you’ll never get today back but also, why would you want to?

You’ll never get today back. That is a terrifying thought, at least for most of us. The fact is, most of us don’t live absolutely fantastic lives. Most of our days are mundane. Plenty of people go to work as a means of making money, not because it’s their passion or dream. Furthermore, working a job to make money isn’t something to be ashamed of.

For most of history, what we did was determined by what our parents did. Farmers farmed to survive. Art was seen as a profession of skill, not necessarily vision or creativity. Unless you want to mark off the majority of the time before now as utterly miserable, we have to realize that jobs don’t have to be our whole reason for existing.

What matters far more is our social relationships. We have a deep desire to be loved, to be in connection with other human beings. People can get drawn into some desperately dark situations because they are so hungry for the bond with another human. It’s how gangs and cults come about– the violence becomes justified in the members’ mind because they feel a relationship with those around them. Religion, ideology, community, all of these massively important concepts of influence are centered around that desire.

But sometimes what makes our days mundane isn’t the job, but the loneliness. Not everyone has the connections they long for.

It’s hard to keep going when there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for going. Add that onto the ghastly features of temporality and our own mortality, and life suddenly doesn’t seem so hopeful. What do we have in our lives that is of worth? Is life fleeting so fast that we can’t fully grasp it until it’s too late?

In the end, no. If we are lonely, we try to find friends. If we are bored, we try to find excitement. If we have the fear of being numb to life, of being unable to grasp time in its entirety, that is a hidden moment of empowerment. If you didn’t fear it, you wouldn’t know how to fight to change it. Trying to ignore our fear doesn’t make us brave, it makes us try and avoid the situation altogether. Instead, what is better for us is to try and face our reality. Whatever we do, we do it knowing that we are alive. This is the moment, you are alive whether you decide to ignore your existential crisis or deal with it. Time will pass, either slowly or fast, but it will pass.

This passing, this ending is what gives us meaning. Some people die happy, some people die miserable, but we are the ones who decide how we live our lives. We can be in the most despondent circumstances, but our struggles do not command us to be one way or another; they may pressure us significantly, and will always shape us, but there are always a few things we can control, and those are ours. “Right now” is the most magical thing to ever be, and the bewitching nature of it is something we get to enjoy every moment we exist. Yes, this day will never come back, but why should you want it? It would be boring to live it over and over, and the only way to figure out how things turn out is to live the next day.

realignment after existential crisis

Sometimes the best way to realign ourselves is to think, “What if I were a peasant?” At the very least, I find it helpful because there are so many things we have now that we didn’t. There’s the basic stuff like vaccines, air conditioners, electric lights, washing machines, and so forth, but it’s more than that.

The average peasant probably never left their little village more than once. Perhaps a single person from their village left to get supplies from a big city, traveling for weeks to buy a fabulous luxury, like a ribbon and other important things for farming. Reading about old cities, it’s clear that the cities were disgusting, and diseases were everywhere. This is largely before the advent of sanitation systems (ignoring the Indus River Valley and Rome), so the filth would likely shock us to our core if we were to travel back to see it.

With the strict hierarchies, abuses of civil rights (not that they even understood the concept), a people’s only focus was survival. They didn’t have to deal with the higher questions, because their local religious or magical specialist told them everything they needed to know. When we have time to think about the premises and beliefs we hold, things get more complicated. We start to consider why we are here, we begin to have this idea that we are meant to be here for a reason. Or, at the very least, we tend to look for a reason.

It is in this stage that there is a proclivity we have to wish we were back in the past. After all, if we lived in some ancient Greek time, we wouldn’t have to wonder about our lot in life, we would trust it to be destined, with none of the ambiguity of modern life where the roles themselves change faster than our biology can keep up. Even for the religious, faith becomes more difficult when we have more control over our actions. If you want to honor God as a peasant, you go to church, don’t steal your neighbor’s cow, etc. If you want to honor God now, you have to watch your behavior in a far more complex social situation, likely doing far more intellectual work.

