Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Matters Most?

In the end what matters most is
How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

I have a banner in my apartment that has this quote on it. It's nice, right? It's true, right? Yet somehow it always seemed a little empty to me...like I didn't understand it on any deep level. And then.

The other night I watched a DVD called Encounters at the End of the World. I thought it was going to be a nature-documentary, but it really turned out to be a human-nature-documentary. The film-maker/narrator was a rather melancholy man with a german accent and some unusual opinions. The film is more or less about the interesting people who find themselves at McMurdo base in Antarctica - what they do, where they've been, who they are, and why they're there. Very interesting people for sure, but the filmmaker got a lot of them looking as melancholy as he was. At one point he said a few things about how some scientists think that humanity's time on this planet is coming to an end sooner or later, and that really got me thinking (in a depressed fashion).

It would be arrogant to assume that humans are going to be around forever. And the end of humanity is a very unusual and sombering thing to contemplate. Unless we figure out how to build a self-sustaining spaceship with warp engines or find a well-placed wormhole or two, human life in this universe may cease to exist. What then? What was it all for? Where's the meaning?

The extinction of humanity adds a very different perspective on human activity. If we are going to be all gone someday (and maybe soon) what was the point of all the suffering? All the religious wars trying to get us all to believe the same thing? Indeed what is the point of suffering to create art, to track history, to do everything we assume to do for posterity? If no one is going to be around to know us, to understand us, what is the point of having lived and created and contributed to anything besides pure survival?

I tried to think of a way that we could have these things mean something in a self-referring way, like it matters because it affects the people who exists NOW, even if in the future nothing of us remains. And I agree that efforts aimed at reducing suffering and making people happy NOW are meaningful. But what about the pain we undergo? What about the 80 hour work weeks with 4 hours of sleep each night, the pain-staking labour some people have to do. What about the unnecessary suffering we are causing each other in the pursuit of some goal. With the perspective of humanity's demise, any goal other than reducing real suffering in the here and now truly seems meaningless to me. Why are people pushing themselves so hard to work so long to get some stuff that really adds nothing in terms of lessening suffering in their lives? Why are we sacrificing real relationships with each other - moments of true communion - to get more stuff or status or just plain money? When there's no one left to understand and remember, does it really matter if you were the President of your company or the mail-clerk? if you had a 20 inch television or a 64 inch television? if your lawn was green or motley?

Nothing. It won't matter a whit. When viewed from this perspective, what matters most?

How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

Now I understand. My interpretation: Enjoy your life, work to end suffering and cause joy, and don't worry about anything else.

43Things Goal: Get Out of My Own Way: Therapy & support helps a lot!

Through therapy I have made progress on this goal. It’s about a lot of things, and I’ve written a lot about procrastination and motivation on my process blog http://perpetualspiral.blogspot.com

Surprisingly (to me anyway) a big issue is Faith. Faith in myself, or belief in myself. I’ve gotten a lot of great support from my new online friends who are constantly saying nice things about my abilities and competence. That goes a long way with me towards helping me believe in myself. And thus there is less fear in me when I start out to do a task. I’ve been more productive over the last few months than I have since I was in school.

Secondly is faith in little steps adding up to big things. Being consistent and doing just a little towards your goals on a regular basis gets you there just as reliably as doing it all in one shot. This kind of babystepping is new to me, since i’ve always been such an extreme person – all or nothing. But it has become necessary because of my health to take a different approach. The more I do it, the more I show myself it works, and the more often I take the small steps approach.

Being accountable to others, while being supported by them. This has also helped me, especially when dealing with my volunteer work. There are times when I am so overwhelmed by the responsibility and the amount of things that I need to do – this is paralyzing for me. But because I work with such understanding people, i can tell them when I’m freaking out and they always offer to help. Sometimes there’s nothing I can delegate, but at least I can get more time and encouraging words. Because I believe the organization and my participation is making a real difference in people’s lives and will continue to do bigger and better things, I am motivated most days to do work. So on 99% of the days when I am at home and have no plans that take me away from home (like social visits or errands that take all of my energy away), I do several hours of work. I start with the regular duties and that gets me in work mode so I can tackle the other things.

So while I am still very much in my own way when it comes to my artisan self, a lot of obstacles to other areas in my life have fallen away and I just DO things without grinding my teeth and torturing myself first!

43Things - I've Done: How to find new friends

"I looked online and found a lot of people who are very nice"

How I did it: I joined Twitter, and I placed an ad in the friendship personals section on kijiji. I did meet a friend in real life, but most of my new friends are online - ok for me since I have chronic illness and can't go out socially very frequently. Amazing group of friends on twitter, like having my own 24 hour support network. It only took me a few months of regular twittering to gain an amazing community online. I'm so grateful and have added many of them to my smaller, closer Facebook Network.

I also got involved with health activism - I helped found a new charity for ME/CFS and have made a lot of connections with others who have chronic illness, and some very close friends :)

Lessons & tips: Really, just put yourself out there. Be honest about who you are, be friendly and care about other people and what their lives are like. Try Twitter. I can't say enough about it!



It took me 5 months.

It made me supported


I sometimes write things that I don't really mean or believe. These are not to be taken literally, nor as definitive statements about me or my beliefs. Thoughts and emotions are transient, and I reserve the right to change my mind, generalize, exaggerate, give strong opinions, or write other possibly offensive statements. I don't lie, but I may say something that's not true to check whether I believe it or not, or to make a point. Call it creative license. This is my blog, and do have the right to say what I want. I'm using it in creatively therapeutic ways. Whatever the reader may think of me and my words, please believe that my core intentions are always good and I never willingly hurt anyone.