend said to me years ago, that I should listen to Radiohead, that they were my kind of music, yet, despite having already heard their most famous songs Creep and Karma Police, I had never really cared about listening to them.

It would take me several years more, until the realease of their latest album In Rainbows 2007 before I gave them a proper try. By then they hade been one of the greatest alternative rockbands for over ten years.

 

With In Rainbows they tried something new, you could download the album from their website and choose yourself how much you wanted to pay for it.

I chose 0kr and downloaded the album.

 

The winter of 2007-2008 came to be a time I will most likely always remember.

Grey seats on the 06.23 train every morning to work. To step out on the empty silent city streets outside my house, long before people go to work. To imagine how many books and movies you can consume when you commute three hours a day and then realize that those pitch dark mornings would instead be about In Rainbows and gazing out the window on a winter landscape, a country in hibernation.

 

Inevitably my thoughts turn to that period in my life when I hear that album. Remembering the new, to be in motion, giving up the old.

I remember that period in time, but it feels more like it happened to someone else, because I can no longer relate to a person with such bad taste in music, always resisting change or that which is different. Sometimes I think about what would have been if I had discovered all these things back then, fifteen years earlier like so many people. What would my life have looked like today then?

 

That person seem so distant from now that it can’t have been me at all. It wasn’t.

 

It was just a dream.

 

That’s how things work. We hear about things so many times before we actually check it out and sometimes you hear a word once and you are stuck.

 

Sometimes, our lives make a very sudden turn.

 

We are so proud of our values, our interests and our taste, but really, they are just like those words that hover around our lives and suddenly stick to us. I don’t think anyone can tell how that happens or why at a certain time. So all these things we think and feel is just a consequence of our history, our experiences and what we have learnt and how all these things mixed together react in relation to our current situation.

And all those things showed up just like that too.

 

Free wil is therefore an illusion, but since we have no clue what is going to happen in the future, how we will react to what happen, we have to live our lives as if free will really did exist.

To live with the idea that I chose to listen to In Rainbows, when in reality it just happened a day like this.

 

Sitting on a train going forward.

 

Forward towards another thing I think I have chosen.

First step

Every day is a day when you can tell yourself: “Today I will do that which I have always wanted to do”.
Or, it is just another day of all others when you get stuck in front of the tv, wondering why you are bored and lack energy.

But, you do not need energy and inspiration to start living your dream.

You need to live your dream to get energy and inspiration.

When you are complaining about your lack of energy, all you are doing is making up excuses as to not make that first step.

Believe me.

It took me thirty years to take that first step.

Cocktails Galore! and the art of doing it your way.

This friday, I invited a bunch of people over för a cocktail party, and I was pleasantly surprised when fifteen people showed up, mixing cocktails until early morning. In any case, it turned out to be a success, even though I was not sure about that anymore the day after.

Earlier during the day I got a message by a friend, saying she wouldn’t show up. That was sad, of course, but what was different about it, was her honesty, that she didn’t have a “good” excuse not to come, except that she didn’t feel like it.

Isn’t it weird really that we must make up excuses so that we can do what we feel like.

Maybe it is a Swedish thing, that the social pressure is so strong that you have to go if someone invites you. So strong that people make up lies just to get out of it.
I think everyone has done it sometime in life. Told people we are sick, already promised to go somewhere else, broken a leg or just a vague, “I’m already busy”.
Or, even worse, how many times have we not gone to events where we don’t even want to be? Some obscure relatives party, someone we would rather not be in the same room as, the christmas party at work, dinner with the in-laws. And, taking the risk of never getting invited again, I have never understood christenings. Why people want them, or why people want to go to them. It’s not like the babies care, and I don’t need an excuse to eat cake.
If you like these events, sure, it can be nice, but why would you otherwise feel obligated to go?

Instead of just saying. “Hey, I’m not coming”. And leave it at that.

