Get Excited!

We’ve all heard it before. We’ve heard it from our friends, our parents, our siblings, and our teachers.

Don’t get TOO excited.”

It doesn’t even seem to matter what the scenario is;

Trying out for a team and you made the first cut? Don’t get too excited.
Applying for a job and got an interview? Don’t get too excited.
Had the most amazing day with the person you love? Don’t get too excited.
Finished the second year of a three year degree? Don’t get too excited.
Lost a couple pounds of body fat? Don’t get too excited.

The excitement police is ever vigilant. But my question is this: When, exactly, are we supposed to get excited? The “don’t get too excited” warning – in my opinion – has two negative suggestions that accompany it.


The first is the suggestion that something may yet go wrong. You could still be cut from the team, you could still be passed over for the job, your loved one could leave you, or you could still fail out of your degree. You might slip up and eat some cake, putting those pounds back on. “Don’t get too excited” suggests we shouldn’t be excited about these things because they can still be taken from us – as though there is anything in this life that is permanent.

The problem is, the “may yet go wrong” mentality never ends. Once you make the team, you can still be benched, released, or break your femur in a thousand places and never play again. Once you get that job, you can still be fired. Once you get married, or start a family, you can still lose that loved one to death, or divorce, or circumstance. Once you get that degree, you can still be jobless or considered under qualified. A lack of permanence is in no way related to your ability to enjoy and be excited about a moment.

If you’re waiting to celebrate something permanent, you’ll be waiting a very long time. Laying on your deathbed, many years from now, you’ll realize nothing can be truly grasped in this life. So, no matter how fleeting or small the moment, get excited about it. It is these tiny moments of success, progress, and joy that – when their tiny parts are finally collected and assembled – we look back on and remember the life we created for ourselves. You’ll never get a second chance to get excited along the way, so do it now and do it every chance you can.


The second suggestion that comes with the “don’t get too excited” warning is that you somehow haven’t finished yet. You’re not at your goal or your destination. It carries the dastardly assumption that there IS a destination in the first place. But what if, at the end of all of your days, you realize there never really was a destination. What if you looked back on all the little steps you made along the way, and realized life was about the journey? Would you wish you got excited about and celebrated the little moments a little more?

Thinking about life as the destination leads to false regrets. You’ll always focus on the places you didn’t reach rather than the joys and growth you were lucky enough to experience. You’ll see yourself as never have making it to the big leagues, rather than seeing all the friends and mentors you met along the way, and the positive experiences you shared with them. Even if you do eventually reach that destination, you’ll replace it with a new one.

I’m not saying having goals or dreams is a bad thing. I think we’re all born with dreams and we should all let that call of our soul guide us.

What I am saying is this life is inherently exciting. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The small moments and the grand ones. It’s all part of this journey we call life. The journey naturally excites us – so allow yourself to get excited about it.

Get TOO excited about it, even.

Be good to each other,

~MG.

Featured photo courteousy of forums.marvelheroes.com

Advertisements

On A Moment of Clarity:

Sometimes we’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right book.

I had finally arrived home, just ahead of the sunset. Exhausted, I dropped onto the couch with a sigh.

The rain sputtering on the window reminded me that I was sitting in wet clothes, but I was too tired to care.

Looking around the room, a book on a nearby shelf that was collecting dust caught my eye. I had bought it some time ago, on a whim of no real design, and it had sat there neglected ever since.

As we sometimes do, I flicked absent-mindedly through its pages; I landed on book number two. A certain paragraph seemed to stick out off of the page, a little further than the others.

I ran my fingers along the black lettering. It seemed to be bulging from the paper as though it was braille. I can still remember my eyes actually growing wider with a desperate gluttony as I began to hungrily devour the words presented before me:

Remember how long you have been putting this off, how many times you have been given a period of grace by the Gods and not used it. It is high time now for you to understand the universe of which you are a part, and the governor of that universe of whom you constitute an emanation: and that there is a limited circumscribed to your time – if you do not use it to clear away your clouds, it will be gone, and you will be gone, and the opportunity will not return.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

I had always heard of people having a moment of clarity, which also happens to be my favourite Jay-Z song of all time, but I had never experienced one myself.

You always hear people say that when you’re truly in love, you’ll just “know” it. The same people say if you’re unsure if you’ve ever been in love, then you haven’t.

