Nothing is Something

1269 Relax and Succeed - They are the chosen onesThey were sitting in a coffee shop. The decidedly unsettled woman twitched a statement his direction. “I can’t paint.”

“You painted all of those beautiful paintings in your house, and quite a few hanging in other people’s houses too, like mine.”

“There’s no point.”

“You enjoy it.”

“Not like this.”

“This isn’t painting, this talking about painting.”

She was already done her coffee. She leaned over toward the garbage and ditched it. “This is a kind of torture, being stuck like this. Constant procrastination, no work. No achievement, no sense of self-respect. But how could I think I was gonna get that from something so fated? So pointless?”

“I like the paintings I own of yours. I take pleasure from seeing them. Don’t you enjoy people liking what you’ve offered?”

“Praise is uncomfortable for everyone. It’s too rare. Feels weird. And my problem is bigger than procrastination–although that’s huge–my problem is metaphysical. It’s… philosophical. It’s spiritual. It’s so huge it’s not even my problem it’s the problem. With everything”

“Oh oh. Then it’s a problem for me too. What is this problem we have again?”

“Everything comes from somewhere.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“It’s just a giant universe of pool balls, clicking and clacking away. We live inside a math formula.”

“What?”

She caught the eye of the bearded guy behind the counter then looked at her companion. “You want another one?” He signalled he still had 90% of his existing drink. She held up one finger and the barista nodded in understanding. “This whole thing. Everything in the world was predetermined by every other thing. It’s all just billiard balls.”

“I’m going to need a bit more detail.”

“Just think about it: why are we speaking English?”

“…Because we’re in Canada? Because our parents speak English?”

“Exactly! See! We had no choice. English came to us, we didn’t pick it off a list of German and Japanese and Italian and Swahili. Our lifestyles. Why do our Dad’s both own businesses–because their Dad’s did.”

“We’ve got friends who own businesses whose parents worked at jobs.”

“Yeah, but those people didn’t want to be like their parents, so in a weird way the parent still dictated what they did. It was all inevitable. All billiard balls. Every song, based on the notes developed by others, using the timing systems developed by others, and played on instruments invented by others. Everything is so derivative. There’s no point.”

1269 Relax and Succeed - Millions long for immortalityThat last statement shot the eyebrows of her companion up. He was thoughtful while she fidgeted even more, checking her phone. He broke her attention away from it when he spoke. “What if it’s not balls?”

“What?”

“What if it’s not balls? What if the reason it feels like there’s no point is that we’re not all individual balls in search of individual achievements. What if we’re all just one big flowing mass? Then aren’t your actions both kind of predetermined and also awake and alive? Isn’t it possible to be fully occupied with fulfilling our ‘own’ aspects of that flow? Doesn’t an ocean crash on anew on every shore? Isn’t that both ours and the–and part of the ocean of everything?”

She seemed genuinely impressed that it hung together in the end, but it didn’t line up with what she already believed, so her initial reaction was rejection. “That’s too easy. It ignores the nihilism of it all. I cannot paint with any kind of meaning. All anyone is ever going to get is just another reflection of every force I ever encountered as life unfolded me like a predetermined plan.”

“Can’t all of that be true and still leave you space to feel like you’re a part of a great oneness? Isn’t that what a muse is? The hand of God needs fingers right?”

Eyebrow. “Hand of God?”

“I was shooting for poetic.”

“Ah… no.” In the background the barista was foaming her latte.

“You’re the one going on about metaphysics and nihilism. I’m not even sure either one of us knows what those words mean exactly.”

“I just want my life to have meaning. Is that so much to ask from the universe?”

“How would I know? What’s meaning? Meaning changes as we mature anyway. I don’t see the crap we did at 10 years old the same way now that I did then. I can only assume that since everything else in my life is like that, now will be like that too. So what’s meaning? Meaning’s some floating idea we temporarily layer over an experience or a memory. But what’s so great about that? People have different opinions about the same book. Why can’t that be wonderful? Why do they have to agree on a meaning?”

“What’s the point?”

“That’s like asking for a meaning. Can’t life be the point? Can experience itself be the point? What do people who find out they’re dying want? They want more experiences. They might have had a lifetime of crappy ones and they’ll still want more when you tell them it’s over. There has to be something to that. Picasso was billiard balls too. I remember you getting pretty excited about Picasso. Wasn’t that joy real? Wasn’t that a thing? Isn’t that a point? To just…–live that? Doesn’t the universe need witnesses?”