The fact is that sometimes we want to go, but not that day. Maybe we just don’t feel like it. Sometimes it might not be your thing. Sometimes all we want is to sit at home, watching tv in our underwear, not feeling guilty and then having to make up an excuse the next time we meet why we didn’t come.

Even though I wanted my friend to come to my party, her honesty felt great. Because when we are honest, when we are ok with disappointing others. We also give them the freedom to choose themselves. Then maybe they won’t even be disappointed.

Then, maybe, we can have a relationship without expectations and force.

And those kind of relationships, are always a lot better.

So, although it is hard to fully let go of life long conditioning, I think it’s worth the time and effort to notice the expectations and hidden demands we put upon others. Maybe give each other a little bit more space to choose for themselves how they want to spend their time today.

Fast or slow?

When I started my trip in february, my friend Wayne sent me an e-mail:

“Matthew, knowing that you now have the time to ponder and to not rush into conclusions, I thought you might like this quote from Chuck Palahniuk:

“If death meant just leaving the stage long enough to change costume and come back as a new character…Would you slow down? Or speed up?”

My first reaction was to speed up.
If, suddenly, we no longer have to worry about death, then there is nothing stopping us from taking risks, do stupid things and run head first right into a wall. We can throw ourselves into the middle of the action, experience everything possible, run from activity to activity.
After all, a lot of the things we dream of, that we never end up doing, is because of the fear of letting go of our comfortable life, our security. Afraid to meet what life has to offer, insure of what we will meet if we move into the unknown.

But then the months started passing by, the stress I brought with me started to let go, my restlessness turned into a harmony of just being. I spent the days doing absolutely nothing. During a full month, I spoke maybe to three or for people, except for the ones in the market or the restaurant. Every day I slowed down in a way I have never done before.
Suddenly moving fast seemed completely meaningless. To rush from activity to activity could not compare to what I was experiencing from sitting on the roof of my spartan guest house, on a white plastic chair listening to the traffic slowly moving by like ants with their hands firmly rested on the horn. I could see eagles in the sky, the clouds sailing past on a bright blue sky. I sat there watching sunrise and sunset, the movement of palm leaves. To read an ordinary book felt like an effort not worth making.
It felt obvious, that life is better when lived slowly. Taking one thing at a time with focus and presence.

But, I allowed the question to rest in my mind and grow, without reaching for a decision and now when I’m back home, and has partly settled into a routine, I have decided to write down my thoughts.

What I have realized is that life is not about how to live it. Fast or slow. It’s a trick question.
When we think about how to live life to get the most out of it, we make a mistake that hinders instead of helps.
The question is not how to live our lives, because if it was, we would create a mental image of that life and then try to force reality to fit the picture instead of the opposite.

Life should not be lived fast or slow. It is just lived.
When we are “just” living, our entire being adjusts itself to the current situation, it becomes a response to what is happening in front of us. Using our past experiences in a creative way instead of trying to force life to follow old strategies that used to work but is no longer appropriate in a new situation.
To live slowly then becomes to allow things to take time without focusing on results and to live fast is not to rush from one thing to another, but to be fast in thought, that our brain is relaxed, flexible and free to act instead of being held back by rigid expectations or principles about how things should be.
Life then becomes both fast and slow at the same time, wether we do a lot or nothing, and our experiences becomes more satisfying because we are mentally relaxed. We can work hard and still be at peace inside or stare in to a wall for hours and still find ourselves being alert and alive and far from bored.

So, instead of deciding to live fast or slow in the way I first saw it, I realize the best answer to the question is to not answer it at all. Just allow things to develop in their own pace, in it’s own way. Rest when I feel tired, eat when I’m hungry, do things when I’m interested, plan things when necessary but not more than that and then lest the rest happen when it happen.

Life back home has been hard because it is so easy to fall back in an old way of being instead of embracing the new and I’m still trying to figure things out realizing that I will never make it. It is just old habits that has not been let go of.