Tip-Top Advice in a Forgotten Huffington Post Article

Joseph Campbell popularised the phrase “follow your bliss” and we see its ‘thousand faces’ in the many sayings we hear today – “follow your passion” “do what you love” “find your purpose”.

Now thats all fine and dandy but, for most, following this advice proves difficult when it comes to it. Now of course a nuts-and-bolts detailed instruction manual to following your bliss may never appear – and perhaps shouldn’t – but now and then it’s reinvigorating to hear some practical ways of applying this wisdom.

And with that, I leave you in the capable hands of Neil Gibb at the Huffington Post:

1. Get with a group of people you have an affinity with – the flipside of which is: stop working with assholes

2. Make sure you up to something

3. Work on becoming really good at something

And he leaves us with my personal favourite line of the article:

The novelist William Gibson said: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression first make sure you are not surrounded by assholes.”

Take a look around at your life: are you working really hard at journalling etc. to try and discover your passion yet flanked on all sides by an uninspiring environment and miserable friends?

A flower can’t flourish in a shopping mall, and neither can a man follow his bliss when lazing about at his parents house with the same depressed high school friends. My thoughts anyway.

Source

What Should You Do With Your Life?

Cal Newport he talks of a student who ‘loves’ two different subjects and can’t choose between them, so is choosing to do both. The student asks whether it’d be better to focus on one subject. This is Cal’s response:

From an objective perspective, what does it mean for a second semester freshman to “love” electrical engineer or mathematics? At best, it means he enjoyed a handful of courses on the topic and/or thinks it sounds interesting.

To feel real passion for an academic subject…requires years of honing your craft. Until then, you’re pursuing an idealized simulacrum.

The reason why I love this response is that instead of treating young people and students as if they should have everything figured out, it takes the pressure off by saying:

“Hey, you’re young and pretty stupid and aren’t going to just know what you’re meant to be doing in this world, so relax and enjoy yourself and just pursue something that interests you. If you work hard and are nice to people then it’ll all fall into place.”

Or, less frankly – and perhaps inaccurately – put:

The obvious advice to this student, then, is to choose one of these topics that interest him and then invest the time necessary to learn the craft and develop a true connection to the material.

Source: The Student Passion Problem – Cal Newport

Seriousness and Frivolity

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

We adults are so awfully serious.

Where did we learn it? We certainly weren’t serious when we were toddlers or mischievous teenagers. Where did it come from? Why?

What follows is my exploration into seriousness and its causes and effects.

What does it mean to take thing seriously?

According to www.Dictionary.com:

1. of, showing, or characterized by deep thought.

2. of grave or somber disposition, character, or manner: a serious occasion; a serious man.

Doesn’t really help does it. Well, I’m sure you know what it means already.

When did we first start taking things seriously?

I don’t know. And a rather rapid Google search returns nothing so I guess no one else does either.

My guess is that we took some things seriously because of the threat of extinction, i.e. “Don’t do that, you might hurt yourself!” or “Stop messing around or I’ll leave you here and I won’t come back.”

I remember once when I was playing in my mother’s bedroom and I accidentally jumped on her knee. I looked up at her with a gleeful grin, expecting her to smile and laugh along with me, and instead met the black gaze and angry bark of a terrifying, wounded giant.

From then on I wouldn’t be surprised if I learnt to take life seriously when I’m around her.

What do we take seriously?

We take our jobs, our relationships, our futures, our pasts, our possessions and ourselves seriously. Not all at the same time of course, and sometimes we forget about our shiny new shoes and jump in a puddle.

Does it serve us?

There seems to be a multitude of quotes by great people instructing us not to take life too seriously. It would be easy to say “well Dostoyevsky said it so come on people, lighten up!”, but I think more analysis is needed. We need to take our seriousness very seriously.

Seriousness serves us by allowing us to explore a subject, feeling, object or a way of life in depthWith depth comes meaning. And so seriousness can help us develop meaning in our lives.

Seriousness doesn’t serve us when we over-indulge in it, or take the wrong things seriously.

When we over-indulge in seriousness, we forget what it means to be light and free and dancing in the chaos of life. We can become heavy and slow and dulled and boring.

When we take the wrong things seriously, we can miss out on life altogether. We can concentrate on the highs of career achievement while ignoring our inner child’s pleas for fun and adventure.

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the Gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts

There’s one thing that seems to speak for itself: those that choose not to take things so seriously all the time seem to just enjoy life more!

Action Steps

  • Speak gibberish all day.
  • Go and get shit-faced instead of reading that next self-development book
  • Twirl, twist, jump and gyrate your body around like a 4 year old in a soft-play area
  • Take the sacred things seriously and take yourself lightly
Further reading:
Refine The Mind: 9 Thinkers on Not Taking Existence too Seriously

Lack of Living

Today I’d like to explore the lack of living that I, and probably many of you, have experienced. We may get things done, we may even have a job we love, a strong relationship with a healthy partner, good friends and family, yet we may feel a lack of vitality.

Co-dependence

This lack of living is strongly related to your level of independence from your family and society. Though we may become conscious of many ways that we are co-dependent, there seems to always be more, hidden in the unconscious. Only by growing in awareness, giving utterance to our most highest desires and seeking the feedback of others can we unlock and loosen these subconscious dependencies on other people.

I’ll let Joseph Campbell take it from here:

Campbell talks of Babbitt, specifically the last line:

I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life

This may sound extreme, but it begs the question: how much of your decisions are influenced by other people? If they are at all influenced, even the slightest amount, then whatever you do, it will not be what you WANT to do.

Other people will always try and influence us. We may choose to take into consideration people’s opinions, chew on them, and then make our decision – but without the chewing, we are merely robots. Mechanical talking heads, repeating the desires of others.

Pain – our truest friend

Pain, physical or emotional, shows us the path to our liberation. But it’s so easy to reject the pain, to turn away, to distract ourselves with shiny gadgets and over-achievement and love and sex.

I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said something along the lines of:

When it comes to emotions, human beings are the most creative creatures on the planet. We’ll come up with almost anything to distract ourselves from an uncomfortable emotion

Why pain?

Pain originates from the soul. It tells us when we’re hurt and need rest. It tells us when we’re trespassing against our soul’s wishes. It tells us when we should have paid attention to what’s in front of us instead of the cute girl beside us through lampposts and traffic signs and cliff edges.

But the pain is too much

You are an infinite being in source. Your soul is formless and will remain after your body has dissolved into the earth from whence it sprouted.

Enough talking, let’s dance for a moment

 

The pain is still too much

And who’s responsibility is it to remedy that? Answer it truthfully.

If you answered yourself, you’re right.

If you answered someone else, you’re still right.

The truth, as always is somewhere in between. One thing I know is that you’ll probably have to take the first step. If you’re stuck in the same pattern, you’ll have to be the one to break out of it.

As Einstein wisely said:

Problems cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness that created them

You may still have hope. Hope that “one day things will be different”. Forget that shit. You’ll be waiting your whole life, like the character in Babbitt:

I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life

Action step

Take the step. Call someone. Talk about how you feel. Already doing that and it hasn’t worked? Try something new. Reveal something even more intimate. Go to a men’s group. Start a men’s group. Still feeling stuck? Take a different approach. Organise a social outing. Quit your job. Wake up at 5am. Fast for a day. Go to the woods and refuse to return until the answer comes to you.

Life is dynamic, it isn’t a single question-and-answer. Dance with it.

I wish you luck.