Or, ‘How We’re So Afraid of Dying (or Getting Hurt, or Getting Fat, or Losing Our Money, or Having Someone Look At Us Funny) That We Forget to Live’
When I was in grade school, my friends and I would get on our bikes, arm ourselves with garbage-can tops and heavy sticks, and joust each other.
We’d tumble to the grass in a tangle of flesh and metal, pick ourselves back up, and joust again. Afterwards we’d have a band-aid application party.
This was all without any sort of protective gear, mind you. We’d also set up ridiculously high jumps and go over them on our bikes. More than once I remember hitting the back of my head on the pavement, and watching in wonder as the bright white flash resolved into stars.
In general, this was typical of my childhood.
By virtue of some miracle, I came through my formative years with only mild cognitive impairment (for instance, I still insist that there is no such thing as time, movement, or me), and not even one verified broken bone.
As a grown-up, I’ve seemed to gain nothing whatsoever in the intelligence or self-preservation department. Just the other day I was trying to climb a small waterfall, fighting the current all the way up. At the very top, during the last crossing to safety, my foot slipped and plunged into the current. Down I went, bouncing between rocks, to be tossed about in the undertow beneath the falls. My friends cheered.
Limping, I returned to the beach and sat down to eat some tortilla chips. And that’s where the whole point of this article came to be.
Because when I reached into the bag, I found that all the triangular tortilla chips had dull, rounded edges.
They’ve been like this for years, of course. They used to have nice, pointy tips, but then the unthinkable occurred. An innocent man put one of these chips into his mouth, and the pointy tip lodged in his throat, nearly killing him. He, of course, sued the tortilla-chip maker, and soon at least one major brand was scrambling to replace the pointy tips with soft, rounded edges. Presumably for our collective safety.
It’s my sincere hope that this is all just an urban myth. If not, there is actually a man out there who got his butt kicked by a tortilla chip, and that doesn’t bode well for the human species.
Today, of course, children can’t even ride on a flat road without wearing a helmet. We can’t play lawn-darts because someone lodged one of those old, metal-tipped darts in someone’s skull. And yet, curiously, we can still buy and smoke cigarettes.
The point here is that we’ve become so obsessed with preserving the quantity of life (how long we live), while we totally ignore the importance of the quality of life.
I’m not referring to quality of life in the usual way — as financial or material security. The desire for security, if we look carefully, is nothing but a grasping, desperate fear of actually Living.
But can we imagine, for a moment, what life would be like if we could enjoy each moment? If we weren’t always in a chronic state of anxiety about our continued health, financial security, and reputation?
What would life be like if we didn’t care so much about other people’s opinions of us? If we chased our passions and our dreams? If we didn’t live in constant fear of the world and its unpredictable nature?
If we can find our way out of our fear, we discover that life is a grand adventure, with never a dull moment. Even the things we once thought unpleasant gain an excitement and vibrancy they didn’t hold before.
And how do we find this state of being?
It’s all about discovering this very moment, and finding that if we stop trying to force life into little boxes, it blossoms in infinite perfection. The magic answer is that we don’t have to work hard to live an amazing life – we just have to cease all the habitual effort we usually apply to trying to force life into boxes. In this way, our life becomes amazing when we stop trying so hard. Yes, it sounds like a paradox, but it’s also a truth you can discover for yourself.
This very moment is yours for the tasting. It is only our habitual state of fear that stops us from experiencing it.
Let’s start Living.