I believe the same distinguishing factors apply for a moment of clarity. Simple words, usually so easily manipulated in order to shape an idea in your head, suddenly fall short. Clarity is a poetry that is not written or spoken. It is felt with every fibre of your being.


The Black Album by Jay-Z - which features The Black Album by Jay-Z – which features “A Moment of Clarity”

I put down the book in complete disbelief after reading that simple paragraph. I was wordless and shapeless. That simple passage had an unbelievably powerful effect.

This is the point in the story when it ceases to resemble any sort of cliché Hollywood script.

As the protagonist, I didn’t go out that day and achieve greatness. I didn’t compose a masterpiece, save a drowning puppy, or help to end the suffering of one of the millions of children in need. I didn’t change the world, and I certainly wasn’t saving it. Put me in a spandex suit and I still wasn’t Superman.


This is not me. This was not me.

I did, however, experience a moment of clarity that I will carry with me for the rest of my life; I saw things clearly and simply. Three things had suddenly become abundantly clear to me:

The first was that the universe is a system of infinitely complex and interrelated pieces. A clock with trillions of perfectly operating cogs and dials. As children of this universe, we are pieces of this puzzle. We are cogs and wheels in the clock of time and space. Each and every single one of us has a purpose. You and I have true meaning. We are each of us important.

The second was that our notion of time is an illusion. An illusion we’ve created. We’ve fabricated the idea of time as a quantity so we can count it and spend it and sell it and trade it the same way we do money and raw materials. Life is a single, uninterrupted and endless opportunity that we’ve for some reason separated into years, days, hours, minutes and seconds. When it comes to your true purpose, there is no fixed timeline or Monday deadline. It is never too late to pursue it. If we’ve wasted moments or decades, it does not change the opportunity that is our life. You can’t waste what doesn’t exist. Time doesn’t exist, but opportunity does as long as you draw breath.

The third, and most important, realization was that the universe had always been speaking to me, I just hadn’t been listening. It speaks to all of us.

The sun came up the morning you were born, and sunk that same evening. It’s done this every day of your life since.

Each sunrise does not represent the start of another day, a fragment of time the universe has no concept of. Each sunset does not represent another collection of wasted chances. The rising and setting sun is the universe’s constant reminder that nothing has changed while you slept. You fell asleep in a life of opportunity and you’ve woken up in its midst.

We need to stop thinking about the days that have passed. We need to stop thinking about the days that may or may not exist in our future. Think instead about how today, in this very moment, you can pursue your true calling. Today you can make a change, or make a difference. Today you can do anything.


You are part of this magnificently crafted clock. [Source: Nasa.gov] Hubble’s High-Definition Panoramic View of the Andromeda Galaxy: You are a tiny cog in this magnificently crafted clock. [Source: Nasa.gov]

I didn’t receive divine knowledge telling me my life’s purpose or how to pursue it that day. I was simply reminded of something I already knew. Something that, deep down, we all really know.

As miniature pieces of this wonderfully chaotic and perfect universe, we are perfectly designed for something. Every single one of us has a purpose.

We’re not too late or incapable. Those thoughts are just grey clouds in our sky as we’re chasing the sun – grey clouds that we’ve created.

So look up at the sun today. Close your eyes and let it warm your face. Let it remind you that you are basking in a perpetual moment of opportunity.

Think of the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Think of whatever it is that has always called to your soul. Then open your eyes and take that next step, big or small, in pursuing that purpose you were put on this earth for, whatever you feel it may be. You are strong enough. You are capable enough.

And you were born to do it.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Money:

In the material world we live in, money is king.
And yet, there is nothing material about it.

It’s been said by many people in various ways that “money makes the world go round.” It goes without saying that it plays a large part in our lives. We see it everyday; we see it swap hands in the coffee shop, we throw it into piggy (or real) banks, and we spend most of our days working for it. We watch as experts trade it and predict its future value. We judge the value of material goods by how much money it costs; in the material world we live in, money is king.

And yet, there is nothing material about it.


So What Is It then?

Yes, money exists in the physical world; it has weight and density; we can feel it. At a point in the not-so-distant past, it was even made up of (materially) valuable resources. But the money we worship, as it is, is of no intrinsic value. It’s what that money becomes that gives it worth. Money is a shape-shifter; it is Mystique, The T-1000, Merlin, Professor Lupin; it can be anything.

