How To Spend Our Lives: In The Moments, Of Course.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard Click To Tweet

Are you there yet? Are you where you want to be? Or, better yet, are you where you believe you should be? Are you doing whatever it is you would like to do? With whom you intended to do it with? No? Well, perhaps then it is now that we change the way we view our experience here before our uncertain lot of time chooses to depart from us.

For years — and I would wager for many the same — I had been working towards a destination, an end point, a place that I felt I needed to reach before I could fully enjoy this life. I was wrong and I am here now to share with you why. If I had not stumbled upon the commencement quote of this piece, who knows how much longer I were to have fallen for the promise of tomorrow without ever having realized the offering of today; more appropriately, the offering of now. Please, before moving on any further into this read, do your best to comprehend and to truly welcome into this moment the power and the defiance of this quote’s meaning, in alliance with its subtle plea:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Click To Tweet

There is no place of reach, not one destination that will provide any of us with our ideal environment nor peace of mind to feel and to do and to create, to live rather, however it is we would like to. Along with this, there is no other time but now to realize that the actions we take at this very moment, the priorities that we set for our current engagement, the tasks that we deem as worthy of our attention at this junction of time and of opportunity, and the people that we surround ourselves with this instant, either by nearest allocation or of distant admiration, do in fact provide the context of our lives; the context contained in the raw sensations of now rather then of later. In complete accordance with this, waiting for certain things to come to fruition, or for certain events to occur, we must realize that we do not have choice, for they currently are not and they may never be, and that is OK. This is not to take away the importance of future, for the acts of planning, of envisioning and of progressing still serve as healthy exercises, as long as we remain indifferent to their presence and engaged in the moment we are given. Instead, what’s important to understand is exactly what this quote is telling us:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Click To Tweet

Our lives are now. They are not tomorrow and they are no longer yesterday. So, whatever it is we aspire to, however it is we would like to spend our days, wherever it is we would like for this occur, and whomever it is we would like for it to be surrounded by, realize your life is only now, and now is the only time it can happen. A string of consciously engaged moments make a life, not a longing for our tomorrows, or a holding onto of our yesterdays. But, of equal to or of greater importance to understand along with this is that you are not the only one this moment encapsulates. We all have a now and they may not always match; not in wants, not in needs, not in location, not in ideals, and not in other countless facets of our instant; accept this and carry on. This moment is more precious than you think, so this indifference should not take us away from ours. It should only provide us with greater opportunity towards becoming more attuned with ourselves in the time we are allotted, in which case we can learn to appreciate and to be more grateful for our contemporary. Therefore, right now, let us all remind ourselves:

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Click To Tweet

Live accordingly.



For other perspectives on our moment, pair this reading with What is a Prospector? , Janis Joplin on the Urgency for Love, and Neil Young on one’s Fervent, Unyielding Search for the Fabled ‘Heart of Gold’.

Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’

How did you come across the book?

It was a book that has been on my list because I’m really interested in Stoic Philosophy; I really like reading Plato and Aristotle and all that… and so I hadn’t read this one… and so I put it on the list!

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Oh… that’s a tough one! A lot of… you know… practical ideas about the human condition are spoken about in this book and it’s really… well, one of the interesting perspectives is how universal it is, after thousands and thousands of years! You can pick up this book and realize, Wow! Things haven't really changed in the human psyche all that much! Click To TweetSo, that’s been my main take away and kind of using some of these lessons and concepts to inform my own life.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

Oh… that’s a tough question… another one! These are good! Umm… I would recommend it if you’re looking into thinking deep and thinking about society… thinking about people… thinking about yourself… and examining it in a different lens, and kind of questioning the world around you. So, that’s who’d I recommend it to… anyone who’s looking for answers… or looking to ask more questions!

 

Reality’s Delusion: How Sure Are We?

“Reflect often on the speed with which all things in being, or coming into being, are carried past and swept away.”

Recently, in conversation with a new acquaintance, a perspective was shared with me, or rather towards me, depicting the substance of a situation in context of our exchange; “There is reality and there is delusion of situation, and this is an example of the latter”. It didn’t hit me then, but as I pondered his statement later on, a thought stirred about in my mind indicating error in his chosen insight, not in accordance with his intent but rather with the concepts entirety. Be it ignorance or ambition on my part, nonetheless, this narrow inclination is one far too often shared, justified, believed and cast onto others as definitive truth that the self-appointed arbitrator has deemed reality; be aware of this, but ignore it. However, for sake of digression, pressing on, though not spoken aloud for auditory consumption, thoughts of internal reserve contain the ability to produce a noise much louder, within the individual at first and potential for the greater good second, if expressed effectively and with collective intent. Now, in this text, I hope to give opportunity for its communicable understanding.

