So You Figured Out That Life is Meaningless and Shallow? Here’s What to Do…
An uncomfortable truth: one hundred and fifty years from now there will not be a single living person who ever knew you. In fact, unless something weird happens, you wont even exist as a pixel in someone’s memory, let alone as a conscious influence in their life or their world.
Think about it for a moment: What were the full names of your great grand parents? What did they look like? How did they move around the room? What were their personalities like?
What about your great-great grand parents?
The reality that we all have to swallow is that it only takes the a few generations before we’re forgotten.
Of course, there’s an off chance that you’re one of the truly rare people who will be remembered. Maybe you’ll create a piece of transcendent art like Leondaro DaVinci, or you start a war like Osama Bin Laden, or become the first person to step foot on Mars.
But pause for a moment. Even if you are remembered, do you think people will remember you?
Probably not. We tend to remember influential people as concepts, not humans. Plato, Jesus, Hitler, Buddha – they are held in the collective memory as demi-Gods, not the mortals they really were. We don’t think of Buddha taking a deuce, or Hitler being charmed by a puppy, even though these things assuredly happened. We forget about the humanity of the people who shaped our world.
Even if you are one of the few who will be remembered as who you truly were that doesn’t excuse you from the reality that as humans, we spend our lives running in circles, distracting ourselves from our nature, struggling with the same problems year after year, only to finally replace them with new ones.
(By the way, I promise I’m going somewhere with all of this…).
The Trap: Replacing One Illusion With Another
Many of the men that I’ve worked with have succeeded at an extremely high level, only to find that success is a false God. This, for many men, is their first step towards waking up.
Searching for something meaningful, they start meditating, or spending time with their kids, or volunteering on the weekends, or getting in the habit of giving compliments and expressing gratitude.
And these practices have a magic quality to them: they create the sensation of meaning. They lull the individual back to sleep and create a more compelling illusion to suspend themselves in.
Many men become content with these practices. The practices allow them to sleep at night and to feel happy. They give the individual new, harder mountains to scale.
And the truth is, few men will ever go beyond this deeper, more sophisticated illusion.
And that’s fine. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve created a life worth living and are likely a force for good. Truly, we can’t ask for much more.
But what if you’re the exceptional man who transcends even this layer of illusion and sees the truth: even the practices that feel deep, don’t actually resolve the fundamental tension of being human? Though we feel like we are Gods, we are really nothing more than animals.
If you’ve gotten this far, it’s time for you to step onto your path. This one you need to blaze on your own. If you followed someone else’s, you’d just be setting yourself up for more distraction, more illusions, more traps, more bullshit. (And there is a quiet part of you that already knew this anyways).
So, what should you do once you’ve uncovered the new illusion of meaninglessness and shallowness?
1) Return to Nature. Observe Her. Let Her Guide You.
Go into the woods. Or the mountains. Or the sea. And go alone.
Observe how Mother Nature and her creatures spend their time. They rest. They find food. They play. They fuck. From time to time they are violent (but not without need, and rarely for very long).
You’ll notice that everything in nature spends much more time at rest than you do.
You’ll notice that nothing in nature wakes up to an alarm clock, spends their day working for a dick headed boss, comes home and fights with their partner, and then uses a glowing rectangle to lull them into a trance and avoid their primal pain. Only humans have created such compelling traps.
You’ll notice that everything in nature behaves intuitively. If you ask the fox, “Why did you just leave your den?” The fox wouldn’t even understand the question. The fox simply felt compelled by some force it didn’t need to understand, and started moving.
You’ll notice that occasionally some creatures, like the crow will use rudimentary reason to steal a shiny object from your bag. But don’t let that obscure the reality that the crow, like all other creatures, lives from the heart.
When the crow flies through the air, riding on invisible currents, she’s not using her rational, thinking mind. She’s suspending herself in what is.
You begin your new path by observing the nature that you exist within, so that you may find the nature that exists within you.
