The good side of living for a bit now is to have had the opportunity to make a bunch of mistakes and to realize what not to do again. The longer this process goes on, the less foolish I am likely to be. Some people may have come into their life with a bunch of wisdom to draw from. I’m definitely not one of those. Any wisdom I have now is largely gained at the cost of burnt bridges or the emotional turmoil of me or others, I’m sad to say. I am of the opinion that the awkwardness of adolescence never completely disappears, the reason being that one never completely figures it out, never reaches a conclusion, only perhaps developing a working hypothesis that stands in for a conclusion, until one day it doesn’t and needs reevaluation.
Part of my current working hypothesis is that one’s self identity does not describe an objective reality. The personality is not the person. The voice in one’s head that sounds like me is more than skin deep but does not run to the core. It’s a construction of upbringing, societal norms, my ego, and the above-mentioned willful molding through lessons learned. Since a few years ago, having learned and practiced one of the more popular forms of meditation, I am of the belief that the core-deep me is not a voice in one’s head at all. It is peaceful, without speech, and doesn’t really need much to be happy.
The stubbornly nonconformist ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, who was reportedly happily destitute and homeless, was once visited by Alexander the Great, to whom Diogenes’ reputation for scorning the trappings of decorum, wealth and power were well known. Alexander found Diogenes lying back in a comfortable spot enjoying the sun on his skin, at first oblivious to the great ruler approaching him. Alexander approached Diogenes to ask if there was anything he wanted. Diogenes’ colorful reply: “Yes, stand a little out of my sun.” Alexander was quite stricken by the man and told his entourage something to the effect of “But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes.”
While hardly a stubborn nonconformist like Diogenes, I have coincidentally learned a similar lesson. Strive to drop the expectations of decorum, money, and power. These are relatively shallow constructions of the personality, which is not the real you. The real you is as simple and as naturally joyful as a puppy at the dog park. The trick is not to break your back trying to meet one’s self-imposed conditions for happiness but to peel them away and dissolve them, one by one, until all that’s left is yourself on a pleasant Spring day, unsullied by expectation and the nagging voice in your head.
Oh, and please get out of my sun.