“Existence is like a river in ceaseless flow, its actions a constant succession of change, its causes innumerable  in their variety”

– Marcus Aurelius

This reality so often spoken about, one thrown around with such strong and confident conviction, remains in a constant state of change, for the concept of reality itself understands the weakness of its own stable and the dubious fluidity of its mere arguable grasp. This is not a new understanding, for it is truthfully the product of many great minds of before, and of our worlds observatory nature; thought of, understood and communicated through the ages by virtue of mediums of both presenter’s choice and of the times expressible permit. However, for sake of skeptics needed assurance of example, one relevant to our current moment of existence, ponder on the following:

Reality is negotiable. Scarcely anything stands still, even what is most immediate. - Tim Ferriss Click To Tweet

Far too often we are fed to belief against this, having been taught by others who have been fed the same. I am not ignorant enough to fail to realize that this is not the case with all, as there are numerous examples to look upon, expressing themselves no matter the field nor their pursuit. Artists, creators, musicians, innovators of business, trade, architecture, industry, fashion, scientists of all studies, writers, poets, inventors, and so on; the list remains unending. What do they have in common? What sets them apart apart from the rest? What grabs our attention of their pursuits fruition? They question one thing; reality! Then, they make the choice to ignore the commotion, to make their own noise in this world, to follow their own unique beat in line with their visions rhythm.

“We should not, like sheep, follow the herd of creatures in front of us, making our way where others go, not where we ought to go.”

– Seneca

Reality in this context represents a paradigm of nature; the two are the same, both in mystery and in question. But, for the majority conditioned to leave nature, and in accordance reality, left alone, how do we begin the revealing? In these moments, we shall turn to others, towards their examples and towards their work, and in this moment, as I struggle with this myself, I turn to none other than Hans Selye, MD, otherwise known as the Father of Stress. Without now taking the exploratory dive into his life’s impressive and profoundly progressive work, I instead want to share with you what lead him down his own road of unknown, towards the unraveling of his own questioning, shared in an excerpt from his famous classic ‘The Stress of Life’, a book about stress in the applicable sense and of our unique ability and innate quality to adapt. Though the language is relevant in regard to his particular question, the concept shared and practiced is appropriate no matter your contemplate:

How to Question Nature

What is disease – not one disease, just disease in general? This question lingered on in my mind, as it undoubtedly has in the minds of most physicians of all nations throughout history. But there was no hope for an early answer, for Nature – the source of all knowledge – rarely replies to questions unless they are put to her in the form of experiments to which she can say “yes” or “no.” She is not loquacious ; she merely nods in the affirmative or in the negative…

Occasionally, if we ask, “What would you do in these circumstances?” or, “What is in such and such a place?” she will silently show us a picture. But, she never explains. You have to work things out yourself first, aided only by instinct and the feeble powers of the human brain, until you can ask precise questions, to which Nature can answer in her precise but silent sign language of nods and pictures. Understanding grows out of a mosaic of such answers. It is up to the scientist to draw a blueprint of the questions he has to ask before the mosaic makes sense. It is curious how few laymen, or even physicians, understand this…

Only those blessed with the understanding that comes from a sincere and profound love of Nature will, by an intuitive feeling for her ways, succeed in constructing a blue print of the many questions that need to be asked to get even an approximate answer to such a question. Only those cursed with a consuming, uncontrollable curiosity for Nature’s secrets will be able to – because they will have to – spend their lives working out patiently, one by one, the innumerable technical problems involved in performing each of the countless experiments required.

What is disease? – What is stress?

I did not know how to ask the first of these questions; I did not even think of asking the second.

In closing, do not be afraid to question reality nor apprehensive in your questionings implement. Reality is largely, by its own nature, negotiable and plastic, and we as humans were meant to explore every facet of our enigmatic undergo. If you do not know where to start, in form with the ones who have found their paths continued questioning, start with an interest, and if that one doesn’t work, start again with another. You do not need to know much to begin, other than to begin is the only way. And, to keep equipped in mind, parallel with what’s to come:

Remember that all is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius Click To Tweet

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

How did you come across the book?