But here’s the catch: we shouldn’t want to be in the past. For as much existential pain quelling going back in history might solve, the worse and worse the physical circumstances get. Humans need stress, need pain. Being uncomfortable motivates us to get out and do things. If we were perfect, we would have no motivation for existence. When we are okay internally, we are likely focusing on surviving the external. When we are okay externally, we are likely focusing on surviving the internal. The burden and type of stress have changed, but everyone is suffering, no matter where or when they are.

We have a limited amount of control over what happens around us, and what happens inside our own heads. To be sure, we are more in control than we might think, but there is always a wild element involved. We aren’t sure about the future, our faulty memories may make us unsure about the past, but we can always find solace in the moment (Thus the success of things like meditation and mindfulness in helping anxiety and depression). Whether or not you have faith in an afterlife or the divine or even a plan for your existence, the fact is you are here right now.

You are not alone in your hurting, and you are not alone in your rejoicing. Whatever this life business is, you are alive. You are living, and you didn’t ask for it, so why should you feel guilty for it? You exist, and just like everyone else, you are doing your best. It is a wonderful thing are you here and you are here right now. The pain you feel would always be there in some form, but the beautiful thing about where we are right now is that we have the means to try and find the best of it. We may always suffer in some way, but we can change how we deal with it, and thereby survive it, so we can make the most out of what we have.

attention, talking, and time

Talking to people is important. That might seem like a no-brainer, but the number one way to make yourself miserable is to shut yourself off. The stresses from social anxiety, for example, may make talking to people seem absolutely impossible, but it doesn’t matter if it’s awkward. Humans are awkward, we misunderstand each other all the time.

All of the awkward conversations you’ve had are still conversations, and even if it seems like you’ll never get better, it’s the first necessary step. Even if a relationship doesn’t work out, the experience is important. If a happy memory is special, what is about it that makes it so important? Feelings are fleeting, and we need all of them. Happy memories are special partly because we like being happy. However, all the rest of our emotions can define a moment and also make it important. The sad moments, these also are integral to who we are.

As radical as it may seem, ordinary moments can also be special. If you consider how we experience time, you might realize that our attention drastically changes how we feel. “A watched pot never boils”, because by staring at something and waiting, it feels longer. “Time flies when you’re having fun” because when we don’t pay attention to it, we don’t mind how fast life is going. If we want to live a full life, that means paying attention. It means being mindful of how we live our lives and living it with purpose. Even the most nihilistic people can find a reason to live and have a beautiful life. If you feel the universe doesn’t give you a purpose, then you’re free to make one up. By being physically a part of this world, we are necessarily a part of it, so go be awkward and exist to the best of your ability.

 

 

Make your life your novel

 

Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.

There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.

Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.

Make music but make friends first

As physics has progressed as a field, we’ve gradually realized that basically everything is made of waves. Light, gravity, even physical objects are frequencies in some aspect. So actually, it makes sense that sound waves connect to us, because that’s the nature of our reality. Somehow mixes of rhythms and notes with a variety of volumes can speak volumes to our sense of self. Music is the closest thing we have to magic, and it can be absolutely amazing. The focus word there is “can”. If you’ve ever heard any normal children’s choir, you can attest that not everyone can reach the level of magic through music. 

What’s even more amazing is the parents somehow seeing past the horrid screeching at looking at their child with pride. Here you have something that can move people to tears, inspire billions, convince people to give up higher paying jobs, and instead it’s a wreck. But it doesn’t matter because it’s parents caring about what their children do.

Music is incredibly important, in so many ways. Yet it’s power depends on making us feel connected to other people. Songs are great because the emotions it gives you make you feel less alone in feeling them. As to say, music is great because it means that people have felt the same way you have. We need people. We need annoying people to remind us that patience is a virtue. We need beautiful friends to encourage us. We need authority to keep order and challenge when corrupt. There are lots of marvelous things, topics to delve into and analyze, but we should never forget that things aren’t as important as our relationships with others. 

“I want to die. lol.”

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The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.

Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.

When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.

 

 

Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763