I Don't Care What Happens Next
on the spiritual state of the world, the implications and utility of love, the definition and methodology of enlightenment
Sometimes I go months without writing a song. Sometimes I write so often and so prolifically, I can’t even remember all the songs I wrote. The older I get, the less often I seem to experience that latter, manic phase. Recently, I’ve been stuck in a bit of a block. It’s not so much like what I think of when I hear the phrase “writer’s block”; I don’t sit at my desk (keyboard) trying desperately to pen (finger) some poetic words (melody). It’s more like…apathy. I just am never inspired anymore. You see, the writing never truly came from me, from my mind. It sort of spilled through my mind and into the keys and out of my mouth. So, this variety of writer’s block is a little less like lack of creativity and a little more like the loss or dwindling of some incredibly beneficial but intrinsically unknowable connection to something beyond my self.
If that idea doesn’t bog you down too much, then maybe you know what I’m talking about. I believe—or would at least like to—that we all have experienced that (for lack of a better word) divine connection. Maybe you’ve felt it in your work; according to psychological science, that’s the most common place people tend to enjoy these so-called flow experiences. Maybe, like me, you’ve never been a big fan of work, and instead you find it in your art (whatever that may be to you). For me, it’s usually in my music. But, as I explained, music is not a reliable source of flow for me. Sometimes I have nothing to create. In those times, I find myself turning to consumption instead. I’m not talking about the old-timey disease; I mean that consumerist mentality that leads you to goals like “watch all the Netflix” or “eat all the junk food”. With such ideas as my guides, I careen toward useless, non-productive squalor and hedonism. Not that I’m not a fan of hedonism. I just think it would ideally involve a lot more expression and a lot less futility.
So, as this time is upon me, I hunger not only for my favorite junk food (cotton candy), but also for a way out. How can I break this cycle and become a meaningful, active songwriter again? Well, I try to do the things I know will always help me with every problem: I meditate, and take mindful breaths throughout the day, and make sure I always express my needs and emotions. The problem with this method is that I’m terrible at all of those things. Maybe what will help is that eventual breaking point, where I’ve been so fruitless for so long that it begins to eat away at my sense of self-worth until I have no choice but to express the pain through art. (Mind you, that’s several steps after expressing the pain through eating chocolate or expressing the pain through sleeping too much.) I suppose the only real solution is to develop those healthy habits I mentioned, but I was really hoping for an easy way out. (Eating chocolate, for instance, is very easy). Or maybe simply finding it in my awareness to accept my lack of inspiration will help me to dissolve some paradoxical block. Sometimes the only thing keeping you from doing something you love is the fear that you might not do it.
The people of today’s society may claim to be fatalistic, but only when it suits their ends. Fate has come to be used, much like religion, science, or morality in general, as a tool by both the well-meaning and the ill-intentioned. We may say that a certain outcome is simply “fate” when we do not wish to take responsibility for the consequences of our decisions. We may, however, claim a good result to be the product of our accomplishments, ignoring fate when it so suits us. We may, still, claim that something was “mere chance” if we do not know whether to pride ourselves or discredit ourselves; this is our safe middle-ground. In every case, though, we have denied ourselves the consistency of beliefs.
Overall, what we really do when we flip-flop between blaming fate and crediting our own efforts is deprive ourselves of the consistency that originally gave the concept of fate its power. If we remain steadfast in our belief or dismissal of fate, then we force ourselves to heed our own senses, accepting both the good and the bad or honoring neither. When we blame ourselves for our wrongdoings, we also commend ourselves in our acts of altruism and benevolence; ignoring fate, we are forced to acknowledge our own behaviors and their consequences, and are thereby persuaded to effect, through more positive actions, more positive results.
It is my strong belief that we should not play it safe, so to speak, by removing ourselves from the effects we have on others and on ourselves. If we own up to the end results of our decisions, saving claims of “fate” for only those circumstances in which our minds can see no clear causes whatsoever, then we make ourselves not only vulnerable to our own failures but open to our own successes. We must drop the pretense of chance, accept the inevitability of our own right to choose, and let that right empower us to influence our society for the better.
