This may be a difficult entry. Not the reading, but what I'm going to ask you to do at the end of it.
I've been thinking a lot about mortality recently, and about the framework death puts around life.
I've been thinking, particularly, about the thousand ways I've found to distract myself from doing exactly this kind of thinking. It's not comfortable to think about mortality. It makes me itch to get up and do something, prove I'm still alive, stop just thinking and watching time tick past. Do something worthwhile, specifically.
We all have our avenues of distraction. Our world teems with them, businesses profit by them, malls extol them. Anything can be used as distraction. Many of the distractions we turn to may well have worth in themselves... but, when we use them as a distraction, that worth is undermined because we're trying to avoid the very thing that, when we confront it, can prove to be the opposite of the thing we thought we were afraid of.
Ok, that got a little convoluted. Let me try another approach.
A few nights ago I spent the night alone, near sleepless on a mesa in Chaco Canyon, wrapped in a thin fleece blanket against the cold, waiting to see the lunar eclipse. I went to this place I used to visit with my mom because I love it, because she loved it, because it feels like home to me in a way I still don't understand, a way that intrigues me. I brought books and a flashlight but found that I had no interest in reading. I had an interest in... being. I sat on cooling stone watching the stars and the moon and as the hours passed, I remembered how to ask questions slowly, in place, and absorb its answers. Questions circling around mortality, around the ways people become obsessed with new and extremely unlikely ways to die, while looking away from the obvious risks (driving, poor food, lack of exercise) that are behind many more deaths than, say, plague or ebola. The Desert showed me that that is how people are. We fear things that feel different far more than we fear what feels familiar. We ignore the things we could change in order to argue with things we can't. In a way, arguing gives us a handle on a mortality that is ultimately inexplicable, inconceivable, so different from the rest of our existence that trying to understand and explain it has become a focus of fantasy, of religion, of all of our inner and outer lives in ways that sometimes we cannot admit even to ourselves.
But that is how we are. Sometimes we need to argue with mortality, shout into oblivion, even if we are the only ones who hear that shout. But sometimes, sitting on a mesa in the bright moonlight, we are capable of seeing that need, and capable of thinking that maybe it's time mortality argued for us, instead. Why shouldn't we put our own finite-ness to work against our tendency to look away from what is uncomfortable? Why shouldn't we use mortality, deliberately *use* it, not to enable endless distraction, but to focus ourselves on what we care about?
What do you care about?
This isn't a trick question. This is where things get interesting.
I sat on a mesa in the cold for 5 hours. I'm only asking you to take 5 minutes, for now. But take those minutes to focus, and do NOT distract yourself from this question. Do not reach for your cellphone - no, not even if it buzzes. Do not think about the errands you have to do before you sleep, or eat. DO let your thoughts stray along the paths you love most. DO think about the people you love, how you feel with them. DO think about the times in life when you have been most content, felt most alive.
And ask yourself: what do you care about?
When I work with harmonizing clients, this question - what do you care about? - is a key part of what I talk about with them. I don't always ask the question directly. Sometimes I ask if anything is missing from their home - sometimes I ask what they use each space in their home for. But I've found that the things we keep in our homes often fail to remind us of the things we care about most. Sometimes they oppose them; sometimes the sheer volume and time it takes to take care of the Stuff we own gives us less time to spend with people we care about. Sometimes the stuff we own takes up space that could be occupied by friends, by musical instruments, by a cozy corner in the sun that reminds us to take time, read a book, drink some tea, relax. Sometimes the Stuff that's right in front of us - distracting us? - makes it harder to think about what we care about. Surely what we care about *is* what we have chosen to possess... isn't it?
I don't believe that what we care about most is easy to find, UNTIL you figure out exactly what it is - and seek it out.
I'm sitting in a mall right now - sophisticated torture, waiting for my car to be fixed, watching people create themselves from a limited array of objects, watching people shop.... And it feels like a trap. It's a plastic, sanitized mass delusion, what I'm watching. It is distraction masquerading as achievement. Congratulations! Ch-ching! You have purchased something, earned points, made progress... towards... well, towards what?
That's for you to decide.
So here's the hard part. The part where we try to get mortality to argue on your side, bold reader.
Take your 5 minutes. Sit inside, walk outside, but focus on the question of what you care about most. Friends? (Which ones? Why?) Activities? (How often do you get to do them?) Your family? (Do they know?) Your career? (Why do you love it?) Money? (To what end?) Freedom? (What does that mean for your life?) Being alone? (What does that mean to you?) Helping others? (How, and who, and in what ways?) Art? (What do you love about it?) If it helps you narrow things down, ask yourself - what would I wish I could have done differently, if I died tonight?
There are no wrong answers, unless you settle on something you don't actually care about because what you do care about doesn't seem "good enough". You happen to be the only person qualified to say what is good enough, and in my experience, doing what you think you should (instead of what you actually want) is a distraction from doing what actually enriches your life.
So - pick one thing you care about. And take the next 10 minutes (or more) after that to bring more of what you care about into your life. Plan a family outing. Call a friend you haven't talked to in too long. Reach out to a prospective business partner. Take some time for yourself. Donate your time or money or stuff you don't use to a cause you care about. Make a space in your house that reminds you to play music or invite people over. (Invite a Harmonizer to help you.) But don't wait on this. Do it. Life is short, and this is something you care about immensely.
And then tell me what you did. And tell me why it matters, to you.
I look forward to hearing from you.