01. How do you live?
Prompt: “Just ’cause you’re breathing, doesn’t mean you are alive.”
And just because you are alive, doesn’t mean you’re breathing. To breathe, doesn’t simply mean to intake oxygen and exhale the rest, deemed unusable by your body. There is far more to it than the mechanics.
Here, I will use an excerpt from something that I have written previously:
People always talk about how they have brilliant ideas in the shower. Revelations, discoveries, whatever. Well, I just came out of the shower. And I realized, that it was probably the longest stretch of time today that I’ve had wholly and absolutely to myself. No computers, no phones, no people. Just me.
I can tell you what I thought about. I thought about how I should get a water filter for my shower because the water in LA is especially harsh on my skin and my hair (I’ve never had such damaged hair until I moved here), but a filter specifically for the shower would have to wait since I could hardly afford such a nonessential thing, how I should drink a glass or two of water once I got out of the shower since water is good and I was feeling thirsty, and really, I don’t think I’d drank enough today, and how I seemed to be voicing all my thoughts in my head, because I can finally hear myself now that I was all alone under the hot water and the steam. I thought about how yesterday was my parents’ 25th anniversary and how happy they are with each other and how amazing it all is (and one day, maybe, I’ll get to experience the same joys they have), and how, last night, in the shower, I’d thought about their anniversary and thought it something that I would want to write about, and how I remembered that I used to write so much more, but seemingly, I had gotten “busy” and now I hardly get the chance to. And then I returned to today, and realized, it really isn’t that I’m busy, but that I never get the kind of time that I used to use for writing, unless I was in the shower. I thought how brilliant it would be if I could write in the shower. But honestly realized, that it wasn’t the real solution, but rather, finding myself a time to think, disconnected from everything else, but entirely connected to me, could be.
The shower is the only place, recently, that I seem to even have an intact stream of consciousness. Otherwise, like anyone else living in this technological age, my thoughts are constantly interrupted and distracted by a new message, a tweet, an article, an email, things that other people, whether I know them or not, are beaming up and into my personal space and thought process.
Upon further reflection, it seems that like it or not, by living within this globally interconnected technological sphere, I can see that I have been steadily losing my stream of consciousness. My train of thoughts are almost always in jeopardy of being derailed, and I hardly have time to collect all the incoming information and synthesize it into something that I, myself, have processed into a thing that I personally understand and relate to. Regurgitating information isn’t having knowledge, and having knowledge isn’t anything close to real wisdom. How can I own up to anything I “know” if I haven’t pondered upon it, interpreted in a way that only I can, and made it my own? I can’t “do” anything real and meaningful, if I don’t personally understand the things that enter my head. It’s not that I sit here and swallow all the information without a thought or a care in the world, but it is certainly true, that I haven’t taken the time aside to slow down and pause, and muse on things and ideas, as much as I could be.
I don’t think I’m alone in this experience, nor in this realization.
Of course, it isn’t like distractions and interruptions did not exist before now. There were birds and bees and cars and conversations. The wind, the waves, the kettle, the crackling fire and mellow laughter. A mother and her warm meal, interrupting the fantastical imagination of her daughter, deeply immersed in her book. A rumble of thunder, awakening a boy from his reverie on the stoops outside his apartment…
Where did it start? Where did we begin to lose the precious treasure of time that allowed us to delight, agonize, ponder, brood, become beautiful catatonic creatures of thought, overwrought with emotions and ideas until we had lost ourselves? Where did we, in fact, lose the ability to lose ourselves?
This sort of time is fundamental. It gives us the ability to reflect on the world, ourselves, what we’ve seen, our roles, our impacts, our meanings. It even gives us the opportunity to better ourselves through conscious actualization. It captures, in essence, the process of our own cultivation. It isn’t something that we can give up.
We can only give truly meaningful things back to the world, after we have constructed meaning out of the things that we see, hear and learn each day. To learn who you are, what makes you tick. To learn how it is that you think, and how it is that you “do.” To learn what it is you can become and you can give.
I’m not saying that all the things that we think about in the shower are things that will change the world, your life, or even your day. What I am saying though, is that we can all use a little more time each day to be with just ourselves and our thoughts, to find meaning in the things we consume and give meaning to the things we exhale.
This is how you breathe. And only by breathing in this way, can we truly begin living.
To be alive, one must live. This is not the easiest of feats. It is not the easiest thing to understand either. Often, it starts from living without muting yourself. To live within the corners, and the edges of your whole, and then more. Live outside your own self. To break down the walls that hold you in. To expose yourself to more and more and more until you are sure that your skin is scathed, worn raw, and your lungs are about to give out and collapse along with your rib cage. How do you want to live?
The key is to let some questions remain questions for a while. Because once we start questioning the worth of life in its entirety and take off on the pursuit of the answers of all answers, then we come to all sorts of questions like “is this even worth it then?” “is anything worth it?” “does any of this mean anything?” “what is the point in ever loving someone?” “what is the meaning of life?” The usual philosophical spiral down into a place we have a hard time climbing back out of.
What we have to know is that in things like life, it’s not a game of statistics or tangible answers. The answer doesn’t lie in numbers, if in fact there is an answer at all. The thing about life is that there may be reasons for only half of the things that happen to us, and the rest is almost completely irrational or unexplainable, simply beyond our reach or not worth the time we could spend trying to chase the answers to. There are countless unaccounted for and intangible things in a concept that is invisible to us. We can hardly attempt to define it; what chance do we have in knowing its delicate workings? The only chance we have in fact, is to participate in it, rather than spend our days breaking it down and dissecting it. We cannot take a microscope or a telescope to it and map it out. We hardly have the time, the energy, the equipment, or the heart to test out all our hypotheses and experiment with it.
The only chance at truly understanding a thing so unfathomable is to risk oneself. But when we do, the outcome is not the thing that we should concern ourselves with. It is, truly, the journey it takes us on that is essential to life. Because the outcome, is our goal- an ideal end result that we have in mind, thus something somewhat known. There is a certain shape that we give it already. The process in between, that is what we cannot predict, and thus there lies most potential in expansion and growth. We cannot predict what opportunities may come tumbling down, or what obstacles may come slamming into our faces. We cannot foresee where the path we walk on will turn into a cliff, a sharp corner, or bend and meander into forests, oceans, continents undiscovered. Those moments however, where we don’t know where we are, are the places that can give us the most. For these times, we must have our hearts and minds open, so that we can take what rages around us and make it our own, and leave something of ourselves behind in return.
We have to free ourselves up from our own demons and fears, our own preconceptions and hypotheses, and laugh with the things that frighten us the most. We have to choose to stretch and grow a little further each day, to choose to expose ourselves to the rawness that life requires of us. We have to brave the storms, the nights lost to doubt, to wander and find ourselves in a place we have never been before. To keep giving ourselves another shot, another chance at being more alive than before. It will never be the same twice, and each time, it will be visceral, an awakening to a new, deeper, more colorfully vivid world. Every time, it will be worth the risk.
This is what you must walk with to live life alive: Have hope and courage. Embrace the uncertainty and lean into the unknown.