At first, I wasn’t going to share this, because it was sort of just me… putting my own catharsis on paper. But I re-read it, changed some tense and person, and realized that I do want to say this “out loud.” This is – once again – a personal post.
When I get caught up in routine, when I know in approximate terms, what tomorrow and the next day… week… month is going to hold, I start to sort of accept my life and take my circumstance at face value. I relax and let go, and say to myself, “this is my life… cool. I’m doing alright.”
At first glance that might seem like a good thing.
“Life isn’t about what happens to you, it’s about how you handle what happens to you – so be positive and happy with what you have, and don’t make it too hard to feel like you’re winning,” right?
Well yeah… I guess… but I think there’s just more to it than that. See what I’ve found, is that if I’m not careful, I slip into this subtle life trance… where days, weeks, months go by; and even though I’m making decisions, it’s a bit as if they were already made for me. I’m just sort of living out my programming.
In a way, this works out, because I generally come to the end of one of these periods feeling like I made some progress on at least a few things. And honestly, I’m usually fairly content.
So why would it bother me?
It bothers me because – in my limited experience – all of the thrills, the chills, the passion, the love, the fire, the unreasonable drive… in essence the greatness and power of the human spirit, the moments that shape life and destiny… ALL of that stuff thrives and LIVES on a deep hunger for LIFE! And in that sort of “living out my days” trance, the one thing that is consistently absent is hunger.
After my last breakup, I was hungry as hell! After moving back and forth across the country, and feeling like I didn’t quite pull it off, I was hungry! After seeing something inspiring that makes me aware of what’s possible, I’m hungry… after running a race, seeing a breathtaking sight that reminds me of some part of myself I’d forgotten, a killer kiss, falling in love, falling out of love, traveling, experiencing extraordinary entertainment of any kind, the death of someone close to me, seeing someone I care deeply about totally happy or in total pain… the list goes on.
Anything that is either extremely painful or totally incredible has the power to awaken the sense that “I want more,” or “I want this streak to continue,” or “I never want that to happen to me or to anyone I care about again!” It has the power to inspire the hunger, and the hunger inspires action. There is a living breathing DRIVE inside everyone… a passion that so often lies dormant.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying that it's a good idea to be masochistic… or to be some kind of obsessive thrill seeker. I am saying that abnormally painful or pleasurable things can be natural catalysts to re-awaken passion. It's easy to spend life trying to avoid anything too extreme – trying to make sure everything is pretty and safe and well put together. It's easy to be so caught up in getting through the day, that getting through the day becomes what life is about… and passion fades into the background.
Maybe it’s my inexperience and youth speaking here, but I feel like this tendency for us as a culture to let the passion fade, is one of the great human tragedies. The whole “lives of quiet desperation” thing is killing us and in spite of my youth and relative naiveté, I find myself there a little too often for comfort – which is why I decided to write about it.
And here’s the scary part: all of that stuff I mentioned above… that stuff used to matter to a lot of people. It used to awaken them and ignite that fire inside. But it no longer does…
Because they won’t let it anymore
They don’t want to deal with how things really are… or even admit it to themselves, so letting themselves feel hunger or drive or passion or any intense deep emotion, would be too painful. It feels better to blame life and circumstances for the deadness inside, than it does to risk going for LIFE again, and coming up short… again.
People get tired of letting themselves and others down, so they build little boxes around everything that needs protecting – their ambitions, their hearts, their life’s work, their dreams, their passions. Those boxes get reinforced by every single thing that hurts over the course of decades, until they wake up one day in a prison that’s a tenth the size of their spirit, wondering what happened.
Two crazy things about this:
- The prisons are usually totally invisible. They're mixed up in that programming that leads to going on autopilot through the days and years.
- In most cases, the prisoners never tried very hard in the first place… or they were so focused on doing everything right, that they never did much of anything at all. So most of the assumptions that built the prisons were false.
People think they let themselves down, but really the only let down was not getting up, changing course, allowing the hunger to flood through their veins, and going for it again. By a fair definition of failure, the only way anyone can ever totally fail, is to give up.
In the last 4 years, I’ve been perilously close to that insidious slide into quiet desperation more times than I’m entirely comfortable admitting. I’ve carefully constructed my own boxes and prisons. But just becoming aware of some of them, is really changing the way I feel about who I am and what I’m doing.
So I’m making sure to remind myself daily of the fire and hunger… and to consistently refuse that scared little voice inside that says “warning! Don’t go there! Just do what you always do.” In fact lately when I feel that fear, it’s my cue to get going in the very direction of whatever is causing that voice to speak out… to shake off the routine and do what’s a little bit unnatural. As singer songwriter Chris Ayer says, “If this is the main event, please let me be awake for it.”
Here’s my commitment:
To hold on to wonder and passion, to never stop trying, to put my heart on the line again and again and again and to pick up the pieces and rebuild it with care every time it breaks… to live for the hunger, to embrace the fire, to run like hell from the concept and practice of settling and to inspire others to do the same.
This hunger, this passion, the idea of sharing it and being an example… it’s why I make music. It always has been. I’m just remembering again.