2) Shift From Your Head to Your Heart
Life’s intrinsic meaningless and shallow nature is an illusion created by the mind. You’ve used human logic to reduce everything down to that which is observable.
Your heart doesn’t do this. Your heart feels. Your heart trusts itself. The lion does not think to himself, “Now is the moment I must pounce.” The lion feels the shift in the air and pounces without hesitation.
Shifting from your head to your heart is difficult. Unless you were unschooled, many of the most formative years of your life were dedicated to training you to ignore your heart and pay attention to your head.
Unless you are an artist or a mystic of some sort, you were rewarded for suppressing your emotion and letting your rational mind flourish.
And there’s nothing wrong with rational thinking. It’s given us amazing gifts (personally, I love airplanes, penicillin, flush toilets, and air conditioning). Just realize that it’s rational thinking that got you into this mess in the first place. It won’t get you out.
Your job is to begin tearing down the walls that protect your heart. Doing this will likely require a coach or a mentor or a teacher.
And the walls around your heart: they aren’t your fault. They are a natural response to a world that doesn’t value a heart as much as it values a head.
3) Use the Twin Tools Silence & Honesty to Access Your Deep Gift
There is no escaping the suffering that is intrinsic to the human experience. Even if you are born to perfect parents, meet your soul mate, live during a peace times in a wealthy culture, your parents will still die one day. And your soul mate. And your friends. And your dog. And it will fucking hurt. In fact, if you live long enough, everything you’ve ever loved will die.
There is no escaping suffering and pain. Most people end up surrounding themselves with little white lies to protect themselves from reality.
The lies appear harmless. You claim you make six-figures, when in reality, you make $82,000. You claim you’re deeply in love with your partner when really, you’re just very, very fond of her. You tell yourself you’re happy, when actually, you’ve been consumed by apathy and ennui for longer than you care to admit.
While the lies may briefly distract your rational mind from itself, and they may seem to make any individual moment easier than it would be otherwise, what the lies are really doing is distracting you from yourself. From your nature.
Your work: sit in silence. You can do this as a daily thing, or go on a retreat, or both. Shine a bright white light on yourself and cast away all the little lies you’ve been using to protect yourself from the crippling pain of human existence.
This won’t be easy and it wont be quick, but it will be worth it. As you cast away the white lies and feel the intrinsic pain of the human experience, you’ll notice that resting beneath is a steady sense of calm and a quiet sense of joy. This is what Camus was talking about when he said, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
And that invincible summer? It’s accessible to everyone. It just requires dwelling in reality, something that humans struggle with.
As you step more fully into reality, you’ll begin to uncover traces of deep gifts that are unique to you. Perhaps you feel drawn towards working with the less fortunate. Don’t ignore that. Perhaps you come fully alive when you are playing the piano. Don’t ignore that. Perhaps you feel meaning when you are mentoring your neighbor’s child. Don’t ignore that. These are clues leading you down your path.
The gifts are the tools you must harness on your path forward. They were given to you for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, and there is a chance that even you will never know why you were given them. But the quiet truth remains: you have them, they are important, and you are meant to use them.
4) Begin Shaping Your Life Around Your Deep Gifts
As you discover your deep gifts your next step is to bring them into your life and share them. Better yet, harness them in the service of everyone else in the world.
When you find the courage to do this, you will notice that the world gives you priority access to everything that your heart truly desires.
I don’t know how this works, nor do I need to. I just know it does. And the quiet truth is that you know this too (even if your head is still dead set on resisting).
5) Relax Into the True Nature of the Human Experience
As you relax into giving your deep gift, you’ll notice something strange about the reality that once seemed shallow and meaningless. You’ll notice that this too, was yet another illusion, another false path meant to distract you from who you truly are.
You’ll notice that only just now, has life begun.
Jason Connell is a speaker and writer who teaches confidence, self-love, and self-compassion. He’s worked with everyone from Senior members of the Obama administration and professional athletes to middle school students and emerging entrepreneurs. He shares his thoughts on life, authenticity, and power at: JasonConnell.co.
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