The famous shape-shifting wizard, Merlin - as seen in Disney’s Sword in the Stone.
The famous shape-shifting wizard, Merlin – as seen in Disney’s Sword in the Stone.

It can be a night downtown, complete with bottle service and a booth to call your own. It can be a new book, the smell of fresh pages still intoxicating in their strength. It can be a water pump for a thirsty village in Africa. It can be a lady of the night, or a donation to the church. It can be tickets to the show, the game, or to get on the overnight train to visit an old friend. It can be a university education or a down payment on a house. Money, simply put, is a promise of the future.

And that is why it is such a terrifying thought to spend one’s life pursuing it.


There is nothing less material than money, since any coin whatsoever (let us say a coin worth twenty centavos) is, strictly speaking, a repertory of possible futures. Money is abstract, I repeated; money is the future tense.” – Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths.


I’m not so naive as to think money isn’t important. It serves its purpose, and can be put to use in some pretty amazing ways. I, like Epicurus, tend to believe money has a limited role to play in our happiness. It can give us the food and shelter we need to survive, or the education we require to follow our dreams. It can cover the cost of rent for your new yoga or art studio.

The Epicurean graph of Money vs Happiness, as found in Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton
The Epicurean graph of Money vs Happiness
, as found in Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

But it will never make us truly happy.


Why it’s crazy

It seems almost ludicrous to think money will lead to our happiness. Spending one’s life chasing the accumulation of money, or the material items that money can transform into, is perpetually pursuing the future. There is no life, no experiences, no love, or laughter in the future. Those things are found in the present moment; they are found in the here and the now.

It’s been said that the minute we fulfil a fantasy we can not, and will not, want it any longer. This is because it is never the material desire that we want, it is the fantasizing about that desire that we seek. Think of the time you fantasized about being single, getting a puppy, or buying that new car. If I could just obtain “x”, you thought, I`ll be happy – only to find out that happiness doesn’t work that way. Even a small child desires the shiny red ball or those magically rattling car keys, until he or she obtains them. We may get a brief fulfilment out of finding a new (or multiple new) partner(s), playing with the new pup, or wheeling around in the new whip – but that novelty will always fade. It fades because these things only serve to plug a hole inside of ourselves, a void that can only be filled from within.


This is why money – and the pursuance of it – it such a foolish prospect.

If we spend our days accumulating money, we’re spending that which gives money value in the first place – our future. We’ll have many coins that can turn into many things, but with no time left to perform such powerful magic. Our future, much like the money we attain by wasting it, is not something we can bring with us after we pass from this life.

A fulfilled life isn’t measured by the number of fantasies you fulfil or the material objects you obtain. It’s measured by the experiences you have, the people you share it with, and (most importantly) being fully present in those moments. Spend your time in the future, or chasing it, and you’ll miss the collection of moments that fulfil us, the ones that pave our way to happiness.

Don’t spend your life in a constant chase of the next future fantasy. Chase the present moment. Live in it fully, love in it fully, and laugh it in fully. Your happiness is not a fantasy to be fulfilled. It is right in front of you this very moment.

Take it, its yours.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

On Pain:

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

The buzzing of the planet is a daily reminder of our mind-bending advances in technology. Our satellites glimmer amongst the stars in the evening sky, a sky that plays host to thousands of soaring planes during the daylight hours. Our technological prowess has vastly increased the comfort of our daily lives. Like most things, however, our technology comes with a cost. Everything from iPhones to automobiles cost us money, which puts a price tag on the comfort and convenience they provide us. Comfort has thus become a thing of value. It has become important to us.

The importance placed on comfort by our society has inspired in us a ruthless seeking of it. We centre our lives around obtaining things that will aid us in avoiding discomfort, pain, and suffering. Yet I’m beginning to wonder if this spread of a certain Epicureanism throughout the western world has actually bettered our lives, or if it’s part of the reason we live such unfulfilled and relatively unhappy lives.

Flashback nearly two years ago, to my life of comfort. I was the Dionysus of an eastern Toronto suburb and my basement apartment man-cave served as my Olympus. I lived at home rent free, had no university debt, and was earning a full-time wage I could have saved to buy a house and a car with. I had nearly a dozen close friends close by, whom I had grown up with on the ice rinks and considered them more like brothers than friends. I had the best all-you-can-eat sushi joint just around the corner from my house. I had a gym buddy who was actually a ninja. I possessed the disposable income to do and purchase essentially whatever I pleased. I was a tree of comfort, and my roots were strong and deep. Life was painfully easy.