This was on one of my reading lists when I was in high school. I had like a hundred contemporary classics that I wanted to read through, and a hundred like “Classic Classics” that I wanted to get through… I don’t remember what my lists were titled… but this was on there! I had seen it in book stores, never bought it and then I went to my Godmothers place in Boston and she had a copy… long story short, she gave it to me with a nice little note in the back!  It says… Eyes changed after they looked at new things. Click To Tweet

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Well… to be honest with you, its kind of… well, the girls perspective is that she’s just really eager to learn and to gain education anyway she possibly can… which I guess is kind of nice for me to be reading while I’m in business school because I don’t really want to be in school. I like to learn things, but I like to learn them on my own and not forcibly in a classroom… but here’s a girl who can’t do that… and so she’s learning on her own, because she just doesn’t have the luxury to learn in a classroom. So… I think that’s kind of the perspective that I’ve gotten so far… and maybe it’s been a little motivating!

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

Yes, I’d recommend it. Umm… it is a little slower as I kind of mentioned… and I think it’s… I’ve been reading it for over a year… I mean I’ve read other books in between but, I’ve been reading it for about a year and I think I’d recommend it to people who are still in school or who are thinking about going to school. For me it’s kind of also… I miss New York… and it references a lot of old New York that I wasn’t even a part of but… it just kind of makes me nostalgic. So, anyone who wants to read about growing up in Brooklyn in the 19… I don’t know, I think it starts in 1910 or 1920 something… so, that would be… yeah… I also think it’s like a contemporary classic… Betty Smith I think published this around the 50s or so and it’s on those classic lists so… yeah, I think it’s more of a young adult into… like, I would say maybe early teens to late 20s would be a good group to read it… I’m not sure, honestly. It’s kind of a baseline book… like it’s not… there’s not much going on in it… but there’s also a lot going on in it… internally and externally. It’s just kind of more like seeing the perspective of living in poverty in Brooklyn during that era… and what you would have to do to sort of survive and get by. I don’t know what else to say about it… it’s just a great book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

How did you come across the book?

So… I’m an avid movie watcher and a good friend of mine, Amy, put me into the movies years ago. At first I was like, “No, I’m not watching this cause I don’t want to be a part of the system! And everybody’s obsessed with these things!” And then I sat down and I watched them… and I was obsessed! The movies captivated me but I’m not a big fiction reader… I read history, but I’m not a big fiction reader… but um… my wife has been bugging me, “Babe, come on… like every year I’m like babe it’s time for us to do our Harry Potter binge!”… and we watch all the movies again… and she’s like, “You’ve gotta read the books!” So… at first I was like, “You know babe? You know me… I struggle when I read fiction books… like, I’m good.” So she said, “Fine, I’ll buy you the audio book.” And so she gave me the audio book of the first one, and I listened to it… and it was incredible. I couldn’t stop listening to it! So then I was like, “Babe… I think I want to read the second set of books.” So she bought the collection… and I read book two in about a week and a half… and I’ve just been storming through book three! This one’s my favorite movie… and now it’s my favorite book! This is…. this is incredible! The symbolism in it… you know, the story in general has captivated me on a whole different level… that’s why I said you picked the wrong person to interview ’cause I have this like deep Harry Potter theology about my life and… Prisoner of Azkaban really embodies, you know, that selflessness and that… living for others… the thing that I’ve always loved about the series in general!

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Oooh! So… I was just telling him… there is, you know… the interesting thing about Harry Potter… and if you know about the story of Harry Potter… you know, he’s this kid and he’s born in one world but his parents were killed, so he had to be raised in another world… and later on he goes back to this other world and… some reject him, some accept him, some glorify him, some… you know… hate him… and it’s this… this thing where he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and he is literally just existing as a kid… growing up and learning. I realized, for me… it doesn’t matter what your destiny is, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what your background is, what your future holds… you know... grow, and just live! Take the shackles off yourself and be free! Click To Tweet For me, it hits a little closer to home because as a Christian I look at… I’m like man, Jesus came to this earth and he died to give his life to us for our sins, and I’m like… here’s this kid who came to a world… they didn’t receive him in it… ultimately in the end there’s this correlation to that, and I don’t want to give any spoiler alerts, but… if you haven’t seen it, check it out… but if you know it, you know he ends up giving up a lot of himself for this world and it becomes this beautiful story of love and no matter what… in this story particularly, he has so much anger towards this one character, then in the end, ends up forgiving him and showing grace to him… and it’s so amazing because… he’s just a kid. You know, I’m like, if this kid can embody this kind of love and this kind of passion for life, then… so can I. That means everyday, live it to the fullest… everyday be free… everyday take the shackles off myself, the shackles that people have put on me… my parents have put on me, my friends have put on me, teachers put on you, educators put on you… and, whatever people put on you, it is to your best interest if you just… take them off, and just be you. Be Harry Potter, be free in your little world, learn what you got to learn… and if people say you’re not good enough, whatever… you know, just live free man… be free for who you are. There’s too much beauty in this world to live it beneath shackles and chains. So… that’s what I got from this.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

