In Kabbalah we speak of ” Teshuva”, which does not mean repentance, as it usually goes translated; instead – it means going back to one’s true self; in Christian Bible it’s said “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2); Crowley speaks of doing ‘as thou wilt’ as the main law of the system of believe he founded, Thelema… You’ll find it everywhere, in every single reputable religion and school of thought, but “being who you are” might seem easier than it is.
Albeit many of us, i guess, would like to escape the rat race – that’s close to impossible because even within the most liberal and unconventional of the professions – there are strict codes for just about anything. At the time i used to hang out mostly with DJs, non-commercial writers and directors of independent movies; the thing is that all of them were successful in their respective fields – and the rules for success are oddly the same, never mind is it a career in finances or in liberal arts; there are strict dressings codes even among the most casually dressed artists; there are linguistic etiquettes and dozens of other (un)written rules one should master – in any given field.
Often it’s said that if we choose what we’d like to do – most would turn into overeating couch potatoes… Not so. Whomever i met in life who mastered the art of going with the flow (they are few i must say), long ago was done with watching reality TV and pigging out on junk food; somehow, as we search for the ways to unshool our minds, the latter becomes so picky that most of the trivial activities become out of question by default.
That being said – Lin Ai Wei has posted recently a great essay on what going with the flow is Not; something he wrote there i find to be of fundamental value:
“When one follows the flow of things, they are just followers. They have a desire, they go with it. They have a thought, and they revel in it for hours. Someone yells at them, and they take it either to yell back, or walk away indifferent. Following the flow of things is simply just planting causes and reaping the outcomes. It is quite ordinary, and people do it without realizing it. It is nothing special.
The only difference between someone who follows the flow of things and one who is of high wisdom, a Sage, is that the Sage doesn’t look to the outcomes; the Sage is more concerned with the causes. The Sage thus creates the flow consciously, wisely.”
That being said, I’ve noticed lately that many use two antonymous words – elitism and snobbery – interchangeably, where as the latter actually excludes the former; one of the possible etymologies of the noun snob is its being rooted in the abbreviated form of the Latin sine nobilitate – ‘without nobility‘; by the early 19th century snob was firmly established as the word for the vulgar social climbers of humble background who copied the manners of the upper classes. (See: Oxford Dictionaries.)
An elite is defined in plethora of ways as well – by its wealth, power, talent and whatnot; in Montenegro usually if one is referred to as such it means (at least) two preceding generations in their family had higher education – and that’s the definition closest to my own understanding; anyhow – being elitist by default excludes copycatting; an elite sets the standards in any given filed, while snobs merely follow without giving it all much of a thought. But, i digress.
I know many say – it is possible if you are child-free; not so – Leo Babauta does it, albeit it’s a challenge to the norms and nevertheless he has a big family, or, better to say, his kids are one of the main reasons he is doing it.
For myself, long ago i came to the realization that – couple of enlightened gurus aside- we, as a kind, are playing roles like actors do (albeit most make the choice unconsciously), as the time goes by we identify with the characters we impersonate – and then pretty much the whole script is quite predictable, it becomes one of the so-called “master plots” which number is, according to some, narrowed down to merely twenty… And while hardly anyone wants to be a part of a B-rated movie – metaphorically speaking, to become a director of one’s own independent movie does take guts – and skill too.
Language – that wonderful human peculiarity that distinguishes us as a kind – can be one’s captor or one’s liberator, depending on its use; we are served on a daily basis ready made verbal cliches, by the teen age one is already equipped with all the phrases they might ever need in each and every situation they would encounter in life – sad or happy – and even for the unpredictable and surprising ones.
Long story made short – we are given preexisting patterns of speech which further condition our behavior – in addition to the infamous socialization which in all societies basically means adjusting the masses to the needs of the ruling class(es); the easiest way to go on is to adapt to the existing rules and norms, while the only way to achieve true fulfillment is always found within the realm of one’s individuality and far from anything conventional and widespread.
The thing is that once we are outside the known and commonly accepted – there are no maps and charts and we can rely only on our own intuition (presumably judgement as such was left behind together with the conventional thinking – novelty is always beyond the logic and pre-existing experiences.)
Where will this road less traveled take us – nobody knows, the thing is that we will be fulfilled spiritually and not in any kind of lack – as long as we stick to it and don’t succumb to the usual ‘shoulds and musts.’
Nothing is a must, not a thing.
I get it theoretically too, but the practice takes daily effort. As soon as i wake up, i have obsessive thoughts about what i must accomplish during the day – and at what time; for me – it’s the meditation that enables me to prioritize among the countless tasks i schedule daily.
Unlike Leo Babauta, i can’t say i am goalless; i do have pretty clear goals in life – i am fully aware where i like to spend my time, what activities have the best chance of truly fulfilling me and with what kind of people i am happy with, the thing is that mine is not fixed, i rather navigate towards those non-goals without obsessing too much about anything and by leaving a good part of it to the Universe and its mysterious ways.
Here are some shots of my not-so-goalless wanderings through the city of Moscow and an illustration i fancy; in Tarot spontaneity is synonymous with The Fool which some list as the first Major Arcanum – and some, like me, as the last major mystery in the sequence of the 22 Tarot Trumps.
With Elena at my favorite Moscow’s pub – Booze Bub:
Many agree with me that it’s actually the bast pub in the city – and you can read some of the amazing reviews at this absolutely cool WordPress blog on Russia.
These are some more pics of “ Cheers, just without Woody Harrelson” and of the best bartender on this side of the Pacific, an American in Moscow, a polymath and a friend of mine – Pete Cato.
Copyright notice: Art of Life Tarot was created by Charlene Livingstone who taught Art for over 25 years and currently works as a guide at the Art Gallery of Ontario; cards feature well-known works of art paired with inspiring quotations; the deck was published by U.S. Games Systems Inc. in 2012; All Rights Reserved.