I confess that my rambling post on Monday was my way of thinking through what I wanted to say in this one. Over the past couple of years, after transforming the way I lived as a result of my serious illness, I have learned an enormous amount about myself, and in the process, about other people, about the way the world really works, and about how we might live and make a living better. As a consequence, this is who I am, now:
I am, as I have become fond of saying, a space through which stuff passes. Like all animals, I am in substance a container, a water-filled bag of self-organizing, self-managing, interdependent creatures that have evolved this container as an effective means for their survival, health, mobility, and comfort. This staggeringly-complex container, including the brain and senses these creatures evolved as their feature-detection system, is wonderful, and it brings them great joy. I am happy for them, and honoured to represent them to the rest of the world. They are very clever, these creatures who constantly tell ‘me’ what to do. They have a million years of knowledge in their DNA, and they are almost invariably right in the billions of decisions they make for me. This despite the fact that the unnatural world that has evolved in the last few millennia is utterly different from the world their knowledge is adapted to, so they need to be improvisational as well as instinctive. And they are.
What they tell me to do, most of the time, is engage in nine activities that suit their purposes, allow me to coexist with other humans in this terribly overcrowded and overstressed world, and amuse me in the process. I told you they were clever! These nine activities:
I used to do these and other things with specific goals and intentions in mind, but I’ve come to realize that I do best when I let go of outcomes and just focus on practicing these nine things, making time and space for them, getting a little better all the time — and when I do, the right outcomes seem to emerge automatically. So now I spend most of my waking hours practicing these things. This is what I do.
In spending my life doing these things, I have grown astonishingly and almost continuously happy. After fifty years mostly filled with anxiety and depression, I am lighter than air, filled with joy every day. I am becoming, inexorably, what I was always meant to be, and it is a wonderful journey. The grief I feel for Gaia is always with me, a part of me, but now it is my strength, my connection, my understanding, and it no longer saps me. I know I cannot save the world from the dreadful extinction that’s begun, yet I know that what I do, now, is making a positive difference, and has made and will make the world a better place. It’s all I can do, and I’m proud of it, and of me.
I have developed a consistent approach to doing all of these things, that seems to make me a better practitioner of them:
My “sweet spot”, what I do uniquely well and love doing which is of use to others, is to facilitate self-understanding and self-change, in myself and others, by imagining possibilities. Imagining possibilities greatly enriches the quality and pleasure of all nine of the things I do. What is then done with those possibilities is not of great concern to me — I’m an idealist, not a realist, and I’m not very practical, coordinated or good with details. I’m a dreamer, which can be a problem. I’ve been known to walk into trees.
I’m also somewhat self-preoccupied. I love to love, and be in love, and give things to people, and play, and converse, and these are very social activities, but I confess they’re very selfish. Being loved, being understood, having the things I give to people appreciated, are not really important to me at all. If the people I love and converse with and play with don’t get what they want from interaction with me, then that’s fine, I will find others to be with, no problem, and I hope they find what they seek from others, too. I’m like a child, impatient, easily distracted. Love (all five types of it) is the addiction the creatures who make up ‘me’ have chosen to give me — there is never too much of that exquisite chemical rush of arousal, euphoria, bliss, affection, delight, pleasure and appreciation. Yet strangely, for reasons that I can’t fathom, I don’t really like people that much — given a choice, I generally and consistently prefer the company of wilder creatures. The truth is I love the people I imagine those I love to be, not who they really are (if I could ever know who they really are). Yet those I love rarely disappoint me as I learn more about them — my ability to imagine them as more lovable still is limitless and incorrigible.
I do have a problem with neediness. Although no one believes me when I say it, I don’t think I have any (one-on-one social) needs myself. And for whatever reason, I tend to disengage when I am with others who profess or appear to need something from me personally. Call it a fear of intimacy or commitment or responsibility, it is what it is. I don’t want to be needed; it makes me feel trapped. I have to be free. Perhaps it’s because I’m working hard to become more authentically myself, to be nobody-but-myself, so that when someone needs or expects something from me I fear they’ll make me everybody-else in the process of being what they need or expect me to be. I try to warn people about this (I tell them I am polyamorous, and lazy, explain about compersion, and warn them of my selfishness and insensitivity and intolerance of neediness and expectation) but I still end up hurting people, which does make me unhappy. I try to be absolutely honest and yet gentle with others, and I have no tolerance for dishonest or cruel people. Maybe I need to wear a sign.
That’s not to say that I don’t need other people in order to be healthy and happy and to do many of the nine things I do. I just don’t need any specific person to do these things. The more people I love, talk with, and am in community with, the happier and more social I become. I like to spread myself around, probably too thin for others’ benefit, but then I already admitted I’m selfish. That doesn’t prevent me from being generous, but only if you don’t need or expect it of me. Let’s play, talk, learn, share, love together, but then let me go and I’ll let you go. I’ll see you again when our paths next cross, and we can do it all again. And I need time alone, too, to reflect and recharge, and time in nature, away from the cities and suburbs and farms that become each day more alien and atrocious to me.
Last month I wrote:
I am just the space through which stuff passes, a part of the unfathomably complex dance of all-life-on-Earth. A part of that dance, it seems to me, is learning to improvise which of that passing-through stuff to touch, and which to just let go. It’s not a choice, so much as a knowing, a collective and connected knowing, an instinctive and sensual knowing. “Ah, I know how I can make this better, or clearer, or more interesting, or more useful, or more innovative, or more fun — there!” Like the expert who just knows, from practice, where the puck or ball is going to be, I’m learning, perpetually, to be there, to do that stuff I do that helps just a little bit, to know what to do and to have fun doing it.
The wild creatures whose world I increasingly share understand this well, and it will take a lifetime of practice to become half as wise as they are in the arts of living, and making a living, and being of use, and being happy, without even trying. Just being the space, and touchingthe right stuff in just the right way as it passes through.
This is who I am, now.
Category: Human Nature
Postscript: Where I’ll Be This Weekend Oct 24-26: Bioneers By the Bay Sustainable Enterprise Conference in New Bedford MA. If you’re going to be there let me know!
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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