This catches her attention. “Witness?”

“What if we’re not here to do anything? What if we’re just here to be? To see it. What if we’re just all witness-actors in the universe? What if this whole wondrous thing only happens because each part does its part, for every other part?”

1269 Relax and Succeed - A life worth living“Can’t be. I’m sitting here. I’m not doing anything. I’ve stopped the flow of the balls.”

“Ooo. Look at you. The grand ball stopper. The whole universe? Come on. But: what if this procrastination is just you misunderstanding that this is not when you’re supposed to create? What if you’re living this, but you don’t even understand why yet, like the Kierkegaard quote? But what if this is all part of that big flow? What if you being stuck is perfect? I don’t know art, but I’d bet another coffee that Picasso got stuck too.”

She’s thinking. This logical explanation has thrown a wrench into her nihilistic negativity. Despite herself, she’s finding some gleeful exuberance bubbling down low. “I dunno. Seems too easy. And where’s it leave us anyway?”

“Under that explanation there is no ‘us’ and no ‘where’ anyway, so it’s a nonsense question.”

The barista drops down her coffee and quickly swipes her cash card. While he’s going through the motions she continues her conversation. “Right. Oneness. Flow. That was good”

It’s as though he’s realising it more than stating it. “If everywhere is the same place then your lostness is inside foundness. Right?”

She’s confused herself. “Now you’re getting too deep for me.”

“You wanna get out of here?”

“Actually if it’s cool with you, I think I might head home. This actually makes me want to paint.”

“What’s the point though?”

She tosses a sugar wrapper at him. “My own joy of the doing.”

“That sounds worth it to me.”

“I’ll hate you during the hard parts.”

“What are the hard parts?”

“The parts on which there is no paint.”

“Ah. I get hated right to the end then.”

“I get a painting out of it though.”

“A nihilistic painting?”

“I dunno. I’m going to experiment with flow.”

“I guess I’ll wait to see it.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Prioritizing Happiness

You spend a lot of time managing the your time, your money and your possessions. The roads are bad, so you’d better leave early for work or you’ll get in trouble, you need to get on line and transfer the money for those bills due today, and you have to call to make that appointment to get your car in for service. Fair enough. Modern life has many aspects that 612 Relax and Succeed - Sure sign of spiritual grownneed managing. But how much time do you spend on your happiness? How much time to you dedicate to managing that?

A lot of people will tick off the box for I have a spiritual life because they do things like argue against positive social media postings about specific religions, or maybe they’re more open minded, but they still won’t know much more than what they don’t believe. They’ll post philosophical quotes that have meaning to their ego-life during a time of crisis or recovery, but very few people continue to seek answers when they’re not in a state of despair. The idea isn’t that we whip out enlightenment when we need it. It must be a way of life. A way of more profoundly enjoying good times as well as a form of solace for when we’re traversing difficult terrain.

Strangely enough, good spiritual practice looks a lot like an optimist who’s objective is to wring as much enjoyment out of each day as possible. Like some painter on a giant canvass of life, we all crawl through our lives, painting whatever feelings we’re having at the time. And while many people paint ugly worries or regrets about how poorly they think they’re finished painting will be, a healthy person simply focuses on the brush stroke they’re on. And sure enough, if enough of those individual strokes are made with love and appreciation, it turns out that also results in the most beautiful paintings. But those are for the guests at your funeral. It’s the act of painting that is your life, so make sure you’re choosing paints you like the colours of, and use brushes that are comfortable, and then follow your heart because why one Earth would you ever assume that it wouldn’t be a good idea to do so?

612 Relax and Succeed - The greatest discovery of my generationIt is the nature of painting that we should all hit times where we are given pause, and at those times we may look back and be startled to see how much ground we’ve covered and how much our painting has developed. And inspired by that progress, we’re often ready again to put our heads into the present moment and continue to create an enjoyable life one brush stroke at a time. Because what counts isn’t the noun-painting, it’s the verb-painting.

Stop worrying about what other people think of your art. It’s a waste of time because they’re doing exactly the same thing you’re doing. They’re worried about what you think of their painting. That’s what egos do. They compare. Your spirit though… your spirit just wants to paint because it knows there is no going wrong because there is no judge of canvasses. There is only the paint, the canvass, you, and the opportunity to create a life. Don’t waste it painting ugly strokes. The choice is always yours. Avoid want. Paint with appreciation and you are guaranteed a beautiful result.

