view from just above my new home; more of my recent photos here
One of the discoveries I’ve made as a result of retiring from paid work, and living alone for the first time in decades, is that I now have the freedom and responsibility to make my own decisions. When much of your life is tied up with work (collaborative or hierarchical) and the schedules and priorities of others, most decisions are made for you, or at least restricted by the constraints of society. It is a bit startling to realize that, suddenly, almost every decision I face is mine alone to make. Each decision may have repercussions for others, which I of course have to think about, but ultimately my decisions are now driven by principles, not by accommodation.
As I’ve made these decisions, I’ve started thinking about What are the principles that are driving them? So far they boil down to just three, which I’m calling First Principles — I wish it hadn’t taken me a lifetime to discover them.
- Being Generous: This principle is about realizing that we’re a part of all-life-on-Earth and that, contrary to what we have been taught, we are neither ‘alone’ nor ‘individual’. Paying attention to others, listening, giving, caring, sharing, ignoring one’s illusory ‘self’ and focusing on collective — community and planet, now and generations to come — not only makes sense, it is, I think, the essence of being human, of being alive, really here, now.
- Valuing Time: Much of what we do is a consequence of what we (are taught to) value. Too often we end up valuing money, or what it buys (security, we think, and even love) instead of realizing that our time has far more value than any ‘currency’. That doesn’t mean ‘saving’ time, or hoarding it, or seeing it as a scarcity to meted out selfishly. It means enjoying its passage. It means not giving it up for money (or even love). It means taking every moment as a gift. It means living Now, not in the past (regrets, nostalgia) or the future (dreams, fears).
- Living Naturally: We’ve lived so much of our lives in artificial environments, distracted, that we’ve forgotten how to see how nature makes decisions, and realize that those decisions, based on a billion years of evolved knowledge, are inevitably more sensible than any we might make ‘independently’. Nature shows us how to live: to adapt rather than trying to control. To love, abundantly. To see and enjoy beauty. To be honest, always, even when it hurts. To imagine and to improvise. To learn by doing and by watching, not by being told or even by reading. To let go of outcome and of what is past or might be in future, and just be.
That’s it. All the decisions I’ve made in the past couple of months, since I’ve been freed from having others make decisions for me, have been driven by these three First Principles: Be generous. Value your time. Live naturally.
My life used to be so complicated.
Now, suddenly, it’s merely complex. So much easier.