Submitted Date 05/12/2019

The following is a piece I wrote a couple of months ago. It's corny. It's raw. It's personal and in-your-face. But it's close to my heart and means a lot, and I would love to share it with all of you:

Nothing. That's what I know. I know nothing; I am nothing. No one knows anything; no one is anybody. We're insignificant beings floating on a meaningless rock soaring through an incomprehensibly vast cosmos. We like to think we are something, but we really aren't. We're an infinitesimal ripple in the waters of an endless ocean. In fact, there is really no reason to live. Everything we hold dear – the passions, the loves, the excitement – is non-existent. It is all based in an illusion.

This madness crept into my life slowly. I would be living the life I loved, experiencing the world around me when this darkness would set in and cloud the horizon of my thought. It was a sensation I could never really explain. It seemed to be an instantaneous understanding – a feeling, rather than a knowledge.

Bit by bit the vulnerable territories of my thought were relentlessly overrun and conquered by this realization, and when it finally anchored its domain in my mind, I was going to kill myself. It was simple, really. I was going to somehow acquire a handgun, go deep into the woods of the Wasatch that were so beloved to me, and there – immersed in the magnificent beauty of the now meaningless universe – I would put a bullet in my brain, ending my life. Nothing would change. I was nothing before, and I would remain nothing. The little ripple that was me would disappear, and the waters of the universe would continue to flow unaffected.

This was quite a monumental and sudden turnaround in my life. Just prior to this mental, emotional, and spiritual blitz, I had been on top of the world making incredible, profound memories and gaining new, deep insights into the world. Life was pure ecstasy for a brief period of time. I was leading an enjoyable and fulfilling life. I was excited for the future and all the wonderful places it would take me. I had strapped in for the perfect ride ahead of me, completely submitting myself to its will. Blinded by expectation, I failed to realize that life's ride is a rollercoaster.

I was about to learn a valuable, earth-shattering lesson in duality. Beginning with one memorable, inspiring June night – beneath the stars and beside a serene mountain lake illuminated by a warm firelight – I had begun a deep inward search, guiding me to profound insights about life. This journey led me through worlds of new literature and ideas, and the lens through which I viewed the world began to shift significantly. Brilliant thinkers, speakers, and writers such as Rupert Spira and Alan Watts seemed to address me directly as entire new worlds of thought awakened in my mind. The concepts were nothing new, but were simply refiltered and planted in the fertile soil of my understanding. These concepts blossomed radiantly, and life gained a new meaning. There seemed to be a perfect culmination of all my experience, and suddenly the meaning of life was simply to live – to flow with the river of life. The expectations, weights, and stresses of objective life dissipated into a gust of magnificent understanding. I seemed to have found a grander knowledge than any I would ever gain through a formal education. I had begun the ascent to "enlightenment".

Then I took a nose dive into regions of despair and madness. I had just been on the grand ascent, but as I gained it, I realized that the knowledge fueling this ascent was not one-dimensional. Just as I found peace and purpose in my meaningless place in the universe, I began to realize that there was equal potential to feel distress and dread. Just as my love for all the world and its life swelled and filled my entirety, I recognized my capacity to harbor appalling thoughts towards people and embrace hatred. I began to notice a consistent polarity in everything surrounding me. Though the ocean was beautiful and calming, it was equally terrifying and ugly. Though a starry night sky was profound and elegant, it was equally dread-inducing.

I reached a point where I simply became numb. What was anything? The meaningful connections that I had with the world and held so dear no longer meant anything. I was able to play my part in them like some robot, but they ceased to be dear to me. It was then, when I had been overcome by this maddening numbness, that I was going to end my life. My search for knowledge and understanding had been successful – I had learned and experienced many things – but it led to this unhappy, un-anything conclusion. It all seemed to be paradoxical; all that I had learned was that I was nothing at all.

Despite the significant weight of this period in my life, it surprisingly passed quickly. I was only crippled by this mentality for a few weeks before it withdrew just as suddenly as it had arrived. My human condition did not permit it to stay. It was this human condition – this experience we all share – that allowed me to begin to use the knowledge and understanding I had gained over many months and years to tap into the beauty of life instead of the horror. It was then that I gained another valuable truth, and perhaps the most valuable of all truths I've gained: it is entirely our choice to focus on the positive aspects of life. Yes, the dual nature of existence means there are an equal amount of negative aspects, but it also means that we are free to shift our perception as positively as we please. That is the most wonderful and miraculous knowledge.

The ride of life promptly took a new turn, and I was once again ascending. With this new, grand understanding that is was entirely in my power to live a positive life, I re-kindled the flames of my past passions and rooted myself in the foundation of those dear connections. My excitement about life and living returned stronger than ever, and I was a wiser, brighter being. I realized that yes, we are nothing – just a ripple in the vast ocean – but in that we are also everything. Just as the ripple is inseparable from the ocean, we are one with the universe. We are not just an imperceptible fragment of it, we are it. We only need to perceive it to be so. Life then ceases to be so against us – we simply flow with its waters and experience what the tide has in store for us.

With this brightness returned to me, I resolved to focus on making the best of life. I leapt back into the realm of ideas and concepts fresh to me – ancient Eastern philosophies such as Lao-Tzu's Tao Te Ching among them – and the lens through which I view the world widened to dimensions I had never before experienced. I saw everything through a newer light than before, the world gaining a new quality of majesty to it. I hiked more. I wrote more. I deepened my relationships with others and my love for humankind reached new heights. I developed an even more fervent passion for music than before. I even began creating a career out of what I love. Life was once again ecstasy, and everything I did, I did to reinforce and sustain my connection to life and the universe, because with connection we are everything instead of nothing.

All of this knowledge became available to me not through textbooks or test scores, but through the greatest teacher out there: experience. Experience is education, and through this education I have realized that life is what we make it. We may not control every aspect of it, but we do control how we approach and handle it. It's not always pretty, but just as heads is always attached to tails, there is beauty where we choose to find it. Perception is reality, so let us make life wonderful.

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