Here Is No Why

What is the meaning of it all?

In 1995, I remember the hype around the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. At the time The Smashing Pumpkins were the biggest band in the world. The album was audacious. A double CD – my new vinyl reissue is over 4 pieces of black vinyl – spanning a wide array of songs, feelings, and space in between.

There was one song on the album with the title Here Is No Why. Billy Corgan is renowned for cryptic song titles. This is no exception. Finally, I think I know what that title means. And that in itself is quite ironic.

I am developing a new hypothesis regarding the human condition –  specifically our need for explanation and reason. We cause ourselves significant suffering in our need to understand why. But if I’m right, and Billy is too: Here Is No Why.

We live in a world that is ambivalent. It doesn’t care a whit about us. Were the human race to vanish, this world could still continue.

There is no rhyme or reason in nature. It is simply a system of happenings. Things happen. These things are neither good or bad. These things have no intent. They are just happenings.

Most people find the very purposelessness of nature disconcerting. Without a meaning they cannot grasp it. And in seeking to grasp it, define it, study it, and understand, they miss what it essentially is. What does understanding nature get us? It’s a big question worth pondering.

All these happenings around us – and even in us – are neither good nor bad. Our definitions just don’t have meaning where purpose cannot be defined. The truth of happenings is true whether we look at the macro or the micro.

Microbes, viruses, diseases, infections – none are hostile toward you. They have no aim. There is no why. They just are.

When someone disagrees with us, or we have an argument with a loved one, or we miss out on a promotion. We wonder why. We agonise over it. Yet maybe that situation was just a happening. Maybe the other party went with an unexplained feeling. Just another happening.

In our desire to find reason we expend so much energy, and to what end. Does it really benefit us? Do we really need a reason?

This desire of ours perverts everything. Think about reading a book. How often do you just want to finish it. That’s the reason for the activity. Yet it is an activity that needs no reason. Like dancing, why do we dance? We dance because we dance.

Living is like dancing. The meaning of dancing is to dance. The meaning of life is to live. We don’t need a why.

What Fleetwood Mac Taught Me About Obstacles

Obstacles are to be overcome

In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released what is regarded as one of the best albums of all time. Rumours is an outstanding work of art that sounds as great today as it did on its release decades ago. Each member of the band put their heart and soul into the album. As a result all of the 11 tracks stand alone as remarkable in their composition, playing and production.

The making of the album is the stuff of legend. At the time the two couples in the band were dealing with the dissolution of their relationships. Christie McVie and John McVie had divorced. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were falling apart. The fifth member of the band, co-founder Mick Fleetwood was also facing relationship turmoil, his wife was having an affair with a friend of his.

With all this happening within the band they could be forgiven for disbanding and never creating another piece of work together again. Instead their second album became their most successful. Instead of giving in, they focused their emotional energy and used it to create something wonderful.

During the recording of Rumours many of the band members were not communicating except to get the work done. Imagine working in that kind of an environment. Imagine trying to build something when you would really prefer to be as far away from the person you are working with as possible. Lindsey, Stevie, Mick, John and Christie were locked in the recording space for hours upon hours, day after day, crafting something that was greater than each of them individually.

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

The songs on Rumours tell the stories of the members of the band at the time. “Gold Dust Woman” speaks of Stevie’s drug use. “You Make Loving Fun” is about Christie’s new lover. “Second Hand News” and “Never Going Back Again” are Lindsey’s musings about the end of his relationship with Stevie. They were writing songs about each other, and they recorded them together.

We all face obstacles in our life and our work. Sometimes these obstacles feel insurmountable. Sometimes it feels like the best thing to do is just walk away. But what does that lead to? Another feeling of loss. A missed opportunity to create something wonderful.

Ryan Holiday, author and marketing wunderkind, recently published a book titled, “The Obstacle Is The Way”. The title really says it all. Ryan takes lessons from Stoic philosophers and historical figures to illustrate that what we often see as block can often be the path we should be taking. Often those periods of turmoil present opportunities. Sometimes the darkest hours are truly right before the light. Those mistakes, failures, wrongs done to us by others, can all serve us rather than crush us. That is, if we decide to let them.

Obstacle-Holiday

Fleetwood Mac made their obstacle their way, and they produced one of the greatest albums ever recorded. They took what was happening to them and around them and used it to their advantage. Just listen to the album. You can hear the passion in the playing. You can almost feel the tension in the studio. It takes something special to create something of the scope and brilliance of Rumours. Sometimes that special thing is the obstacle that is right in front of you.

Rather than give up and walk away, find your way over, around, or through your obstacle. If nothing more you will learn, you will grow, and you will be better placed to overcome your next obstacle. Persistence and consistency are a must it you want to be more than mediocre. Rumours is anything but mediocre, and it clearly illustrates how we can all turn adversity into strength, and loss into growth.

Get more out of life – a list

Most people you know, and I know do not have to concern themselves with the lower levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We’ve ticked off physiological needs like food and water. We’ve got safety covered off with shelter, law and order, and protection from wild animals. Most have social needs like relationships, love, family and friendship worked out as well as they can. It’s the areas of esteem and self-actualisation that are left for the majority to conquer.

