Advice and Idleness

Lately I’ve been thinking about life decisions. I find myself reflecting back to when I first arrived here. On the flight between Atlanta and Charleston, I had a long conversation with another passenger. As our conversation ended, I asked for an opinion. I said, “if you could give advice to a younger person, or younger version of yourself, what would you tell them?”. She said:

“…it’s best to keep many opportunities open when you’re younger. Try to keep many possibilities in your life. She also said that even if you’ve gone a long way in your journey, sometimes you find that you’re on the wrong path. It’s okay to restart or go a different direction. […]

The last words roll around in my head, “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”. She spoke with regret for cornering herself, and although she didn’t specify what it was, I knew that didn’t want to feel the same way.

Those thoughts have returned and I question if I’m taking the right path. Maura O’Halloran gave up her life in Boston to move to a monastery in Japan. She did this back in the 1980s when her only communication with family or friends was through snail mail or brief long-distance calls. I cannot imagine the amount of courage it took for her to leave everything she knew.

David (AWOL) Miller quit his stable job as an engineer to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The hike is 2,100 miles long and takes between 4-6 months. While this journey happened in 2003, he didn’t carry a cell phone or have regular connection with his family. It was his first major hike and he didn’t know what would happen. He had faith that it was something he wanted to do and that it would bring him happiness.

Robert M. Pirsig took his motorcycle across the country from Minnesota into California in the 1970s. Hunter S. Thompson hitchhiked through South America in the 1950s. Twyla Tharp moved across the country to escape her family and to eventually start choreography. Bryan Benson and his girlfriend rode their bikes between the Midwest and the West Coast. How can I see these figures sacrificing so much for a dream, while I sit here and idle?

Internally I return to the advice I received on the plane… “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”… Maybe this path wasn’t the correct one. Perhaps now is the only time to change it. I read letters from last year when I had the same thoughts. So is it time to cut the line and change paths?

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P.S. The Danish song “Tomgang” by Shaka Loveless is stuck in my head. Why isn’t this genre popular here?!

 

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You cannot pass your Realizations to Others

Everyone looks at the world in a unique way and understands it from their own perspective. We know where our life is going and we look ahead at our own path. When we do this, we neglect other’s paths. Each person exists in their own world, oblivious to the real world in front of them. By focusing on our own life, often we think that others are walking with us in the same direction. However, this is not the case, everyone moves in their own way.

Your goal in life could be to make a lot of money and retire into a pleasurable life. Every day you focus on building that dream and walking down that path. You go to college for a profession that will assist in this ideal and you spend most of your life working until your retirement.

Another person’s goal could be to see the world. Each day they focus on traveling and how they can support it. Instead of going to college, they choose to be a waitress at a restaurant. This job provides them with enough money to travel to a new place, where they can get a new job until they leave again. Everything they do is about experiencing a new place. They don’t understand the concept of retirement because their goal is to travel over their entire life, not just later in life.

Imagine these two very different people go to a bar. They sit down and have a drink together. The conversation builds until they start talking about their life. The traveler doesn’t understand the worker because her only focus is on traveling. The most pleasurable thing for her to do is to find a new place to live and experience. On the other side, the worker can’t understand this because it’s a dream for the end of life. How could they abandon their life to visit new places? How will the traveler ever retire?

We look at the world from our own perspective and often this means that we neglect others. The worker may see the traveler as “irresponsible” for moving but the traveler thinks the worker is too “uptight”. Immediately there is a difference between these people: all the worker’s actions support their retirement while the traveler just wants to explore.

Both of these people only look forward on their path, the actions they take will only benefit them. The traveler won’t benefit by taking the worker’s characteristics. His path leads to retirement, not world exploration. Therefore, both will be unsatisfied by taking one another’s path.

This isn’t a difficult concept because we know that everyone has different goals in life. We understand that what works for you may not work for me. This is because we’re moving in different directions. So why is it that we treat others like they’re wrong for their actions?

We all exist on different levels of consciousness, with a different understanding of the world. The traveler understands how to live off $15 everyday to save for moving. The worker knows how to dedicate himself to his job and secure his retirement. When the traveler speaks to the worker, she doesn’t understand the other person’s skills. She assumes that worker knows how to live off $15.

When she gives advice, she acts as though it’s easy to live on such little money. For the worker, this would be incredibly difficult. He’s used to working and spending much more money. Their skills don’t line up and the advice may be useless.

Now apply age to the equation and it become much clearer. If you have a 25 year old explain how to live independently to a 15 year old, they’re going to be a lot of confusion. The younger one doesn’t understand how to live alone, nor can he learn by being told. He has to figure it out himself.

The knowledge you have is only useful in context. It’s not usable for people who aren’t ready for it. The traveler can’t understand the meaning behind work until she becomes curious for it. The worker can explain it to her because she won’t understand it. He’s trying to get to retirement, so the meaning behind work is obvious. She had to find her own context to why work is important to her.

This is why you can’t tell a person something they are not ready to hear. It goes over their head and often ends in frustration. The only thing you can do is intrigue thought and questions. Other people have to walk down their own path to their own dreams. You can’t tell them how to arrive or which way to walk. Your advice only has context for what you understand.

The purpose of this long post is to show you that there are some things that you can’t intellectualize. You can explain a concept to another person for hours but unless it has meaning, it will remain useless. Meaning is something you cannot supply, the other person has to be intrigued and apply it to their path. Everyone moves in their own way.

Here’s a quote recited by the Dalai Lama:

  “The Buddhas do not wash away the karma of other beings,
    Nor do they remove the consequences with their hands;
    They do not transfer their own realizations to others,
    But they reveal the truth that liberates beings.”

The only way you can help others is to provoke that questioning behavior. To make them engage in their own though and come to their own realizations. You can’t tell a 15 year old what it’s like to on have $50 for food or what it’s like to work 40 hours a week. That’s something they have to experience. You can provoke them to question what it would feel like but you cannot give them your understanding. You cannot transfer your knowledge to another person.

By leading your life and following your own pursuits, you will find that others can learn through you. Your actions cannot be fully understood by others but they can intrigue thought. You can’t give them your thoughts but you can excite them to find their own thoughts. To find their own way down their own path in life.

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