Mon May 25
To live a good life -- to have deep satisfaction, to help others, and to exercise your will while minimizing external harm -- you must do one of two things. You either adjust to the small town you grew up in, or you have interesting experiences (and survive them).
I think most people who have lived interesting lives would agree that the first path is preferable; listen to your parents, do good in school, have good health, cherish those around you, pay attention to the small things. There's an old Chinese saying -- "may you live in interesting times" -- that is actually intended as a curse on your enemies. (Apparently, this is apocryphal; whatever).
The consolation prize of doing interesting things is that hardship does, indeed, breed character. You grow stronger. You grow more flexible. If you're lucky, your heart does not become dimmer; in fact it can become as bright as ever. The only thing you wasted is time, which you can never recover.
If you couldn't fit into the small town you grew up and just had to see the world, make mistakes, and 'learn things the hard way', one thing you might notice is that each new experience or hardship starts to bring you less and less growth. It becomes extremely expensive (in terms of time wasted and risk incurred) to learn each new lesson. For me, it took about 1.5 years to learn my last big lesson (Lord willing). I won't get into the details, but the upshot is that my health deteriorated, many relationships were put on pause, my financial trajectory was waylaid, and it generally sucked huge hard monkey balls.
I didn't even learn anything specific; just another stupid lesson in humility, and a putting together of things I've already learned in a way that makes sense for my life. Things became clearer for a while, and then they became muddied, and then clearer again, and then finally to a state I like to call comfortably muddied. Looking back on the myriad mistakes I made in my 20s, and having survived them almost entirely due to sheer luck, I must say that I am glad I made them, and would be very glad to avoid making major mistakes in the future.
Life is indeed much more enjoyable after growing as much as you need to. Yesterday I talked to a guy who took a gig just watching a bonfire for 7 hours. How did he do that? I would get so bored. (He also told me he took another gig killing coyotes, at $50 per coyote, which sounds like something out of an old West movie). Another guy traveled around the country, rigging up fiber cables for presidential speeches. He currently works on retrofitting alternative fuel vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. I learned later that his father collected player pianos (pianos that play themselves, or something; to be honest, I was a little distracted by the pretty girl at our table, who wasn't interested in talking; I probably seem too intense).
Overall, life is good. There's a lot of boring stuff I'd like to take care of (health, relationships, money, networking, finding the perfect apartment), but I guess I'm comfortable doing the whole writer / philosopher / observer cliche every once in a while.
Okay, hell, a couple lessons I guess.
One is that being a millennial digital-native-computer-addict is a uniquely hard generational challenge that most old people don't understand. You're used to things going super fast. if you want to get a piece of information, cycle through 1,000 people hotter than you on instagram, or read the hottest deep state conspiracies, it's all available to you. But the old people are fundamentally right; you've got to slow the hell down. Prayer and meditation work wonders. Listen to birds, learn how to do nothing. But also remember to keep yourself busy, and that time is a precious resource. Patience is a virtue, and it is both harder and more intellectually challenging than it may appear.
The second virtue that I know about is kindness. All hats off to Vonnegut; god dammit, you've got to be kind . Many people have been tremendously kind to me over the course of my life, and I would like to pay that back by being kind to others. Kindness really makes the world go 'round, and it's more important than ever if you are cursed with living in interesting times.
Kindness and patience are virtues because they're things that you must do, even if you don't want to do them.
Have a good memorial day.
(this is a player piano, by the way)