Maslow’s esteem needs include mastery, respect and independence. The self-actualisation needs are related to personal growth, peak experiences and realising our full potential.

Given that we are lucky enough not to have to worry about getting eaten by lions, or sold as slaves, or starving to death we can focus on getting more out of our lives. Before you move on take a moment to being thankful for your life. If you are reading this you are one of the lucky ones.

A growing list of ways to get more out of life:

  1. Meditate daily
  2. Learn a language
  3. Travel to a new country every year
  4. Create your own bucket list
  5. Volunteer your time for a worthy cause
  6. Write a memoir
  7. Learn a musical instrument
  8. Apprentice yourself to a master artisan
  9. Maintain a journal
  10. Connect with a group of new people
  11. Read a book each week
  12. Take a short course in an area that intrigues you
  13. Join a sports team
  14. Take up chess
  15. Write and publish a song
  16. Grow your own food
  17. Send a letter of thanks to someone your admire
  18. Move to a new city
  19. Soak up the sun every day
  20. Start your day with gratitude
  21. Teach others what you know

 

Got something to add?
Leave a comment.

On being responsible

Without doubt, the most important lesson that I have learned in recent memory is that I am responsible for what happens in my life. That means you are responsible for your life too.

We all need to start taking more responsibility. This extends past being responsible for our actions, it’s also about being responsible for our thoughts and feelings. And it’s also about grasping the truth that we are the cause of our own suffering more than any external factor.

I used to walk around thinking that the world had it in for me. That the cards were always against me. That there was some trick that I didn’t know, some key that would unlock the mystery of my own suffering.

The world is not hostile, it is ambivalent. Mother Nature, the economy, the government et al… it’s not that they have it in for us, it’s just they they really don’t care for us either. We are the ones that care too much. We think there’s some conspiracy to make our lives tough.

I’m really not attempting to write a sermon here, so please stay with me.

I have found, of late, that taking the time to filter the world through a lens of personal responsibility is leading to some great outcomes. Let me give you a quick example: if I couldn’t locate my keys, my historic reaction was to curse everyone under the sun for moving my keys. This never helped me actually find them. And often saw me finally get into the car all wound up. These days, I stop myself and think, “where did I leave my keys?” Boom! I am empowered. The responsibility is mine. That’s where the keys are. The world is a wonderful place.

You and I each get multiple opportunities each day to take responsibility for our lives. When we do so we take the power back. We give ourselves the authority to grow, to learn, and to get shit done. That’s powerful stuff right there.

Five awesome ways to relieve stress. You’ll love #4!

You’re human. You’re going to get stressed. Stress happens. You have to accept that if you don’t plan on going stir crazy. The cool news is you can relieve stress in some pretty cool ways. In fact, the five stress relievers introduced below not only reduce stress, they make you feel good. Backed by a bit of science and a fair amounts personal research, here they are…

1. Get outdoors

Most folks are trapped indoors in a job or situation that has them in the same space day in and day out. This is not healthy. Think about it. Where is the air fresher? Where is the sunshine? Where is the room to move. Our bodies crave and need fresh air, sunshine and interaction with the greater environment.

Vitamin D, full spectrum light, clean air…it’s all good for you. If you’re stuck inside all day your body misses out on some of the stuff it needs. So, get outdoors, move about and enjoy yourself.

2. Play

Children know of the importance of play. They play all day. They laugh. They run around. Adults aren’t so savvy. We focus on work. We forget about letting our hair down and enjoying ourselves.

You can find time for play. Perhaps you should schedule it into your day.

“Play It Away” by Charlie Hoehn is a great read. Grab a free copy (just click the link), read, and play it away.

3. Meditate

Your mind takes a hammering if you work all day and don’t get any down time. There’s a lot of distractions and noise going on in the world. A lot of it is inside your head. If you don’t give your brain some downtime you are sure to feel stressed.

Removing the majority of sensory inputs and quieting our mind will help you relax. Meditation is a proven way of calming your mind, and reducing the internal chatter.

Guided mindfulness meditations – like this one from Sam Harris – are a great place to start.

4. Have sex

Get between the sheets. Rub up against someone. Get your rocks off. No secrets here. Sex is good for you. No need to feel strange about it.

Sex releases some fairly potent chemicals within your system, like Oxytocin which helps with healing and counteracts stress. You get the idea. Let’s not get too sciency and ruin the fun. Sex relieves tension and makes you feel good. Make sure you’re getting enough.

5. Exercise

If you don’t get enough exercise from tip #4 then other modes of exercise are great for stress relief too. Lift weights, go for a run, play a sport, take up martial arts or yoga. I’m normally fairly prescriptive about what exercise I recommend but for the purposes of stress relief, just get moving. Your body releases some cool chemicals when you get moving. Your joints and muscles will be happier too especially if you sit at a desk all day.

 

Take control of your life. Find time for the activities that you know will make you feel better. It’s not being selfish, you’ll actually be more productive and more fun to be around when you’re more relaxed and happier.