Umm… oddly enough… I’d recommend this book to everybody and anybody! You know, for kids, it is an imagination roller-coaster! Like, this woman… and even when you know her story of how she wrote it, you start to realize that the woman who wrote this, J.K. Rowling… she’s a conqueror; she fought against so much just to get to a place where she could produce these magical books. And then, so much more as a Christian… you know, I know people who are like, “Ah, no! It’s witchcraft… you shouldn’t read it.” And then I realized one of the greatest authors in my opinion… C.S. Lewis… penned one of the greatest fiction stories… The Chronicles of Narnia… and if you ever get a chance to read those book’s, which I did go back and read… they are an incredible adaptation of what it means to really just… believe! The problem with the day we live in now is, we stop believing. Everything has to be tangible before we believe, and I’m sorry man, like… I want to go back and believe in the mysticism, and believe in the magic, believe in the force of love… the beauty of what magic does and how it makes us feel… I want to believe and I don’t ever want to lose that, and I don’t ever want to lose my imagination, because… what I’m noticing is that the reason why the world looks the way it does is because people stopped having imagination…. people stopped believing for more. Books like this man, they open kids up to the world; to see and to be like… Man, the flick of a wand could create this! And I'm like, Yes! Go out and imagine. Click To Tweet You don’t have a wand, but you have a computer… and you might not have a wand, but you can build something… and go and stretch your imagination… and I don’t care if somebody tells you that you can’t fly; jeez louise… you can fly! Somebody tells you, “You can’t walk on water.” Give it a chance… you might walk on water! People will tell you so much… and I look at it and I’m like… somebody told me one day, “Naj, you will never teleport.” And I was like, “That’s my lifelong dream, to one day teleport.” They kept saying you will never teleport, and I’m like, “Cool… because somebody told somebody they’d never fly… and now look at us… we’re flying!” The minute I stop believing that I’ll teleport… that’s when that dream is dead, and that’s when I will never teleport. And trust me, it sounds silly… look, I’m 36 years old… I’m not actually sitting out here saying, “Yeah, jump off a building and fly!” I’m not talking about being irrational or irresponsible; I’m talking about… just dream! Dream big man! Dream that this world will stop living based on the colors of our souls, thinking that it’s just black or white… no man… dream one day! Look at Martin Luther King… he had a dream, and that dream turned into a reality! We’re still fighting for it, but… that was a dream, and somebody told him lunacy, somebody told him it was magic, that it was imagination… and I just… it’s when we give up on those dreams, when we give up on changing the world, that’s when the world stops changing…and that’s it. I recommend it to everybody and anybody. The thing is... just have your eyes open! Click To TweetLike me… I wrote this book off when it was a movie because I was like, “Witchcraft, Witchcraft, Witchcraft!”… until a friend of mine was like, “Nah, it’s chill. Check it out!” Stop living with your eyes closed, you know… you never know… you’re rejecting stuff for rejecting stuff sake… accept stuff and then sift through it and realize if you don’t want to spit it to somebody else, or if you don’t think you should even eat it… spit it out, you know… put it to the side. But yeah… there’s so much more about it man!

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays

How did you come across the book?

This is my roommates book actually, and he’s traveling in Europe so I borrowed it while he’s gone… and I’m in love with it… it’s great!

So far, what perspective have you gained from this book?

Well… David Foster Wallace’s writing is amazing… his style, if you’re not familiar… it’s like he uses these end notes that are used to put jokes in the middle of… well not always jokes, sometimes their informatory… but uh, in the middle of the text, which is great. But the very first… as far as insight goes… it’s really his vocabulary… it’s amazing so it’s… I mean I’m a song writer so it helps me jot words through my mind. He's also very funny and smart which I love; it's great when someone can mix the two. Click To Tweet It’s sad… unfortunately, he ended up committing suicide… but yes, he was very smart. The specific essay I’m on right now is about him covering the 2000 primaries when John McCain was going against Bush… so, he’s just talking about the times current politics in 2000 so it’s very interesting to read that from his perspective.

