As a child my favorite characters on television were the old guys (usually Asian karate masters) who were always perfectly calm and had everything figured out. They’d sit there and smirk as the young fledgling hero fumbled through their quests like a clueless 11 year old lost in a big city.
One day it dawned on me that I’d been fumbling through life crippled by my own ignorance just like the fledgling heroes on my favorite Saturday morning cartoons, and just like the young heroes on television, I was the only obstacle keeping me from becoming a calm, centered Zen master too. All I had to do was figure out the supreme truth they understood. Unfortunately, I couldn’t ask my parents or any other old people in my real life to teach that secret to me, because they didn’t know it either.
If nobody would tell me the secret to supreme calmness then I’d just have to figure it out for myself, and I reasoned I could do it without having to go through a lifetime of meditation and martial arts training if I just worked backwards and reverse engineered the process from the conclusion.
The conclusion was that all life’s problems aren’t worth stressing over. I just needed to know why.
The difference between the old, wise, tranquil guy and the guy who jumps out of a sky scraper when the stock market dips is perception of priorities. When you know what’s important then you don’t worry about the unimportant things. When you have a skewed perception of what’s important then you overreact to unimportant events. So you have to ask yourself, what’s important and why?
Imagine all the worst possible things happening to you at once. Your loved ones die. You go bankrupt. You go to prison. You lose your legs. You lose your rank in your high school’s social hierarchy. Once you’ve lost in every way that you can possibly lose in life, what have you really lost? All you’ve lost is external luxury. But you still have your self, the only thing you ever truly owned. Nobody can take that away from you, and as long as you have yourself then you can still till a life for yourself.
The only time you’re taken from you is when you die. Even then, it’s not logical to fear the inevitable. And the big kicker about death is that when you die you lose everything in life anyway. So when you lose anything in life before death…shit…you were going to lose it anyway. So you can’t ever lose anything that you weren’t going to lose anyway.
This makes a lot of suicides ironic. The point of suicide is to escape your intolerable life. If people could choose between suicide and a better life they’d just choose the better life. So if you’re at the point that you’re willing to kill yourself then you’re free to do anything. If you’re willing to let go of all the ties that bind you to the earth then you’re free to fly to the ends of the earth.
Look, shit happens. So don’t be surprised when it does, and don’t freak out because you think it’s the end. It’s never the end until you’re dead, and in the meantime shit happening doesn’t change the fact that you’re still you and you can still experience life.
So the old, wise guy realizes that nothing really matters. but the reason the young hero can’t achieve the same Fight Club-esque sense of freedom from worry is because he’s trying too hard. Don’t try to hold the philosophy that loss is unimportant tightly in your mind. Just let go. Say, “Fuck it.” All you have to lose is your anxiety.
If you liked this post you may like these: