It’s been almost a month since I last wrote my intent to embrace the philosophy that we are human beings not human doings (an idea I gleaned from someone long ago). This has been harder than I anticipated, but I continually gently remind myself to return to this idea. We fall victim to measuring our worth in all the things we do, our accomplishments, degrees, publications, musical pieces learned, prestige, income, and all kinds of other activities which we do, instead of experiencing the simple act of existence.
I’ve made many goals in the last few weeks, but I have discarded them as well. I’ve filled up my calendar with plans and covered it up with scrap paper, writing down only appointments. I planned on taking music exams, and then gently returned back to reminding myself that what is meant to happen will happen in its own time, without extra pushing.
We are like a harmonic oscillator. Imagine a parabolic container with a ball in it. You hold the ball on one of the hills of the well and let it go. It will pass through the bottom (ground state) and then roll up the other hill. It will oscillate around the ground state. Eventually due to friction it will settle at the lowest point. I think making a change is like that. And my natural ground state is not one of a peaceful position, but one of high energy and an impulse to do.
The question is, can we really accept ourselves without accomplishments? For many, a job title is a vital constituent of identity. The first thing anyone asks you when you meet them is what you do for a living. I’ve listened a lot to the teachings of the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, who discusses how our actions define us, or at least are our only belongings. In an acting class this week, the teacher said actions, otherwise known as behavior or the actor’s business, are what makes a scene interesting. Perhaps I’m misinterpreting this, but I’d like to suggest that just being is also fascinating. Maybe our pets are the truly enlightened ones. My cat doesn’t make a to-do list or schedule how productive she will be in a day. She is loved unconditionally, has no possessions besides some catnip toys, and spends her days doing what comes naturally to her.
Of course, as adults we have responsibilities too, so we cannot spend our days sleeping, licking catnip pillows, or sitting in people’s laps, nor would we want to. But so many of us take on so much extra, rather than gently seeing what we feel inspired to do. There are so many quotes from Mahatma Gandhi to Marcus Aurelius that distill into the advice to live for today because there might not be a tomorrow. Apparently I misunderstood these instructions, as I felt it suggested I had to cram a life-time of accomplishments into a day. But I think it really means to live a life of quality, incorporating the precious moments of true beauty into each day rather than living as an automaton making to-do lists and scheduling and accomplishing goals.
So how am I doing with my New Year’s Un-Resolution? I am a work in progress. But I keep settling back to that state of not aiming for music exams or a certain amount of music practice and not aiming for certain writing word-counts a day. I am settling into removing schedules and making it my aim to be.
And I did not schedule writing this blog.