March 17, 2011
This is a piece I wrote in March 2011, as we were preparing for Joshua's birth. I read it again this week, realizing it was a formative moment in my life, and lessons abound from its words. I wish to share this moment with you.
The moment is all I have. How I spend my moments is the value I give to the life I posses. Looking at how I spend my moments, I see that the value of my life varies depending on the day of the week, or the time of day during a weekday. My weekends are usually well spent, working on my home, sharing time with Jan, preparing for Baby J. My weekdays, on the other hand, are split between time preparing to waste, wasting, and time recovering from wasting. These days take up most of my existence, and yet it is these days that are thrown away achieving nothing of substance for myself, my family, or the wider world other than the provision of money to put food on the table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads.
I could attempt to blame a society that forces people to waste the largest segments of their lives working simply to survive, but although I feel this is a horrid system, it is not my problem. My problem is that I have allowed myself to succumb to this system without providing a way out of it based on my intelligence, entrepreneurship, and ability to see beyond where most people can see. I have given approval to this system by continuing to participate in it. Just as a government only governs as long as the people allow it to govern, my surrender to this society only exists as long as I allow it to control me.
Choosing for myself how to spend my moments, each and every one, risks the benefits I derive from having succumb to societal norms. Yet, over the past ten years, I have either consciously or without action, agreed to surrender these choices in order to participate and benefit from this society. Every day, every moment in fact, I have the right, opportunity, and obligation to myself to reconsider this contract and amend it as I see fit. I have to be ready to accept the outcome of this decision. So far, I have only been ready to accept the default outcome of not making a choice, thereby maintaining my unsatisfying and slowly destructive status quo.
Could I choose otherwise? Of course, yet the contract then changes. I have had opportunities in the past to alter the contract and walked away from them each and every time. I may have opportunities in the future to alter the contract as well. Chances are, my enjoyment of the benefits of society and the ease of autopilot within society, will drive me to take the simple road in the future just as I have in the past. I am not proud of this course of action. I cannot claim any bravery with it. I cannot claim to be a true independent spirit. But, I get a wife, baby, house, car, nice clothes, food, and can sleep at night on soft sheets. Well, at least I can lay in bed on soft sheets awake through many a night thinking through how I can improve my life.
What value is my soul if I surrender it for luxury? What enlightenment can I achieve if I cannot let go of belongings? What suffering I will endure because I have attachment to people and things. I am not proud of what I’ve become, but I am proud that I can bring a child into this world, take good care of him, provide him a home, raise him to be a good person, and hopefully offer a positive contribution to the world in that way. This is not freedom for me, but it offers a small value to every moment I spend alive.
I have become what I chided as a teenager. I have become a shell, protecting the development of another, but lacking within content myself. I continue to strive toward unreachable goals of helping the world, but in reality, how I can now help it is only through provision of a shelter within which another person will have the chance to grow safely, mature, and prosper, perhaps find a way to break free from the world himself. How can he find that way, though, if I do not offer a lesson, example, or map? If I surrender how or why wouldn’t he? If I accept, what would make him drive to be unleashed?
My moment is only now. My life is only what I choose to accept it to be. My attachment is to freedom. This is an attachment. It will cause suffering as long as I don’t feel free. An approach is to work toward freedom, possibly achieving a form of it some day. Another approach is to not need freedom by being satisfied with who I am, where I am, and what I am. How can I find peace with myself if I’m longing? How can I be at peace with the world if I am trying to change it? How can I raise a child to be healthy and independent if I am constantly struggling to be more while consistently surrendering more?
Each moment is a decision point. Each choice is between the here and now versus the desire. There must be desire, without which one could not live. Therefore, there must be a striving. There must be a world in which not every choice is surrender. A balance between the present and the desire is an approach that may work. A momentary choice, each and every moment, to push the present toward the desire to create a present as near the desire as possible. A choice each and every moment to not waste, whether I am home or in another place, can bring that forth. A choice each and every moment to utilize what I have rather than sit upon what I have already done can provide clarity, purpose, and possibly a sense of peace. Achieving the freedom I desire will not put my soul at peace, but working toward it with my full capacity can prevent the sense of waste that much of my moments experience.
As Marcus Aurelius would endorse, I can choose each moment to decide to act. Action does not have to be creation or destruction, but could be meditation. Action does not have to achieve a result now, but could build towards it. Action means choice. Action means the moment is not wasted. Action means a sense of peace because independence is achieved when choice is made. The choice can be anything as long as it is a conscious choice of how to spend the moment. When I see myself choosing how to spend my moments, cherishing each and every one for the gift I have of it, then I may understand the value of life.