“But you cannot understand life and its mysteries as long as you try to grasp it. Indeed, you cannot grasp it, just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket. If you try to capture running water in a bucket, it is clear that you do not understand it and that you will always be disappointed, for in the bucket the water does not run. To have running water you must let go of it and let it run.”
― Alan W. Watts, “The Wisdom of Insecurity”
Beginning at a young age, we are told that we need to have a plan. What we want to do in life, what our lives are supposed to look like in the future, which direction we’re going.. We have to make decisions that will supposedly influence our whole lives. It begins in school, when we have to decide which courses to take. Because, of course, the courses we choose need to be coherent with the careers we want to pursue. After school we then must ask ourselves the “vital” question: “What now?”
And let’s be honest. How many people actually know at the age of 16, 17 or 18 what they want to do with the rest of their lives? I myself can say: I had no damn clue.
This decision becomes so exorbitantly important in that moment, because if we don’t know what we want to do then, then that pretty much stands for a bad start into the adult-world. “Well, he/she’s getting off to a bad start.. the kid doesn’t even have any idea yet, what he/she wants to do with his/her life..”
If after school we just want to travel, get out into the world and make some great experiences- “Oh god no, a gap in your CV? How would that look to future employers?”
If we don’t know what exactly we want to do with our lives, maybe we’ll just study something that we find “kind of interesting” to delay the time until we have to actually decide what to do.
Those who already know at an early age that they, for example, want to become a doctor, seem to be the lucky ones in this whole life-decision-scenario
But what’s all this actually good for? Why do we have to determine the course of our entire future at such an early state in our lives? Or even later in life? And even if we do decide on one thing- who says that we have to stick to it our entire lives?
In my opinion it’s the expectations of our surroundings that make us feel the need to constantly plan our lives ahead. First school, then College, a career, family and retirement. And then after retiring, THEN we are allowed to actually start living, because then we have the necessary money to actually live happily, right? As if only after working for 5 decades, we have “earned” our right to enjoy life.
The most staggering thing to me is the infamous “10-year plan”. Of course, it is without a doubt very important to set goals for yourself and pursue the dreams you have. And making plans and To-Do lists to keep these dreams in sight is cool aswell. But what if, after planning 10 years ahead, something gets in the way of that plan? Life, for instance. With all its surprise turns and twists. Then we’ll be standing there, with only our plans, our ideas and visions of a life, we might not be able to realize anymore.
Life is unpredictable. And while we’re busy trying to constantly control it, grasp or hold on to it, to form and shape it into what we want it to be, our Here and Now gradually slips out of our hands. While we are mentally already living in the future, we miss out on everything that makes up our present and thus, missing out on actually living.
Because to live, means to expect nothing and everything at the same time.
Our fear of letting go and taking ourselves a little less seriously can be seen in many parts of our lives. We desperately cling to things that are supposed to give our lives a certain “meaning”- our careers, God, a partner.. We become dependent on these instances and as soon as these disappear, they disappoint us, we get fired or someone breaks up with us, our whole world falls apart. But do we actually need that one thing, that purpose, to give our life meaning?
A good example, I think: Relationships. Constantly you hear things like: “I couldn’t live without…”, “…has given my life purpose.” and “…is my everything/ means the entire world to me!”
Sounds extremely romantic, but if one person means “everything” to someone, what remains when that person isn’t there anymore or the relationship fails? And isn’t it bad for a relationship to be so dependent on one another? Where’s the personal freedom or growth in that scenario? Who are we as individuals, apart from that relationship?
In the process we often make that person, that we attach such great importance to, our own, as if they are ours to have. This person or this relationship is supposed to make us happy, give our lives meaning and belong to us. We want to “have” it in our hands, maybe control it and worst case: change it/him/her to our likings.
In reference to the quote above: We can try to “capture” a person, a thing or life itself, just like the running water in the bucket, but it will never really work. We might “have” or “own” the water, but it will not run anymore and therefore will lose its entire character and uniqueness. The water loses everything that makes it what it is.
In my opinion we need to give those exterior instances in our lives less meaning and instead believe more in ourselves and find that purpose in ourselves. Just because we don’t assign the purpose of our lives to a certain thing or person, doesn’t mean that our life doesn’t have one.
Above all though, we need to live in the moment. In the Here and Now. And if something goes wrong in life, we just need to think to ourselves: “Fuck it.”, get right back up and keep on going.
And even though it’s not always is: try to let go more.
What are your thoughts on leading an unsecured life? Do you think we have a sole purpose in this earth? Give me your opinions! 🙂