I realize that I haven't written anything in a few months, and I want to take the opportunity to write about why I haven't been writing.
Basically, I find myself inspired to write only when I am in a place of peace and awareness, a state in which any turmoil in my life or my thoughts dissolves and becomes unimportant. This is a state that my girlfriend and I refer to as Centrespace. To us (or, to me, at least), this means a loss of ego, attachment, or identification with the superficial world. When I am in Centrespace, my only priority is enlightened doing, being, and loving. When I am in Centrespace, I do not worry and I have no fear. Any fears that live in my awareness I do not regard as myself, only as fear. Any potentially stressful or painful situation is simply what is, and I do not feel the irrational need to label it or resist it.
For the past few weeks, I haven't often found myself in Centrespace, but have been reactive or fearful or even just identifying with form (as opposed to spirit). The few times I have fallen squarely into my peaceful place I have spent writing new music or connecting with those close to me. Today, however, I find myself centered and alone, and thus in the perfect moment to write. Whenever I try to write while identified with form or fear, I can only write from my thoughts, not from my soul, and that kind of writing, I have found, can do no good.
The best musicians that I know seem to have this way of writing music and lyrics that don’t quite seem to match up. While you’re rocking out to their catchy, upbeat style, you begin to pay attention to what they’re saying . . . and it doesn’t quite fit your expectations. This whole time you assumed this was some party song about love or success or money or something else (mock-)superficial, but they’re belting their stories of heartbreak or misery. How does that make sense?
But that’s exactly why they’re the best musicians that I know. Not simply because they defy expectations, which is often a mere parlor trick, but because within this apparent contradiction lies a strong and misunderstood truth: all of life is beautiful. Every story, whether one of breaking or one of healing, is a source of joy. Even life’s darkest moments—depression, fear, loss—are a reason for celebration! And these songwriters understand that. They know that, while they could write hundreds of sad, slow songs about their wounded souls, it is far more powerful to weave something stable through this seemingly painful tale. Their stories are bolstered both in effect and in validity by the indescribably stabilizing honesty of trust. They trust in the workings of the world, and they know that the good, the bad, and the in-between are all just pieces of life, a life that they cherish and honor. This type of songwriting is an homage to the oneness of being. These musicians respect themselves, us, and reality itself. They realize that it is far safer to have faith than to cling to fear or regret.
This ties nicely into the idea of non-judgement, which is basically just a refusal to label your life's events. When something happens in your life, it's a strong habit to interpret it as a "bad" thing or a "good" thing. While this is certainly a pervasive convention, it can actually be rather self-destructive! For instance, when we experience something "bad", we may find this a very good excuse to feel "bad". Okay, so we just avoid the "bad" stuff and try only to encounter "good" stuff, right? Well, there's a problem there, too. Namely, when something "good" happens to us, it invariably comes with a price: it's always temporary. And, because we're aware of this, even the most perfect moment can be tinged with fear—the fear of the comparatively "bad" stuff that is inevitably to come.
There is hope, though, for relief from this imbalance. It's in those paradoxical songs. It's in those brief moments when you simply forget to think or decide or label. It's in every spiritual teaching and every philosophical tome. It's the act (or, perhaps, the non-act) of non-judgement. All you have to do is refrain from calling the thing "bad" or "good", and then it is just a thing. Just stuff. Just whatever it is and you don't have to feel anything about it or react to it or deal with it. Instead, you can revel in the deep peace that lies within you regardless of the circumstance. You can belt it out at the top of your lungs, even if the words may seem sad to a judging listener. And you can sing it with joy.
You know all that stuff that finding true love is supposed to do for you? Well, it turns out you can have all of that without waiting for that magical chance encounter; all it takes is some introspection, self-discovery, and good old-fashioned hard work. It may not be as simple as that typical fairytale love that brings you deep inner peace, quells all your fears, and dislodges all your dysfunctions in one fell swoop, but it's something you can choose to work toward without the need for all that dumb luck.
