We’ve been spending a couple of nights at each location in New Zealand, then driving roughly two hours to the next. I would like to think we’d made a nice compromise by not attempting to see the entirety of the north island (some people attempt both islands!), choosing to drive around the upper half instead. Some part of me would like to stay at a place longer, but the part of me that fears missing out tends to win. We compensate by staying indoors on some days, foregoing any frantic sight seeing.
Travelling can be stressful and tiring for me, especially having to keep intense concentration levels driving at high speed on the roads. We have met a couple of aggressive drivers who would sound their horns while tailgating us because we were too “slow” even though in reality we were actually driving at the speed limit. I would try to go into the shoulder whenever possible to let them pass me, but at high speeds the last thing you want to do is to stop. So at long periods I would end up feeling like I’m being chased for miles and miles of road. Upon reaching our destination, I am entirely spent.
Something must have changed along the years, because only a few years back I was the person getting impatient and overtaking “slow” cars on highways, now all I want is just to take it easy, and I no longer feel the absolute sense of control I used to feel at the wheel in my younger days. I distrust that sense of control.
I guess all of the above could be metaphors for my life. I am no longer driven by an urgent sense of adventure, the person who would seek adventures at all cost. I have to actually convince myself to venture out now, to be less afraid. I have become one of those happily boring people who like staying indoors preferring to do my exploring in books instead. I no longer mind when people are ahead of me, I don’t even know what “ahead” actually means now. I told a friend I feel a lot more centered than before, no longer feeling like I have to do what other people are doing. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can accept myself.
Self-acceptance, I have learned, is not a one-time decision. It is an ongoing exercise, a ritual one has to repeat. Sometimes it is because we progress, we grow into new selves; sometimes it is because we regress, and there has to be reconciliation again with our past selves. I think one of the greatest sources of suffering comes from the belief that life is linear and logical, that somehow things go from A to B and eventually to Z, and that everything that happens should make sense and go according to plan.
Shitty things happen all the time, and the sooner we can accept that, the earlier we can go back to living our actual lives instead of mulling over why. But I don’t. I magnify the problem, over-analyse it, go over it again and again in my head, making myself really miserable for a long time. It is as though if I do that, I could find some secret door that I can unlock and all would be well again. I don’t really know how and when I learned this behavior. Most of the time there are no secret doors in life, sometimes there are no resolutions, other times life is often unfair and unreasonable.
We just have to look at nature. Is there justice and is it reasonable that a lion eats a deer? Religious beliefs aside, I think that justice is a human-invented concept, a beautiful one at that. We just forget that it is something to be fought for, to be protected, it is not something we are entitled to, neither is it a natural law. The world has to be constantly forged and created in every moment, just like our individual lives.
So I think that there is a creative tension between accepting life is just what it is, and consciously choosing when to exert our intelligence and creativity to shape our lives and the world. Over-do it and there is destruction, under-do it and we ignore potential and possibilities. I grapple with this all the time in my personal life, and I contemplate on this in view of the wider world. Where do we draw the line?
I discovered belatedly one of the best ways to endure long drives is to listen to podcasts. The one we listened to just now features an astrophysicist, Natalie Batalha — she commented that science (in context of space) feels like an indulgence now, when the sustainability of this planet is in danger. The two other participants had eloquent responses to why they disagree (I wouldn’t attempt to butcher it). I think about this a lot myself: is travelling and inner-work an indulgence, a luxury at a time like this?
I think everyone’s answer will differ but particularly for me, the more I work on myself, the more I travel, the more I appreciate life itself, and the beauty that this world can offer. The more I have the capacity to be human, to be genuinely present. I am not sure if I’ll ever have the capacity to do more, but keeping myself alive and trying to do no harm is the best I can do right now. Whenever I tried to do more, I’d end up hurting myself and the people around me. Maybe this is something I have to accept, that a tiny capacity is all I have. This is something that has brought me a lot of shame previously especially in a capitalistic society like ours that prides nothing more than productivity and value, but I think I have come to see it differently as I progress. We can’t ask fungi to grow into trees. I can’t keep asking myself to be a tree when I am not, and I am not even fungi because they are actually really important to the ecosystem, maybe I am just a tiny blade of grass. I stopped questioning the function I provide to society because I no longer want to steep myself in a value-oriented mindset. I guess it is enough to be alive so the people around me wouldn’t be inflicted with unnecessary grief. Maybe once in a while someone out there would feel less alone with the words I write.
Maybe one day I’ll discover the will to live for myself or maybe till the very end I’ll still think that life is not worth living for me. But perhaps it is a worthwhile endeavour to experience the truth, to ensure I will at least fully explore the dimensions of existence, at the very least I have tried to get as close to the truth as possible.
I feel more centered with all the inner work I am doing. In turn, I feel the need to consume less, I tend to waste less, and I am more mindful with my being and actions. Perhaps this is my little contribution to climate change, that in order to learn how to live in harmony with the world, I have to learn to live in harmony with myself. I have an evolving theory that climate change is a problem rooted in human psychology (unstable psychology -> fear and insecurity -> design of systems that is short sighted in favour of temporary gain -> destruction -> cycle back to unstable psychology), but that will have to wait till a time when I can string it all together.