Would you recommend it, and if so, to who and why?

I would recommend this for sure! To who? I mean, literally everyone! I think… it’s just…. all of it is amazing… but yeah, anybody who is interested in writing… his grammar is impeccable and his vocabulary is just amazing. So, like I said, as far as songwriting goes, it’s really helping me out a lot just purely through his vocabulary… it’s amazing!

‘The Man In The Arena’: Much More Than A Quote

As I write, I am under the assumption that most of you who will read this post will have also had prior exposure to the ambitiously moving quote from Theodore Roosevelt, known now more prominently as “The Man In The Arena”. Though expression of equal and greater value in regard to it’s surrounding content both initiates and further facilitates these words, given its lot in the grander scheme of oracle derive, for those who have not yet felt the quotes might, enjoy:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

As stated; Moving; Powerful; Inspiring. However, in this short piece of mine what I wanted to share with you all, as mentioned in the preceding passage, was content of equal or greater value, both prior and post Roosevelt’s illustrious recite. Below I will share with you words leading up to the discounting of the critic, to those eloquently following suit with the cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat; again, enjoy:

Prior to the discounted critic:

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement. A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities – all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The role is easy; there is none easier, save only the role of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

In short; Do yourself instead of talking of others doing. Act as opposed to remaining apprehensive. Remain indifferent to the words of others who merely contain the superficial expanse of aggressive words but very little, to non-existent, in their actions fruition. We all contain the ability to act, but we must be courageous in its implement and in its practice. It's OK to be afraid, but fear more the consequence of idle and fear less the act itself. Click To Tweet

Post those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat:

Let those who have, keep, let those who have not, strive to attain, a high standard of cultivation and scholarship. Yet let us remember that these stand second to certain other things. There is need of a sound body, and even more of a sound mind. But above mind and above body stands character – the sum of those qualities which we mean when we speak of a man’s force and courage, of his good faith and sense of honor. I believe in exercise for the body, always provided that we keep in mind that physical development is a means and not an end. I believe, of course, in giving to all the people a good education. But the education must contain much besides book-learning in order to be really good. We must ever remember that no keenness and subtleness of intellect, no polish, no cleverness, in any way make up for the lack of the great solid qualities. Self restraint, self mastery, common sense, the power of accepting individual responsibility and yet of acting in conjunction with others, courage and resolution – these are the qualities which mark a masterful people. Without them no people can control itself, or save itself from being controlled from the outside. I speak to brilliant assemblage; I speak in a great university which represents the flower of the highest intellectual development; I pay all homage to intellect and to elaborate and specialized training of the intellect; and yet I know I shall have the assent of all of you present when I add that more important still are the commonplace, every-day qualities and virtues.

In short; development of the collective should remain the highest standard and consequential aim of a society. However, this starts with the individual, with the lone development and sustain of self-mastery. Thereafter, or in midst of, the greater pursuit of collective progression, not in terms of industry or of capital expansion, but in the realization and in the development of an aware, able, and self-mastered people. To interject with ever relevant and always comprehensible Stoic perspective, to quote Marcus Aurelius, “That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.” We are the bees and our moment of existence, along with our universal position is the bee-hive. We are responsible, so as a people, let us become aware of this responsibility, for the hive and for the bees which make up that hive.”With great responsibility comes great power”, and that power is found in the human practice of doing.

The responsibility we all were handed from our first breath, or rather from our first insight of being and of aware, remains ours to our last breath, or rather in the passing on of character and of understanding on a generational basis; this will be difficult, this will be hard, and this will be ours. Own the duty or be owned by the duty's in-acted upon declare. Click To Tweet And, to further quote Theodore Roosevelt, in moments of our inevitable disbelief or refrain, find strength and courage in these words:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”



Attached below is a copy of Roosevelt’s entire speech, titled “Citizenship In A Republic”; I encourage you to read it. However, as with any reading, understand the context the best you can, take from it what you will and leave behind what you choose. Reading itself is an act of individual understanding, unique to you, your desires, your perspective and your ever evolving existence. And remember, enjoy!

The Man In The Arena – Citizenship In A Republic – Theodore Roosevelt