Someone once told me that I am an experiential philosopher. I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up.
An experiential philosopher, as it turns out, is someone who arrives at her own ideas by virtue of experience, someone who learns by doing, someone who reaches an understanding of the world and her place in it through her own deeds and personal reflection.
It was a stranger commenting on one of my blogs, but no truer words had ever been spoken about me.
I have a degree in Philosophy from Yale, but that didn’t give me much, because – as you see – for any idea to be mine, I had to experience it personally.
This has made for a somewhat clumsy and messy life.
I have succeeded only through abject failure.
I have advanced only after tremendous painful setbacks.
And I have created a beautiful life only after plumbing the depths of its (and my) dark side.
It’s been a bumpy ride, you could say? And it ain’t over. If my life is a fluffy, frosty layer cake (and I would say that it is most days), that’s because it has already been burned, flattened, blown up, run over by a truck, over-sugared, and under-floured a thousand times.
But each of those times, I tried to eat it with zeal anyway.
Living life this way has given me a lot. Below I am going to record my most cherished learned principles to date. These ideas are the framework for my daily-lived life.
Please don't construe any of this as advice. I am only talking to myself. Steal the ideas and make them yours if you want though. It's only in the living of ideals that they become real anyway.
1. If you have a song inside of you, you have to get that thing out.
We are all creative forces in the universe. That’s part of the point of life. And we are all unique. It’s our job and our job alone to express ourselves completely and thoroughly. If you do not honor your creative urges (everyone has them and no two people have the same ones) you will never be fully satisfied with your life.
2. We are all painfully, horribly, terrifyingly free.
Mostly we think we want more freedom, autonomy, and independence in our lives. But when we actually look closely and confront how completely free we actually are, the possibilities can dazzle, but also petrify us. With freedom comes responsibility, and if we think we are in some way not free, it is only because there are places we are not willing to be responsible.
3. Perspective is everything.
And the thing we are usually unwilling to be responsible for is our own perspective. In almost every field, scientists are having to grapple with the reality that human observation doesn’t merely perceive events, it’s shaping them. The upshot of this fact is that if you think your life is effed up, it is. Not because you are accurately perceiving and describing it with your words and thoughts, but because your words and thoughts are making it so.
4. All power is the power to choose.
Because we are all free and because we all paint our own personal reality, the root of power is choice. You can have anything you want, but you have to choose it. You make choices with your attention, not purely with your conscious thoughts and affirmations. For example, you can say “I want to lose weight,” to everyone you know. But if – as you eat – you focus on the food’s calorie count, the impact it’s going to have on our thighs, and how bad you are for wanting more, then you are choosing to gain weight because that is where your attention is focused. I have thoroughly tested this one out, folks. 😉
5. If you can’t quiet your mind, you can’t make a free choice.
Thank goodness meditation is finally gaining in popularity in the West. We cannot live without it because most of us have very very lazy habits of mind. We let that thing run around like a dog off a leash, chasing every last squirrel, bird, and butterfly of thought that flits by. No. If you want to exercise your power of attention, you need to be able to consciously choose where to focus it. Meditation is the fastest route to building that muscle.
6. Joy and inspiration are the bar.
So if we put all this together; we are free; we create our own lives; and we do so by choosing our perspective. So if all of that is the case, then why would we ever settle for anything less than abject joy and unbridled inspiration? Mere survival is for the rats and cockroaches. Humanity is meant for joy.
7. Cheese is possibly the single greatest human achievement.
8. Love is where everything comes from and where we are all going.
As VanGogh wrote to his brother: “There is nothing more artistic than to love people.” Love is the simplest state of being – simple, but not easy. There are few higher objectives to dedicate oneself to than to be unconditionally loving towards all of life. Whether you succeed or die trying, you will live without regret.
I might could go on, but I am going to stop here. 8 is a sacred number in the East. It is like the opposite of our 13, or their 4 (which is pronounced the same as the word for “death.” Did you know that a lot of buildings in Asia don’t have a 4th floor?) 8 means abundance and wealth. So I will stop here for now.