On my way to the train station the long Uber ride was lulling me into a trance. The driver was talking but I’m not exactly sure what he was saying and he eventually stopped. I let go of my mantra and against my better judgement I began to think.
What is it that keeps me ticking? What makes me strong? What makes me weak? What makes me right? What makes me wrong? What gets me stuck? What gets me going, putting one foot in front of the other until I find my way? What makes me worry and run for cover? What makes me close my heart to discovery instead of opening up my mind to whatever is waiting?
My true self is still a true mystery, shocking after all these years. It’s hard to believe that it always comes back to the same basic questions. I know my name and what I like and don’t like. I know what brings me joy and what brings me sadness, but who am I? Who am I? Why am I here? I hadn’t had these kinds of thoughts parading through my brain since high school. Here they are again, after all these years, mocking me, laughing at me for thinking they were settled questions when all along they lay dormant.
After finding out my train was going to be late I tried to get comfortable on the wooden benches at 30th Street Station. A homeless man approached me and asked for money. I didn’t have much but I gave him a dollar anyway. I guess that wasn’t enough because he then proceeded to ask for a cigarette. I told him I didn’t smoke. He went away grumbling something about me being cheap. Laughing to myself, I half surrender, because my brother always tells me I’m cheap. I don’t necessarily agree with him, it’s not that I’m cheap, I just never have much money. I tried turning my attention to my breath and began repeating my mantra but it just wasn’t working for me today. My incessant thinking continued and continued and continued. Mantra be damned.
I want to be happy-go-lucky, care free instead of stressing about one thing or another. I yearn to feel good about myself, embracing my life, appreciating my world and all that I experience. No matter how out-of-whack life can get every breath is a fleeting luxury.
Knowing that I’m not a saint, not a genius, but still feeling there is something inside that wants to be, needs to be, expressed. Something worthwhile to be spoken or written, painted or composed. It would be amazing to compose a symphony! It would be a glorious piece starting with low bass drums rumbling through half then quarter notes and joined by a brooding group of contra basses finally the tension being relieved by a swelling chorus of cellos, violas, and violins answered by French horns and trumpets into a rousing crescendo telling the trials and tribulations of a minor Greek god, named something like Titaneous. Yes! Titaneous, seeking to capture his rightful place among the stars. I can hear it but I can’t write it so it goes unwritten and forever Titaneous is forgotten to history.
Trying to bring myself back to my mantra but realizing, right now, I need to pay attention to the announcements to see if my train is to arrive soon or will be delayed even longer.
My life has been good, even fulfilling in the grand scheme, yet somehow I still feel incomplete and no matter what I do, what I accomplish, this void remains unfilled. I read some philosophy books in my younger days that made it quite clear that part of the human condition is feeling incomplete and insecure. That no matter how good things are, there can be a deep feeling that something awful is about to happen or that something is missing. I think some try to fill the void with work, play, god, money, drugs, booze, books, music, art, a crusade for or against something. Insert your own void filling pursuit, but all are in vain because of the way we are wired. We are wired among other things, for self-preservation. Swimming along, consciously or unconsciously consuming the little fish, hiding from the big fish. The strongest caveman gets the most food, the most desirable mate, and so on and so forth. Is this all true? If so, how have things changed? Powerful armies stood ready when democracy was born in ancient Greece. I have it so good that my pressing questions are “who am I”, “why am I” instead of “who is going to eat me”, “what can I eat”, “where can I sleep”. As advanced as we think we are these primeval instincts lurk and can never be discarded.
But…”Who am I”, “Why am I here”? Maybe what I do defines who I am. Maybe what I do determines “why I am here”. Maybe these questions are existentially fruitless. Maybe we are just here because, and for no damn reason other than some mysterious or random accidental big bang and inevitable Darwinist evolution. All of which lead to the highest life form and its ultimate and unstoppable path to self-destruction. One genius unravels a scientific marvel and splits the atom, another sells it to the highest bidders to hold the planet ransom. The big fish consumes the little fish until there is nothing remaining for the big fish to consume but itself.
I begin to slip into an intense state of sadness and wonder if any mantra or pill for that matter has the power needed to pull me out of this sinking ship. I need a glimmer of hope. Seize a moment of joy and drench myself in its promise. Smell the intoxicating rose and stand defiant against fate and against inevitability. What do I have to lose? I have my life to gain and this wonderful unending moment of eternity.
Maybe the only truly noble pursuit is in helping our fellow humans in whatever way that we can. I am much too selfish and self-centered to devote my life to others, but deep down I feel that is the right thing to do. Maybe there is something I can do or pursue. Sadly, like many people, I am fighting for my own survival and just a couple of paychecks away from a cardboard box home on a city sidewalk. So I work, and work making sure the money keeps coming and I keep the city steam vents at bay.
Work may be our lone salvation. Finding something to do that you love and doing it well will hopefully provide a sufficient income to keep a roof over your head, the pantry stocked, the bills paid and if you are very lucky a little left over for retirement and some fun. Maybe and just maybe this work might make the world a better place. Sounds simple but it is not always as easy as seems at least not for some of us mortals.