This is an actual thing a priest said to me once and it was so funny it almost made me rejoin the Church: “Don’t sweat the petty things…and don’t pet the sweaty things.” Later I would come to find out this priest jacked the joke from George Carlin, but still: hilarious and accurate, nonetheless. It’s so easy to become one-track minded and focus on all the minutiae that make up our day. We take it all so seriously, but most of the things we stress about are forgotten by the end of the week, the day, the hour. I’m always preaching the importance of living in the moment, but that doesn’t mean living in our heads, focused on task after task. Living in the moment means living in a space of awareness. It’s normal for our lives to be centered around checklists, but we’re constantly suffering each time something disrupts our idea of things should be. Truly living in the moment means accepting it all as it comes and not losing sight of the grander picture. It’s important to step back from time to time when we find ourselves getting caught up in the psuedo-drama of our lives, and zoom out into a wider perspective. Remember that Carl Sagan quote that Tumblr loves so much? Let’s revisit it.
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
The Flaming Lips said (well, sang) a similar thing in one simple line: “Do you realize we’re floating through space?” A former teacher of mine referred to living with this wider perspective in mind as having “universal consciousness.” When we put our lives into context with all of existence itself and realize how infinitesimal our problems are in comparison, we really can’t help but laugh. Not laughing like a loon, but laughing out of logic. We are all human beings existing on a minuscule dot floating around the galaxy! And to think how outraged I was when I stood waiting for thirty minutes on the L train before they announced that it wasn’t running. How annoyed I got when that Jamaican woman gave me false directions and I had to backtrack eight blocks in the bitter 36 degree cold.
As Linking Park said (well, screamed) in a much worse song: “In the end, it doesn’t even matter!” Most of these problems we face today do not matter at all tomorrow. But it’s so easy now, sitting in my heated apartment and satisfied by a home-cooked meal, to say this, to look back and laugh. In the moment, though, it isn’t easy. We are so dominated by our minds, and our ego takes itself so seriously and thinks itself so important. But humor transcends ego. If you’re able to laugh, you’re able to break through. The trick is to remind ourselves again and again of what life even is. Why are we doing what we’re doing? What is the reason behind what we’re working towards? Why do we choose certain habits and follow the same daily pattern?
When you wake up, you start to realize that life is nothing but a game. Life is really just a fun experiment! We can do so many things differently–from the route we take home, to the job that we have. The opportunities for change are limitless. Sometimes I wonder why, for one day only, we don’t all drop the acts and the roles and the social masks and just run around naked and sing and dance! Don’t you ever just want to be totally free, be like George of the Jungle swinging from vines, belting out a guttural “Aaaaaaaaagh!”? Okay, well, maybe that last bit’s just me, but the point is: we can be so much freer than we allow ourselves to be! We can constantly try things outside of our comfort zones and make new, bold choices (because we’re bold, not basic, remember?). My all time favorite Kurt Vonnegut quote is, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”
YOLO: it’s not just the motto of 2011, it’s the fire we need to keep burning inside of us. If we only live once, we have to ensure we’re living a deliberate life, one of one hundred percent choice. The verdict is still out on reincarnation. If we do get to do this thing over and over, then there’s nothing at all to fear; we can try and fail and try again at something new in each lifetime. But if this is all there is, if we only get this one shot at living here as human beings, then we had better be damn sure we’re doing all we can to live fully now. You can’t express your truth when you’re dead. You can’t swing on swings, go boogie boarding, laugh until you can’t breath, do sunrise yoga on the beach, give a toast at a wedding, make friends with strangers on the subway, or go on Tinder date after Tinder date when you’re dead. I’ve read about tons of Near Death Experiences, and they all make it sound like it’s actually pretty amazing! But all of these things are unique to life as a human being. From a cosmic perspective, your time on Earth is just a blip, here today and gone tomorrow. Don’t let anything stop you from making your reality better than your dreams.
Take care of yourself, of course, so your bones and your body work optimally for as long as possible. But go ahead and eat McDonald’s once in a while. Don’t call it a cheat day. Try to get seven hours of sleep each night. But stay up all night, even if you have work the next morning, talking to that person you want to know everything about. Forget about the fuckboy for a weekend, take a roadtrip with your friends. Go on a twenty four hour technology detox just to see how you feel. Watch a sunset–really watch without Snapchatting it–and enjoy the moment all by yourself. What you are looking at is your own reflection. That gorgeous pink haze descending into the city skyline is you. This isn’t a metaphor. This is science. Like Alan Watts said, “You are something the whole universe is doing, just as a wave is something the whole ocean is doing.” And Rumi said thus: “You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” So stop sweating the petty stuff and petting sweaty stuff. Stop allowing yourself to fall back into default mode. Realize your place in the cosmos. Adopt a universal consciousness. Be George of the Jungle! Or better yet, be the whole person you were born to be 🙂