But I was unhappy. I was stagnant. I was unfulfilled.

An artist's rendition of my training partner. [Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
An artist’s rendition of my gym buddy.
[Source: Hokusai Manga (1817) by Hokusai.]
Fast-forward to the present. I have long since left my job, friends, and family. I have vacated my Mount Olympus throne to travel across the Pacific ocean. I traded a life of comfort for the pursuance of something more. As of now, I’m uncomfortable, but I’m happy and feeling more fulfilled every day. I wouldn’t disillusion anyone and say anything about this has been easy, comfortable, or painless. Law school is a grind. Money is tight. I’m homesick. I miss my sisters, my mom and dad, my band of brothers/thieves/merry men. And I haven’t seen a single ninja since I landed here.

Yet is that pain and suffering not the price we pay for fulfilment, for happiness? Isn’t that our inherent agreement with the universe we are a part of? I look around myself and see that we naturally understand this contract.

I’ve seen “No Pain, No Gain” on gym singlets and “Pain is Temporary, Glory lasts Forever.” splattered on dressing room walls. I see all of us – the warriors of love – seeking out a significant other regardless of the pain relationships have caused us in the past, or the heartbreak we could be forced to endure in the future. We take the tests regardless of the chance of failure, or the immense effort required to study and learn. We play our various sports, knowing we’ll be bumped, bruised, and judged. We train our bodies to be strong through toil, trouble, and tears, even though they will eventually wither under the taxes of time. We paint, write, and dance, undeterred by the visions of the starving artist. We love our families and friends to the fullest, knowing the pain we’ll feel when they are inevitably taken from us. We do these things because we innately understand the nature of fulfilment.

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other — that whoever wanted to learn to “jubilate up to the heavens” would also have to be prepared for “depression unto death”?” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science.

We know that the treasure of fulfilment is closely guarded by pain, suffering, and discomfort; the three heads of a hellhound protecting the gateway to happiness. We know that the most uncomfortable places are the classrooms where we learn and grow the most. We know that catching that perfect wave is worth the endless paddling, the hours of waiting, and the salt we get in our hair. We understand that the discomfort of rising in the early morning is the price of watching a stunning saffron sunrise. We know that trading the uninspiring view from base camp for the breathtaking scenery of the summit requires hours of treacherous hiking up the side of the mountain.

I think it’s entirely possible to live your whole life in comfort, confronted by minimal pain and suffering. I think this very moment there are many people who are dying in their retirement home beds who managed to accomplish this. I also believe that those same people would be willing to trade all of the days they lived in comfort for one chance to go back to their youth. They would go back and put themselves directly in the path of that same pain, suffering, and discomfort they have avoided all these years. For in doing so, they would also risk a life of happiness and fulfilment.

Don’t settle for comfort. Take the risk. Catch that perfect wave. Watch the sunrise. Fall in love. Climb that mountain.

…..I do miss that sushi joint though.

Be good to each other,

– MG.

Follow Your Own Path:

Why you have nothing to lose finding and walking your own path.

For all of you none-sports fans out there, I promise the greater message behind this short story is worth the wait. So, bear with me!

At some point last year, I had just finished watching the Chicago Blackhawks knock out James Neal and his Nashville Predators in game six of their first-round NHL play-off series.

It was one of the most exhilarating play-off series I’ve seen in a very long time. It was full of goals, hits, skill, clutch plays, over-times, heroes, villains, and drama. In short, it was everything that sports fans watches hockey for. 

James Neal, Alternate Captain of the Nashville Predators
James Neal, Alternate Captain of the Nashville Predators Photo Credit: Nashville Predators Official Twitter Page (@PredsNHL)

When the game ended, Chicago being victorious, I  couldn’t explain why I felt a deep sense of injustice inside of myself. That injustice followed me around all day, a looming shadow constantly nipping at my heels. Why was I so rattled over the result of a game?

It bothered me until I was forced to stop and face the feeling in an attempt to understand it. I wanted to sit with the emotion in the hope that eventually I would let it go. Catch and release.

♠ ♠ ♠

On the surface, the source of that feeling seemed fairly obvious. Nashville had done everything that every young player is taught would result in their success on the ice. Not only had they done everything right, but they had done it better than Chicago.

And yet there they were, eliminated from the play-offs.

I felt as though something had been taken from Nashville. Like they deserved better. But why?

