me with my latest creation
These days I try not to think about the future — it only creates anxiety and there’s no way to predict it, or really even prepare for it. And I’ve long given up trying to ascertain the meaning and purpose of life — I’m thoroughly convinced life has neither meaning nor purpose.
Still, when I ponder about things, I quite often end up not with (new or changed) beliefs or plans or objectives, but rather questions. I try to carry these questions lightly, and not become obsessive or even intent on answering them. The questions themselves seem to be enough to serve as a compass to guide what I do each day.
As a non-believer in free will, my sense is that ‘I’ had nothing to do with coming up with these guiding questions, any more than ‘I’ have any say in what I do — these things are entirely the result of my biological and cultural conditioning, in the face of the circumstances of each moment, all of them outside my control.
So none of these questions is about what ‘I’ ‘should’ do or try to change.
But that doesn’t make them any less interesting, inspiring, and even comforting. Sometimes good questions, even and perhaps especially if there are no clear or even possible answers to them, can be far more grounding, and can help focus thoughts and energies in more useful ways, than any set of beliefs or presumed ‘answers’ could do. With that, here are the questions I’m most often pondering these days:
- If, as appears increasingly likely, the US elects a fascist government and president three years from now (or if such a government comes into power there without being duly elected), what does this portend for us in Canada? Will such a government attempt to annex Canada for our land and resources, and if so what will be our, and the world’s, response? Will we have to deal with a massive influx of political refugees from south of the border, and if so, how will we respond?
- If I were limited to spending all my spare time (say, 400 hours a year) on a single project, what would that project be? In other words, where might my focused effort make the greatest difference, at least locally, at least for a while? If that project were arduous or risky, would I be better off choosing a different project that I’d be less likely to abandon if things got tough?
- How can I best get involved in a dialogue process that will perhaps teach me new, valuable conversational skills and expose me to some new, creative, brilliant thinkers and some radical, collectively-emergent ideas about the world and how to live a good life in it?
- Where do I want to be living in 5-15 years so that when permanent economic collapse unfolds (I’m guessing in several stages over that time period), and as ecological collapse deepens and becomes more disruptive and dislocating, I’m somewhere that has the people and resources to cope as well as possible with it? (And still remain close to the people I care about, especially when air travel ceases.)
- What one or two things would I most like to learn, or learn about, over the next few years? I came close to finally learning how to dance, and how to swim, before CoVid-19 kicked in. I’ve always been curious to learn ASL. And I almost enrolled in a course on improv.
- What are some simple and effective ways to introduce more fun into my life? I recently was involved in two activities that had me laughing more than I have in years, and it’s left me wishing for more. (For me, laughter and fun are almost always the result of participatory activities, not spectator sports.)
- What might work to get me to devote more time and energy to creative writing? I really enjoy it when I get to it, but it’s hard work, and the quality of my creative work is all over the map. What might make such writing better, easier, and/or more fun?
- Similarly, what might work to get me to devote more time and energy to music composition? Is it just a matter of putting in the time, or do I need a mentor, and/or practices, to add more discipline and skill to how I do this work, and if so where might I find them?
- What’s the best local theatre company near my new home? (There has to be one easy question on the list).
- What are some useful practices that might improve my capacity to pay attention to things — things that would seem to merit closer attention, or which are just beautiful or interesting? It seems to me that what we pay attention to, and how well we pay attention, has a major impact on what we subsequently do, and on how much we enjoy and learn from life. And attention, it seems to me, is a whole-body, multi-sensory activity, more about what is perceived, felt and embodied than what is thought.
Looking at this list, I notice it has no “why” questions, no philosophical questions, no yes-or-no questions, and no questions about my fascination with the message of radical non-duality, a message which effectively renders all questions moot.
It’s a very different list than it would have been a decade ago. I wonder what happened to that guy who claimed to be me back then?