Submitted Date 03/28/2019

Life’s hard and then you die. That’s one way to look at it. You could go through life just shouldering its difficulties and surviving to live the next day. You could fight the struggles and get down when you are unable to stop them. You could carve out little moments here and there of happiness, although they may be a novelty. You could live in constant stress and worry, negativity and apathy. Or you could let it flow.


Now, who am I to give you any advice on life? What do I know? Well, simply put: nothing. I know nothing; I am nothing. I’m a boy who turned 18 not even a month ago. I have yet to graduate high school – to get a taste of “real life” as some like to say. I would say I’ve had an overall good life thus far – I haven’t experienced true struggle as some have. I’m nothing more than a dreamer, and these are just the thoughts that keep my dreams alive.


We like to think we are in control of our lives. I know I would like to be able to say that I know exactly how I will find my success; there’s always that ideal mental painting of the perfect future. For me, it’s this: I become a successful freelance writer, photographer, and musician, and I make enough to sustain the lifestyle I want. I buy a hippie travel van and I travel the world with my beautiful Border Collie, currently 8 months old and snoozing in my lap. When I have the funds, I go overseas to volunteer for however long – whether it be a matter of weeks, months, or years. I make a genuinely positive impact on the world, and I build my own character as well. After an adventure-filled 20s, I find a lovely wife and settle down somewhere nice to have a family. Here I get started on some of my entrepreneurial endeavors and further my financial success with more things I am passionate about. I am able to retire early and do all sorts of things with my kids and wife – hopefully lots of camping and hiking. And I write. I write my days away, finally completing an extensive personal fiction that has been in development since I was 12 years old, as well as other various types of literature and ruminations. And after many years of great living with my family, I die peacefully and return to the universe.


Ideally. But all that is not going to happen, is it? Why? Because I tried to force it into being, and that simply will not work. That’s like trying to force only selected portions of the ocean into a specially designed canal. It’s impossible, and by trying to do so I created expectations that have the potential to only be unfulfilled. Then, if something doesn’t transpire in the way I had hoped, I find myself disappointed and I resist it. With this only comes tension and negativity, and when we fall into this spiral we cease to live. We are so focused on fulfilling our expectations that we do not embrace the opportunities that arise in their place.


One of my favorite writers and speakers is Alan Watts. I’d imagine you have heard of him, as he is fairly well-known. Popular in the 50s, 60s, and 70s (and even today, though he has passed away), he was magnificent at bridging Eastern and Western philosophy and spiritual living. An analogy he often makes – and one common within the subject – likens life to water. Whether it be the ocean or a stream, water seems to reflect life in a most profound way, and when you begin to recognize this, you gain an entirely new lens through which you view this human experience. If we consider life to be a stream, it becomes wonderfully clear why it is so silly to try to control it. The water has nowhere to go but downstream, and it will do so until the end of time. We can – to an extent – redirect its course, but gravity will continue to pull the water downwards; resisting that – attempting to have it flow upwards – is entirely futile. Say you don’t like the direction the water is flowing and you wish to stop it. To do so, you dam the stream. You have done nothing. You made none of the progress you had hoped (redirecting the water upstream) as it is physically impossible to do so. Instead, you just created a stagnant pool of water, and now it flows nowhere. Its energy has come to a complete halt, and a life without energy is not life at all.


Do not live a stagnant life. This does not mean abandon all aspirations and cares. Just because I understand that my ideal future will not happen in every detail I have painted it does not mean I won’t continue to pursue those dreams. But, when my waters of life run into a boulder and are redirected to a course I did not anticipate, I won’t dam them in hopes of them returning upstream to the course I had planned for them to travel.


Another wonderful analogy used by Alan is one that resonates with me very much given my passion for music. Just as water flows, so does music, and we all love good music. A good song upon ending leaves us thrilled and satisfied, similarly to how we hope our lives will conclude. However, the point of a song is not to get to the end the quickest, is it? Otherwise, the best songs would just be “one big crashing chord”. But no, we get our enjoyment from music from what leads up to the conclusion – a musical journey (consisting of its own phrases and cadences). If life is a grand song, we must not focus on simply getting to the end. Learn to flow with and enjoy the music wherever it takes you!


In the end, life will happen. We can influence it and somewhat direct it, but it is going to happen as it will and we cannot control that. Resisting it will lead to nothing but tension and unfulfillment, so instead flow with its energy and see where it takes you, and you might be surprised at where you end up.

This is what is keeping me going, and hopefully it can help you too.

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