“If you ever start taking things too seriously, just remember that we are talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe.” –Joe Rogan
Or, as Michael A. Singer puts it in The Untethered Soul, “You’re sitting on a planet spinning around in the middle of absolutely nowhere.”
Honestly! Why do we get so worked up about stuff? We think we’re somebody because somebody gave us a name. But we’re just talking monkeys! We think we’re somewhere because over the years somebody with a name kept on giving everything they came into contact with a name. Sure, we live on a beautiful life-sustaining (so far) planet that we call Earth, but maybe the talking gworks on the planet Zula call our blue planet Eunoia.
Actually, I stole that. Eunoia is the name of a poetry book by Christian Bok, a scientist who read three volumes of Webster’s dictionary five times to prepare to write his book, which won the Griffin Poetry Prize. Note that each vowel available in English is in the title; each chapter in his book contains a poem with words containing just one of the vowels. He also wrote a poem for an organism, but that’s getting off-topic. Anyway, talk about a talking monkey who knows a few names for all of these things we’ve been naming all of these years, huh?
I, personally, have always taken life way too seriously. Like, for instance, right after that time when I was eight-years-old and me and my band of heathens weren’t taking life seriously at all. Do you find that? Taking things seriously often stomps on the heels of not taking anything seriously? Anyway, we were hanging out at the Catholic elementary school. I don’t recall whose idea it was (what kid ever does?). I just remember being excited the fountain was working – it was a hot August day – and slurping till our thirst was sated. Then we took great mouthfuls, spit on the glass doors, watched it splatter, and laughed our asses off. Oh yeah. So funny. Hilarious! Till the cops came. Lucky for me my CCM bike with the banana seat was pretty fast. We all managed to outrun the heat, hid in various places in the park, hearts pounding. Cops are humongous and look like monsters when you’re eight.
Eventually, hunger struck and it was time to go home and face the music. “What about the janitors who clean that school?” Mom yelled, exasperated. “Go to your room and think about that!” And, as I slunk off to prison: “Thank God we’re moving at the end of the month!”
I wished Mom hadn’t brought God into it. It was possible God and his seemingly better relationship with the Catholics – I mean the kids who went to that school wore uniforms – was partially to blame. Maybe us heathens felt inferior in our Sears catalogue duds as we crossed paths with the Catholic, and also the uniformed Dutch Reform, kids en route to our public school?
I recall wanting to die. I’d just found out about death the year before, and if you’d asked me then, I’d have said, “No. I never want to die. I didn’t know this was the bargain of life. It sucks. Whose idea was that?” But that night, thinking of how I’d “vandalized” (new word) a school, been chased by cops, and let my parents (and community) down? I wanted to disappear. Dad didn’t even have to give me the strap because I did a pretty good job of kicking my own ass.
I’d like to say that was it for Rita mistakes, but no. I make ‘em all the time. (If you don’t believe me and haven’t read it yet, check out my book, Long Climb Back.) I stick my foot in it. Tend to think one thing, passionately, one day, then think the other thing, passionately, the next. But I’ve never meant to hurt anyone. My intent is always (usually) good. Yes, okay, I know what the road to Hell was paved with. But you have to think, we’re put here to learn, right? And maybe have a bit of fun? Just prior to his quote about spinning around in nowhere-land, Singer says, “In the end, enjoying life’s experiences is the only rational thing to do.”
Over the years I’ve found that when stuff gets too heavy, if I say to myself, Thankfully it’s not all about me, then I tend to lighten up. Linkin Park’s new song, Heavy, concurs:
And I drive myself crazy
Thinking everything’s about me
Yeah, I drive myself crazy
‘Cause I can’t escape the gravity
Escape the gravity. Don’t drive yourself crazy. You mess up? Apologize, then move along. Don’t punish yourself, over and over, with damning thoughts. And what about those thoughts – any thoughts – anyway? Think they’re real? They sure feel real, so damn close, inside of you like that, but no. They’re just ether. Here is a beautiful thought: why not regard thought like a rainbow? Like my www.headspace.com guru Andy Puddicombe does.
“No matter how long we chase after the end of the rainbow,” says Puddicombe, “we’re never going to find it. The thoughts in the mind are very similar in this respect. So, we see them and they appear so clear sometimes. So vivid. It’s hard not to buy into them, to not take them seriously . . . When (the impermanence of thought) moves beyond a concept and into an experience then we start to treat the thoughts a little more lightly. We tend to take them less seriously and, therefore, we take ourselves a little less seriously.”
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