Now go make your life into a work of art. There’s nothing stopping you. 😉

peace. s

The Friday Dose #53

610FD Relax and Succeed - Alexa Meade Paints Reality

Today’s Dose is about amazing people doing amazing things. We’ll start off with artist Alexa Meade. And no, that woman is not holding anything. Alexa found canvas a little boring and so she decided to go out into the real world and she started painting it. The results are surprising and informative about the art of painting. That’s Alexa up there in the photo of her work. She done some amazing stuff. Have a look here:

Alexa Meade Paints the World

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Next we’ll go to Lars Anderson. As a kid Lars started noticing a consistency in ancient paintings and hieroglyphics that featured archery. Lars learned that as the gun showed up and bows and arrows were seen as pointless, we lost an entire set of amazing skills that we’re completely capable of. Lars proves this by doing things you’ll think are impossible. In fact, Lars makes you wonder what is possible for human beings. It certainly seems that people like this are suggesting our limits as a species far exceed our imagination to pursue them. You really won’t believe what belief and a lot of practice has done for Lars:

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Next we’ll head to more amazing people prodding us all to reimagine the world filled with bold and brave people all feeding off each other’s feats. Humanity expanding rapidly because through the web we can all see each other’s achievements and we can applaud them and honour them by doing something even more amazing. Human capability has changed enormously in my lifetime and I fully expect that to only accelerate. Who knows what kind of video I might be able to post here in a year or three… For now, here’s some inspiring, amazing and beautiful people:

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And finally, just to bring your heartrate back down a bit, here’s one of the many cool ways that mathematics can represent the world. This is remarkably beautiful and meditative and in a way these structures are entirely natural, although the required humans to bring them into such sharp focus. They’re rather mesmerizing. Enjoy:

Blooms: Strobe-Animated Sculptures from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

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We all think of ourselves in far too limited ways. Stop telling yourself why you can’t do things, and start wondering if you can. Because you just never know what might happen if only you give it a shot. Have yourself an outstanding weekend everyone!

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!

Enlightenment vs Ego

Life is stunningly simple. But you keep making it complicated by asking yourself questions about how to live it. Your challenge is in the question itself: it’s utter nonsense. There is no correct way to live life. You don’t have to figure out the right religion, you don’t have to be forgiven for anything, you don’t need to achieve anything, or be regarded in any way for your life to be successful. Success is existence itself. It’s an amazing opportunity. The question is, why are you wasting it by sitting fearfully still, asking yourself unanswerable questions?

64 Relax and Succeed - If you hear a voice within you sayDo you want to know the difference between Enlightenment and Ego? Life is like you’re in a big glass room that looks out onto other glass rooms. In the middle of every room is a big white cylindrical canvas, and a huge collection of brushes and paints to choose from. Enlightenment is when you delight yourself by the act of painting. Maybe you don’t even stick to the canvas. Maybe you paint the glass walls too. Maybe you paint “frames” on the glass to honour people in adjacent glass rooms. Or maybe you paint over top of them and block them out completely. It doesn’t really matter to the Enlightened person. What they’re painting isn’t what’s important—it’s that they’re painting.

An Ego on the other hand is always at the window, studying what paints other egos got, and studying the paintings they do with those colours. If other people are using green, or rectangles, then the Ego thinks it should too. If someone else paints over one of their shared walls, the Ego will think that has something to do with their side of the wall and it will pointlessly rub their side of the glass to remove it.

64a Relax and Succeed - Some day you may be as old as I amAn Ego also tries to judge the paintings around them. An Ego tries to have a “better” painting, even though they have no way of ascertaining what “better” would mean. As it is, because the canvases are cylindrical, everyone gets a slightly different view of each other’s life-work, so there is no objective way to judge anyway. Despite those facts the Ego gets very little painting done while they’re in the room of life because they’re either too busy judging other people’s paintings, or they’re too busy worrying about other people’s judgments about their own painting.

Do you want to compare yourself to others by complaining about, or being victimized by the colours others got that you didn’t? Or do you want to take the amazing collection of colours you do have available and then paint with those? Do you want to die with a blank canvas because you were pressed up against the glass; worried, frustrated, angry and sad about the abilities you saw around you? Or do you want to paint?

Remember, there is no “show” at the end. There is no judging. No one will win. The people looking in the windows and judging are just other Egos. What they think in their rooms is meaningless. What counts is what you do in the space of your own consciousness. Because that is where you can turn your life into a work of art.

It really is that simple. Just paint.

peace. s