If there is one thing I should probably not be doing in this life, it is giving advice. Whatever good fortune I have come across, I have typically stumbled into ass-backwards rather than achieved through any sort of strategy or wisdom. Nevertheless, you just never know when somebody might benefit from a word or two about someone’s experience, even my own. So, here is a handful of dubious and somewhat counterintuitive observations from my own meanderings through the world.
Embrace the Chaos.
I used to try and stay on top of all the things I needed to take care of in life, but it was truly fucking overwhelming.
Now, I have absolutely no system at all; I just run around doing random shit from morning to night, and hope that some of it is stuff that needed to be done, in some cosmic sense. I find, though, when I do whatever I’m doing with the right combination of inspiration, commitment, and joy, good things have a tendency of happening. This may be the worst possible advice for you, I don’t know. For me, inspiration and the pleasure of being in the moment always, always trump perspiration and slogging devotion to completing a task. The greatest effort I put in is trying to find the wonder in whatever I’m working on. If I can’t, I soon move on.
Never underestimate the value of small, earthly pleasures.
Many of us are continually seeking cosmic enlightenment in one way or another. I feel that this is a huge mistake. The universe is unruly and reluctant to conform to our preconceptions of spirituality or orderliness. I have never felt the presence of God, never been softly brushed by the divine feathers of the Celestial Bird Goddess of Paradise. But I have glimpsed the wonders of creation in thousands of relatively humble ways: eggplant parmigiana and dulce de leche; vinyl records by Lou Reed and Horace Silver; turns of phrase by Anais Nin and David Foster Wallace; the warmth of the sun on my face the shadows of birds crossing the moon while camping on Haida Gwaii. That is all that I need; actually, that is way more than enough.
People are fickle, and fate is capricious. Your friends and relatives will let you down. You will not get as many “likes” as you had expected. The meatloaf will be disappointing. Toby, that slimy lounge lizard from Customer Service, will steal your boyfriend. In the end, all that is left is the pleasure of the unexpected. Let’s hope you have the eyes to see it. Life is a meal in the dining car of a train hurtling towards unknown destinations. Sometimes the views from the carriage windows are breathtaking, and sometimes all you see are slag heaps and strip malls. Just know that the scenery is ever changing. Eat what the waitress brings you. Order ice cream with that apple pie, then wash it down with a special coffee. Remember to always tip generously and accept that any bite just might be your last.
Always be open to curiosity and surprise.
Never assume you understand anything. I would be willing to bet my soul, if such a thing exists, that what we define as human consciousness is amongst the rarest, most luminous, and perhaps most dangerous substances anywhere in creation. It thrives best when rolling around in wonder, like an elephant bathing in mud. Just let it wash over you.
Besides imagination, our greatest human attributes are kindness, generosity, and civility.
Forget the grand gestures of love, passion, courage and selflessness. They are fabulous ingredients for epic poems, operas, and stage plays. But in the real world, it is the small kindnesses we bestow upon each other that make day-to-day life at least bearable, and sometimes even pleasant.
In a world filled with narcissists continually howling for attention, speak softly, call attention to the specialness of others over yourself, let others step in front of you in the line-up at the dessert table. You may just feel a lightening of the heart.