Hello, Goodbye (Or "How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Windmills")
Thought I'd pop in and say howdy, taking a brief break from a whirlwind of frenetic activity over the past couple of weeks. I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday, whatever you may celebrate, and that you're ready for the new year.
We always seem to say that the old year was good, but next year will be better. Unless, of course, your old year was full of craptastic events that you can hardly wait to forget, in which case the new year better be an improvement or you're going to go all exploding fruitcake on someone. The desire to ascend is a uniquely human trait whereas most animals are content with their routines once they're established when they come of age and competence. It's very unusual to find a beaver who will state, "you know, I really need to try some cantilevers on my next dam" or a lion who proclaims, "say, I think my stalking game could use a little plussing" but then you'd be hard-pressed to find talking beavers and lions in anything but Disney movies. (I think.)
But most people are very rarely simply content. We've always got to find ways to make it better, climb higher, race faster, improve, correct, acquire and otherwise keep up with all the other humans doing the same thing. There's always another mountain to climb and we so often forget to turn our backs to the mountain, gaze out over the landscape and simply enjoy the view.
I'm not a Buddhist, but the above quote has always made a lot of sense to me. The word suffer is often times used to depict someone's painful reaction to a situation or event, but it doesn't always have to be so severe. One of the definitions of "suffering" is to tolerate something. To tolerate something is to accept, allow or endure it. So, you can suffer from a terrible illness or you can suffer through the latest tween rom-com movie in service of someone who really digs that kind of twinkly stuff. Getting back to Buddha, the word "suffering" is used to describe that which we cannot change and what may not be terribly agreeable to us. Can't do too much about that whole birth thing, but everything else in that list ranks high in our heads as stuff we can sure attempt to control and manipulate to our own desires.
We'll do what we can to combat aging and take nutritional supplements that both purport to lengthen life-spans and ward off sickness. We seek out that which is enjoyable to us and shrink away from all manner of unpleasantry. We strive to get what we want and often despair when we don't get it. Our lives are a cycle of avoidance and frenzied pursuit of dreams, goals and the people, things and situations that we desire. It's no wonder that we're all verklempt.
Letting go of your desires and just being is one of the prime concepts of Buddhism (which is probably why I'm not a Buddhist) and it makes a lot of sense. If you don't desire anything and are happy with where and who you are, then there's no stress in reaching the "next" level, whatever that might happen to be. Personally, I think the idea of improving oneself, observing and correcting to achieve certain outcomes, is part of why we're here in this whole squirrelly life thing anyway. Our needs to step it up don't always have to be selfish; they can often be altruistic and good for the self as well as those around you. Wanting to have the newest, fastest, shiniest car may be servicing the id to a certain degree but riding your bike for five miles a day in order to keep yourself in shape is a goal that can have long-lasting positive impacts on not only yourself but those that love you.
Whatever your quests may be, I hope that you will realize them in 2015. I'm in no position to cast a spider web's width of light upon the worthiness of your goals and the purity of your struggles to attain them. Hell, I'm hoping to get an annual pass to Walt Disney World next year - I'm not sure how that's going to help anyone except The Walt Disney Company. But I also desire to be in better physical condition. I hope to improve as a musician and to perform for more people than ever before. I wish to be of better assistance to those who seek my counsel, musically and otherwise. I strive to plumb the depths of my spirit and allow the love within me to flow more freely so that I may be better attuned to the people in my life.
And I want another year in which to try all of these things. Not ready to go yet. Nor are any of us. That's stressful, isn't it? The desire to stay on this crazy merry-go-round even though it's starting to spin like a freaking tea cup in FrankenFantasyland; isn't that part of the basic definition of insanity? Doing the same things and expecting different results?
I guess that's why we try new things. Because we want different results. And that powers us forward into the new year and the next, God willing. Tomorrow is a possibility, but this moment in today is a reality. What to do with it? Good question.
There was a different topic on my brain when the first sentence of this blog came splurting out, but the whole damn thing got hijacked, so I got in the back seat and offered suggestions for driving. One thing I do know that remains: I wish every one of you a successful 2015, no matter what your Quixotic quest might be. I'll be your Sancho.
And we'll head out there and tilt at windmills together.