No, this isn’t about a going problem as in a bowel issue. It’s about the going problem we face every day in life. The constant reliance or need or want for why we do what we do. As if it is a requirement to have a reason or objective for our daily living. With so many people starting off the New Year with ambitious goals, I’d argue to set much more attainable and passive goals, such as enjoying this year more than last, or taking 20 minutes out of your day, each day, and doing nothing.
I think the value of nothing has diminished, especially here in the States where self-worth is so intertwined with productivity. One of the first things that someone will ask me as we sit down and get to know each other is: “What do you do?” What does it matter? But it does matter. Being on time matters. Social acceptability–it matters. The car you drive, and the style of your hair, and the color of your clothes, and the cut and make of your suit. It all matters. I mean, it doesn’t really matter, but we’ve been socialized to think it matters. And that occupancy is maddening.
There is no off switch. There is always a screen on, or a blue light in the corner of the room, or some ear buds in the ears, or a text message to answer, or some new investment to research, or some preparation for the next day… Just stop for a minute. When’s the last time you just stopped everything and enjoyed the presence of nothing? Turn off the music, and shut off the screen, and turn off the phone for 20 minutes. Just sit or lay on your bed, and just be.
I remember my first solo trip, and during that first night alone at Ryan Campground in Joshua Tree I just felt at odds with what I was doing. It was the stillness; it frightened me to the core. It was the sitting, and waiting, and not being occupied by a screen, and not playing any music, but instead just sitting there under a star-filled sky in the desert. To combat it I got busy. I cooked dinner, and I racked my gear up for the next day, and I scrambled around on rocks under the moonlight before retreating to my tent where there is never service and no reason to ever check. Over the following 6 days I acclimated to the new pace of life, and I found a comfort in the solace of silence. In wild isolated places I find that my social status or my job title don’t mean anything. None of our contrived world does.
I used to attribute the going problem to the accumulating anxiety crisis. My thoughts on anxiety target the constant stimulation that we face in life. The things we could have done better today, or the problems that didn’t get resolved, and what we have to do tomorrow. For those of us in cities there is the constant flow of noise, because these big cities don’t sleep. Of course you’re anxious. 8 hours a day 5 to 6 days a week is a lot of time to dedicate to something, especially something that is not natural, like a job. Wake up in the morning and sit in heinous traffic, and then bash your head against a wall or a 2×4 for 8 hours, maybe get a slight reprieve midday to eat some shitty processed food, and then get back in the car and sit in some more heinous traffic, and then it’s dark and it’s time to re-nourish for the following day. Shit, that makes me anxious just thinking about it.
I don’t have a solution for that. I just have the food for thought. I think a good place to start is to detach from the mechanized and technological mentality. Put the phone away for a minute–Instagram can wait. Escape the stimulation, because I think you’ll find that it really assists us in avoiding the absolute experience of what it means to be human. And nothing about that experience requires paying taxes, or mortgages, or business models, or job estimates–it requires no status updates. And while you might not be able to completely escape the madness of society, at least you’ll learn to define yourself for what you are, and draw a line and distinguish the difference between who you actually are, and what society is urging you to be.