Here we are.
Floating gracefully on a river of time.
Incapable of changing the tide. Unable to influence the current which carries us.
Our past persistently calls to us through a thickening cloud of forgettable fuzz. A history of regrets and missteps cut through the static of our minds like lingering radio signals still traversing the outer reaches of the solar system, forever searching for an alien ear.
Our future looms before us, its presence simultaneously staring into our eyes and also seemingly too distant to make out its face. A towering shadow on the horizon, arms crossed and ever-present.
Facing these two realities it’s no wonder that our instinct is to look away, to keep ourselves too busy to acknowledge the reality of our situation.
With the knowledge that nothing in this life lasts, why is it that so many people cling so desperately to the few things they think to be true, to be real, when history has an unvarnished record of turning anything and everything back into the atoms from whence they came? Is it not a futile effort?
Let me be clear, I’m not at all simplifying it down into the cliche of saying,
We all die some day, so what’s the point?
Quite the opposite, in fact.
Equipped with the knowledge that we didn’t control how we were thrown into this experience of life, along with the stark reality that it will one day end in a way that’s also beyond our control, why would we allow ourselves to become overly fixated on something we never had in the first place and ultimately never will?
People fear a loss of control. They don’t know how to operate unless they feel they have at least a semblance of control over any given situation. It’s probably the biggest factor preventing people from trying new things, experiencing different places, meeting new people, and simply just getting out into the world. They can’t control the world and they know it, so they don’t try.
That’s the problem, though. They think that to start doing new things, they would at least have to try to control it. That’s why it’s called trying new things, right? To master something new, you first have to try. Sounds pretty simple.
I don’t necessarily see it that way.
When you let experiences be as they are, without trying to impose your will upon them, you allow yourself to fully absorb your surroundings in a way that’s ultimately more beneficial to your understanding of said experience.
Our egos like to feel good, and to feel good we think we have to do good. This is mostly an illusion. Although, to be fair, it’s that same instinct that protects our sense of competence and what gets us out of the water and into something buoyant enough to take our minds off of pure survival for a moment. That being said, it’s not true that our source of completeness comes from individual achievement. It comes from the learned ability of being fully present in whatever experience we happen to find ourselves. This includes simply existing in the first place.
We can easily let the current of existence toss us around if we’re not careful, though. It’s easy to let the suds and river muck fill our mouths and lungs, and drown. The undercurrent will pull us down and we’ll be lost to forever tumble along the riverbed with the rest of the aquatic acrobats.
The impulse to control our surroundings isn’t inherently negative, it’s just misdirected. We fight against our nature, we fight against the current, when we should instead be focusing that energy on how we can best enjoy the ride.
We all need to build ourselves a suitable watercraft to navigate these raging waters.
A lot of people understand this and they make plenty of progress on the craft they’ve chosen to inhabit as they’re carried down the river of life. They’ve dedicated their energy and entire life to building the most extravagant boat they could manage. They also no longer feel the pull of the current, the splashing of ripples and waves. They exist in a floating hotel, housing the countless other people and treasures of their journey.
A few generations later and that floating distraction is full of people who don’t even know that they’re still on a river, that they’re still at the mercy of the water. Their real-world problems have shrunk, but amplified in energy. They stress over the millions of little things going on in their boat and how it looks compared to the other boats instead of simply standing on the mast and taking in the warmth of the sun as they ride the tide.
They’re all arguing about which is the best stream to sail, the best tributary to traverse. All of them missing out on the wonders of the surrounding environment and passing beauty.
Meanwhile, the true hero of the water sits stoically in a handmade canoe. He directs himself gently with a single ore as he coasts along his chosen route. He remains focused on his destination while also not resisting the changes in the current as he is pulled through the river of life. He notices the cool breeze and undulating clouds. He hears the birds and feels the sun. All pleasant in their respective moments, and all gone with as much speed as their arrival.
He looks down river and sees two immense watercrafts trying desperately to surpass one another. The captains of their respective ships leaning over the edges yelling at each other over trivialities. One captain thinks the other boat scratched his own on purpose, the other thinks he was the victim of aggressive sailing and had no choice but to take evasive action, leading to the accidental bump. Now, they sail alongside each other, arguing over fault. They’ve focused so intensely on control, on permanence, that they’ve missed the point completely.
We all need to build something to guide us through these rapids. Whether raft or boat, craft or canoe, we must stand on something buoyant enough to keep us afloat as we do our best to steer our way through a respectable life we can call our own. The important part is that we embrace the fact that we have no control over the water we find ourselves sailing.
Storms will come and eventually subside. The beauty of the trees and curious animals will shrink into the distance as you slowly pass them by. You will always only have yourself and what you choose to carry with you.
So, if your craft is sturdy and true, and you put your real effort and being into its creation, just relax.
You will get there when you get there.
Image from Pixabay.com