Sure, we can sit around and suffer, waiting for our mythical Prince Charming to fix all our problems by seeing right through to our very souls. And we can hope that, when that day comes, we'll recognize the opportunity and somehow magically drop our walls to let him all the way in. Maybe that will be our fate, and maybe it will happen soon. Or maybe we can be a bit more proactive and chase that moment ourselves! We have so many tools at our disposal that don't require waiting and hoping. Some of us turn to religion, some to spirituality, some to the self-help section of our favorite online bookstore. Some of us talk it out with friends or therapists, and some of us practice tai chi and meditate everyday. Whatever our weapon of choice, we are entirely empowered to find that feeling now and build on it every moment of our lives. We don't need to find our missing piece to be whole; we can find a totality within us, if we're only willing and wanting to surrender everything else we thought we were.
At least, that must be the sort of idiotic thing I’ve been believing so far. Yikes. No wonder I never want to get truly close to anyone. It’s either lug around this baggage or find someone who can clean out and replace it all with their own love before I’ve noticed and run away. Unluckily for all, I’m pretty damn good at this whole self-awareness thing, despite what my current revelation may imply, and very few people are capable of distracting me from myself. Sorry, but I’m just too damn fascinating and you’re usually trying too hard or not at all. I mean, it’s pretty hard to forget about the massive yoke of so many former amadors, even in the face of a prospective or two.
Of course, after reading what I’ve just written, I get a pretty heavy dose of 60mg Wake-Up-Call PM as I once again notice how absurdly self-centered and singular (and arrogant and cute and pretentious and elegant and conceited and effectual and big-headed and big-headed…) I am. So, maybe I’m trying too hard, myself. Maybe I should let them go because, really, when will I ever find myself even speaking to any of my ex-whatever’s again, let alone needing to quickly take up all my former feelings and spring into battle with them? Even on the incredibly off-chance that I see his face in person again, I’d much rather be confused for a while, to not know how to feel, to be able to forget who he was and find out who he is now. Things change. People change. Hearts should change, too. And I should quit loading myself higher and thicker and wider and deeper (and other totally inappropriate-sounding dimensions) with all this nostalgic affect and just leave my backpack behind. If I can’t fit it all in my pockets, then I wasn’t meant to have it all.
And I’ve weighed the respective benefits of my superego’s and ego’s choices. In these moments, I often find that, while I may not know what I want, I do know what the person I wish that I were would want . . . and I think that answers my question. I think that, for me, what I want to want is equivalent to—or maybe even better than—what I simply want.
You would be hard-pressed to find a spiritual teacher with nothing to say on the subject of desire. Don Miguel Ruiz writes in The Four Agreements that we really want to be ourselves, and in order to do so we have to stop trying to appease others by wanting what they want for us. We have collected all this wanting into the mitote in our minds, a bustling marketplace of conflicting agreements we have made with other people. This mitote obscures for us our true desires.
Osho argues that "the ego always desires more", and that our attempts to combat these desires—say, by resolving to do less of something when we truly crave doing more of it—inevitably results in inner conflict (From Sex to Superconsciousness). Opposition to wanting only strengthens it, and thus is not a true escape. Fighting your desires leaves you even less equipped to change them, and certainly more confused than before.
Eckhart Tolle teaches that fearing and wanting are the two "primary motivating forces of the ego" (A New Earth). That is to say, when we find ourselves wrapped up in suffering or superficiality, identification with our desires and fears is the most likely culprit. In this view, worrying about getting what you want is simply a stall tactic to avoid facing the real issue: the wanting itself. When we want for anything, we are implying that the current moment, just as it is, does not suit us perfectly. We resign ourselves to feeling unsatisfied, lacking, or unfulfilled.
We could, of course, choose otherwise. We could choose to see the moment as perfect, always, by definition. We could choose to want for nothing, to be completely content with where we are. This, of course, is a battle of trust. To accept our lives as they are, we just trust that life is going to give us exactly what we need. We must let go of thinking we know best and surrender to the wisdom of whatever higher power we acknowledge (God, the universe, the collective consciousness, et ceteræ). Then, when we do notice in ourselves a desire for something, a push toward performing an action or making a choice, we can be sure that it comes from a greater intelligence than our own.