The more I took a deeper look at this feelings, the more I began to realize the root of the problem wasn’t specific to sports. It’s something we all deal with, every day, a humans.

In this particular instance, my negative feelings lay in a strange idea of hockey “justice” that had been indoctrinated into me at a young age. As athletes, we are taught to place all of our faith into the notion that if you play the game a certain positive way, a specific positive result will follow.

The problem with investing so much faith into this belief is that in sports, as in life, there is no actual guarantee of that desired result.

♠ ♠ ♠

In life, we’re faced with these false promises every day of our lives.

If we just follow these simple academic guidelines, we will get into a good university and find a respectable job. If we just master these certain athletic skills and systems, we will soon be playing in the big leagues.

If we find a beautiful or handsome spouse, own a white picket fence, a family dog, two new cars in the garage, and make six figures, we will find happiness. If we act in this holy manner, we will go to heaven when we die.

child-praying.jpg
“Dear God, I’m sorry I didn’t eat my broccoli. Please let me into heaven. And give me that big red fire truck toy I asked mum for.”

Most of the time it is either implied, or explicitly stated, that not following these guidelines will lead to the opposite result. We will fail out of school, get cut from the team, be unhappy in life, or burn in hell.

♠ ♠ ♠

I think that these inferences hold merit on a basic level.

If you refuse to attempt a mastery of your athletic skills, you probably won’t make the show. If you refuse to dedicate yourself to reading and writing, your academic pursuits will definitely be more difficult. I think basic instructions on the improvement of dream-specific tools serve as strong groundwork for anyone pursuing those dreams.

There are certain things you can’t ignore while chasing your dreams. Things like hard work, passion, and sincerity will always be crucial to your success.

So why do I think our How we should do things sense of justice is such a potentially dangerous set of beliefs to put our faith into?


Because we ignore the possibility that a team like Nashville can follow the age-old formula, preached by hockey clergyman, and still lose the game.

We ignore the possibility that we can obtain that corner office and own the dream house in the suburbs and still be unhappy.

We can experience hell on earth even if we are morally good people.

We can have a chiseled six-pack and still be unhealthy, or unable to truly love ourselves.

We ignore the possibility that we can wake up at twenty nine years old in peak physical condition, be highly skilled, but still be in the minor leagues.

♠ ♠ ♠

It is in our ignorance of these very real possibilities that we create very real suffering for ourselves. We see life as unfair or unjust. We’re shocked and appalled when these negative possibilities come to fruition. We waste years pursuing something because someone else told us it will bring us joy. Then we feel as though life isn’t fair when that joy doesn’t magically appear.

Yet, there is absolutely no logical basis for us to feel this sense of injustice when these perverse results occur. The injustice lays only in the vast faith we’ve put into the doctrine of “how things should be.”

In cases where one acts correctly but still suffers disaster, one is left bewildered and unable to fit the event into a scheme of justice. The world seems absurd.” – Seneca the Younger, as quoted in The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain De Botton.

This may seem like a negative perspective, but it’s not.

I believe that understanding these very real negative possibilities gives us – as human beings – real strength.

If you can fail by following the rules then you can succeed without fanatically following them.

Bondi-Beach-2-copy-1280x800.jpg
There are no rules. Only choices. See the world, chase the sun.

You can be a respectable person without pursuing a traditionally esteemed occupation. You can publish an influential academic piece without attending Harvard, or topping all of your classes. You can be a great champion without a pedigree or without following the traditional path of your respective sport or discipline. If heaven is your goal, you can still find that stairway if you step outside of the three thousand year old guidelines written in scripture.

You can be a happy person without following the status quo or chasing the American dream.

I can’t give you a blueprint that guarantees success for your pursuits in life. I can’t tell you the way to happiness. But neither can anyone else.

So break the chains of expectation. Free yourself from the prison of how things should be, the shackles of how we should live. Stop wasting time following other people’s blueprint for happiness, achievement, success, or spirituality.

Carve the path that calls to you. Follow your dream whether or not convention considers it probable, because convention can’t guarantee you success or failure. All you can do in chasing your sun is keep your feet moving and your eyes on the light.

And let come what come may.

Be good to each other,

~ MG.

Photo Use Courtesy of:

(1) Cover: joecoculo.tumblr.com
(2) Boy Praying: ministry-to-children.com
(3) Girls at Bondi: blog.ishine365.com