By Roland Watson
To conclude this series, on your future, I want to offer a few final guidelines. I apologize for going on at such great length. It's just that I believe it is important in this presentation to be complete.
Develop your personal style
I want to begin by talking about your general approach to life, in other words, your personal style. To the best of your ability, I believe that you should try to do the following:
- Learn to view your life as a whole. Live for the moment, and plan for the future.
- Set challenging goals, and try to enjoy everything in life: all environments, life forms, cultures, and art forms.
- Become an autodidact - a person who is self-taught, and also a polymath, someone who is expert at a number of different things.
- When you study something, don't get so caught up in its intricacies that you forget to appreciate its beauty. Indeed, I don't believe that we, as humans, need to know everything about everything. Particularly with nature, enjoyment is enough.
- Learn to talk with anyone, to communicate such that you really understand each other. The only way to accomplish this is to talk to everyone, or at least to a wide variety of people.
- Be willing to take a joke at your own expense, and to laugh along with it.
- Stay fit and active, and also take up meditation, stretching, or massage to slow down and relax.
- Fast periodically. Give your body a chance to clean and repair itself.
- Stop and smell the roses. Play with a kitten. Rub a puppy's belly. See, hear, taste, smell and feel, the rhythm of life.
- Be impetuous; irrepressible; artless. Cultivate your je ne sais quois.
- Spend a lot of time outdoors.
- Get up in the middle of the night, and look at the stars.
The dreaded job
For your career, I encourage you not to even think of it this way. Rather, for your employment, find something that you enjoy doing, that's challenging and fun, that brings you into contact with interesting people, and which makes a real contribution: an addition to our positive achievements as a species. Indeed, for the last, you want to help satisfy real, not created, needs, to be part of the "natural" economy, which exists to fulfill "natural" needs. Don't be part of a form industry. And don't be a paper-pusher - an intermediary. Do something concrete, where you can see the end result. For example, teaching, farming, public transportation and health care are all admirable pursuits. Or, you can work to correct past - and on-going - social and environmental wrongs, including to bring about human equality, to regenerate degraded habitats, and to assist threatened species.
Also, if you have great ambition, you should recognize that twenty years from now few people will recall who ran this or that company, or even who the President was. This is because they are jobs. What is important is not the person who fills them, but the jobs themselves. But twenty years, or two hundred years from now, people will remember great thinkers, and artists, and activists, by name, because of what they created.
You do not want to be a job. You want to be a person.
I would also encourage you to become an activist, and for this, you have to determine if you are part of the system or not: if you are for dictatorship or equality. If you are part of the system, you must decide if this is what you really want to support: this type of system, and its values. And, to do this, you must understand not only what it is giving you, including money and a semblance of security, but also what it is costing you, including your freedom, and time, in other words, your life, not to mention a better society. If you believe that you cannot leave the system, then you should work to change it from the inside.
As an activist, you should further recognize that real non-conformists do not get defensive when their views are challenged. Instead, they revel in their non-conformity, and take every opportunity to publicize it, and to explain their views. And, if they are confronted by disbelief, or even scorn, they revel in this as well.
Most importantly of all, you should "live dangerously." Some people may recognize this quote. It's from the book Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche.
It has often been commented that in order to appreciate life fully, you must almost lose it. Only then can you truly grasp what is at stake. Here's another quote, from Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World: "You can't experience being alive without realizing that you have to die, she thought. But it's just as impossible to realize you have to die without thinking how incredibly amazing it is to be alive. Sophie remembered Granny saying something like that the day the doctor told her she was ill. She said: 'I never realized how rich life was, until now'."
Here's a final quote, this time from James Joyce: "And I am not afraid to make a mistake, even a great mistake, a lifelong mistake, and perhaps as long as eternity too."
At some point in your life, you should go wild. You should actually never lose your ability to do this. Only by accepting the most dangerous risks, can you earn the greatest rewards. And, in the process it is worth recalling one of Nietzsche's other noteworthy maxims:"If it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger."
Above all else, don't succumb to the idea that you should be afraid of the future, and that you need to lead the safest, most secure life possible. Life is never really safe. Instead, look forward to the future, and accept danger, and enjoy the exhilaration that having an interesting and exciting life brings.
Become a world traveler
My final guideline is that one of the best opportunities to go for it, is to become a world traveler. Indeed, we are all world travelers. As with the relationship between truth and beauty, so travel is life, and life travel. We are all space travelers on the planet earth!
All life, and all travel, is - or it should be - an adventure. And an adventure means an exploration into the unknown, including dealing with all of the fears and challenges that this entails. The unknown can be in place, in going somewhere new, or in activity, in doing something you have never done before - or through doing it at a higher level than you have previously been able to accomplish.
Of these two, though, place is the most important. This is because travel to a new environment involves coming to grips with the culture of that environment, with the people who live there. As I have described, this is a great challenge, particularly since in some environments there will be serious danger: from civil conflict, or new and deadly health concerns. The real challenge of travel is to learn about these risks, and protect yourself from them, and, to have a great time in the process.
To take a final stab at modern form, it is now common for the televised media to present what are known as "X-games," which are competitions built around "extreme," "alternative" sports, such as snowboarding, steep skiing, skateboarding, big wave surfing, artificial wall climbing, mountain biking, you name it. What these programs have done is taken essentially individual pursuits, where competition between people traditionally was not an objective, and commercialized them by adding the competition. And, what this has also done is shifted the focus of adventure to "activity."
Young people - all people - want adventure, and modern form gives them artificially constructed, competitive activities. But real adventure involves "place." It involves travel, and other people, but not competition with them; rather, comprehension and appreciation of them, and by them of you. Real extreme adventure involves visiting a culture that is completely dissimilar from your own, and digging into it, experiencing the people of the culture and learning about it and them.
Skiing a steep mountain slope, or surfing a big wave, is an "objective" challenge. It involves objective hazards. Visiting a remote culture also involves objective hazards, but also subjective ones: your uncertainty over the behavior of the local residents. Travel is the only way to meet a really wide variety of people, and to overcome your fear of others.
Travel further introduces you to a world of real equality. On the road, people - all people - including both travelers and locals, are equal. But this is not the case with tourism - any tourism. In tourism, the locals are "spectacles," equal perhaps, but separate, or else they are - and are treated as - servants. Indeed, as a traveler you could easily end up turning into a local yourself, by becoming resident in another nation.
So, I encourage you in the strongest terms to become a world traveler. Be a traveler to escape form. And, escape form to be a traveler.
In conclusion, my apologies again for going on at such length. It is just that our conditions are so complex that any decent review of them requires it. Also, you must be able to grasp this complexity if you are to make the best, of the rest, of your life.
The next series is about the future of the earth.
© Roland Watson 2015