He told me he wanted to stop thinking so much. He told me
his mind works overtime. I asked him how he knew. I asked
him by what standards he determines his mind "works
overtime", by what standards he determines his mind works
more than any other human being's mind?
He got my point, but he wasn't done. He had a shopping
list of things he wanted to fix and change about himself. It
seemed to me his quest in life is to become
different than he is, to become different than what he
is. He said he worried incessantly, and he wanted to
stop worrying. He said he procrastinated. He said he put off
doing everything until the last possible minute, and then he said
didn't enjoy doing anything because he was always rushed.
He said he wanted to stop procrastinating but he put off
stopping procrastinating (I smiled when he said that). He said he loved
his girlfriend but didn't want to hurt her by telling her what he was
feeling: that she isn't the one for him, and
he wanted out of the relationship so he could scout around
and find the one for him. You know, he went
on and on and on. He had it on
People like him will never get to a place of satisfaction
in their lives until they can be with themselves just as they really
are, with nothing added and with nothing taken away, exactly the way
they are and exactly the way they aren't. The trouble is their
desperate barrage of attempts to be more, to be better, to
be different than they are, completely annihilates any
chance they'll ever get to experience themselves as alright exactly the
way they are and exactly the way they aren't.
So I asked him if he could see himself as a dog who was trying not
to be a dog. I wanted him to start to let in the
of it all. He was hell bent on fixing and changing himself
until, as he envisioned, he would become more, until he would become
better, until he would become different. He'd convinced himself once he
was more, once he was better, once he was different, then
he'd be alright.
I asked him, instead, if he could be the way he is - not changing
anything, not fixing anything. A dog, I said, can't not be a dog. Even
if he succeeded in becoming more, even if he succeeded in becoming
better, even if he succeeded becoming different, then he'd simply be a
more dog trying not to be a more dog, a
better dog trying not to be a better dog, a
different dog trying not to be a different
dog. I wanted him to get he was trapped.
Some say it's the human condition to aspire to be what we
aren't. Life is a game, says Werner Erhard, in which what is
not is more important than what is. It's more than
mere prudence applying Werner's view to inventing possibilities for the
future - it's plain smart. If John Fitzgerald Kennedy hadn't
done it, we wouldn't have Tranquility Base on the
Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga
Madiba Tata (uBawom)Khulu Mandela
hadn't done it,
would still be segregated today. But when it's applied to
who we are (actually, in this conversation it's better
said "when it's applied to what we are"), it's the start
of something hopeless. It's the beginning of an extremely laborious
trek down a very long tunnel, at the end of which there's
no cheese (nor, in this example, doggy Beggin'
Strip treats either).
A dog trying not to be a dog is an apt analogy for a human being trying
not to be a human being, a human being trying not to have thoughts,
a human being trying not to have desires, a human being trying not
to have anger, a human being trying not to worry, a human being trying
not to procrastinate.
You could bend this analogy a bit. You could ask "What
about a caterpillar trying not to be a caterpillar? Can't a caterpillar
be a butterfly?". Yes, a caterpillar can be a butterfly. But then it
would be as
for a butterfly trying not to be a butterfly as a dog trying not to be
All analogies break down eventually. Life isn't an analogy. Life is the
real deal. I assert it actually speaks to who we are as human
beings and the fundamental difficulty we have from time to time being
what we are as human beings, that we look for an
out in the analogy: we see the caterpillar becoming a
butterfly as a kind of escape route. For us human beings,
however, there's none. It's truly as
for a human being trying not to be a human being as it is for a dog
trying not to be a dog.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy's possibility which resulted in Tranquility
Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga
Madiba Tata (uBawom)Khulu Mandela's
possibility of an integrated
aside, if you aren't coming from what you really are, if
you aren't alright with what you really are, then all
you're doing is fixing or changing things. To authentically be able to
create something new, you first have to be able to create
nothing. That is to say you first have to be totally
alright with exactly what you are without fixing
or changing anything!
In other words, first the dog has to be a dog because that's what he
is. That's the starting point. First the dog has to
not try to be not a dog. That's how to get real.
First the dog has to be a dog - which is only obvious when
you stop procrastinating long enough to take the time to consider it.