fear

“I’d spent my life believing that people were, at heart, kind and good. This is what the world had shown me. But I couldn’t find anything good about my captors. If humans could be this monstrous, maybe I’d had everything wrong. If this was the world, I didn’t want to live in it. That was the scariest and most disabling thought of all.”

– Amanda Lindhout, A House in the Sky.

You asked me what I was afraid of
I said I didn’t know
because I was afraid of answering

afraid of feeling my own fear
because I am scared, and that scares me

I’m so scared that everything I hold to be real isn’t true. I’m scared that people aren’t fundamentally good. I’m scared that we have no purpose and no importance. I’m scared that it’s all an illusion created by chemical pathways and it will mean nothing at the end. I’m scared of being alone and having nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one. I’m scared that nothing I do really matters. I’m scared that I’m not special, that nothing I feel is real or unique or important, it’s all just evolution and flawed perception. I’m scared that I’m not good enough. That none of it matters, not even love.

All of my beliefs are made to counteract my fear. I tell myself that these fears aren’t real, that love is, because I think maybe, even if it’s not true, it can help to get me through. Because the only fact of the matter is I’m alive.

So I’ve built up these complex logical systems, optimistic justifications for every doubt I think about 
created so many little reasons why we do matter, why good is real, how reality is whatever I choose to believe.

The thing is, if I really believed it, maybe I wouldn’t have to convince myself 

Vulnerability

April 10, 2016, instagram post from my high school bedroom:

Radical softness (n): unapologetic vulnerability. In a society that prioritizes fierce self-reliance, it is seen as weak to be emotional, to want support. It takes a different kind of strength to share your emotions openly with other people, to refuse to feel sorry for how you feel.

// January 25-27, 2018; Granada, Nicaragua

For the purpose of this article, vulnerability is defined as the ability to experience one’s emotions as they are, and in doing so, fully embrace the life one is living right now, in its entirety.

Vulnerability is the most rebellious form of self-love that exists in American culture. In an attempt to sell the American Dream, advertising companies and mainstream media moguls have created a culture that idolizes “happiness”, an effortless sense of satisfaction one can achieve simply by working hard and/or looking good. As a result, there is this expectation that to be seen as likeable, one has to seem happy. In conforming to this expectation, I have often felt pressure to exude an unconditionally positive outlook, to radiate a joy I don’t always authentically possess.

To maintain this illusion of happiness, there were emotions I would refuse to let myself feel. I was determined negativity deserved no space in my life, so I wouldbecome otherwise occupied to avoid feeling angry, sad, or scared. Despite my best efforts, my “busyness” tactic never really worked – no matter what activity I convinced myself I was immersed in, the shame was always there, whispering sweet “you’re nothing”s in my ear. The pressure to maintain the illusion of the person I thought I should be would build in the back of my mind, until I couldn’t take it anymore – I would shatter, my soul sharpening words into shards that would surround me. I would use these to shield myself from a version of me I didn’t want to see, but more than anything, the make-believe stalactites cut me off from the person I wanted to be. Sometimes they would turn outwards, on the people I loved the most, for coming too close, for fear of them seeing me in a way I couldn’t bear to see myself.Furthermore, by not allowing myself to feel how upset I was, I wouldn’t learn from the mistakes that caused me pain in the first place. The whole point of our brain’s negative feedback loop is to alert the organism in question that its current environment is not safe anymore, and something needs to change. But how on Earth can I learn to change my actions when I’m so busy pretending everything is fine?

Maintaining this facade of perfection was not only inauthentic, it was exhausting – by cutting myself off from emotions I perceived as negative, I was not experiencing my life to its fullest extent. This was a significant blockage in my relationship with myself that rippled outward to affect my relationship with others, leading me to stay in places I was uncomfortable far longer than I should have.

I realized in my teacher training was that there is nothing intrinsically bad about these so-called “negative” emotions – it’s okay to be hurt, angry, and sad. It means I cared about something enough to get attached to it, and it’s unfortunate that it didn’t work out. But these feelings don’t define me – it’s what I decide to do with these emotions that determine who I am and how my life will continue.

I let myself cry now. I allow myself to write & think about the things that make me unhappy, without immediately trying to find a solution. Quick fixes never worked, and it’s much less painful to address the underlying problem a single time than treat the symptoms every month or so. Who I really am and what I really feel is valuable; what’s crazy is how long it has taken me to understand this. Unhappiness is a necessary part of life, and the breaking is beautiful in its own way. Accessing these emotions has brought me so much closer to reality, to who I am and who I want to be.

Which brings me to my second point: Vulnerability is the fundamental building block for authentic communication of personal experience that creates connection with another human being. It’s the single most important trait for any meaningful relationship.

I am more connected to others, too – I can call friends & family members now when I’m upset, talk to loved ones about my less positive feelings in the relationship in the hopes of ameliorating it.  No one around me has been put off by these real emotions, either; on the contrary, it has made me so much more relatable when I am able to talk about things I am having difficulty with. It makes me a real person, someone others can really connect to; no longer an unattainable golden girl.

I’ve realized vulnerability is what I crave in communication. I would rather have someone cry to me about the shitty breakup they’re going through five times over than deliver a distant anecdote about what they had for lunch. Similarly, the music that resonates with me usually addresses themes of love, pain, sadness, and anger in relationships. These feel authentic, especially when they’re pertinent to my own life.

It takes immense strength to reveal the parts of myself I have always been told are “weak” and “childish”. But I’m finding immeasurable power in accepting what is. True weakness is hiding who I really am from myself and those I love, out of fear of being rejected for not being enough. True immaturity is found in an inability to learn from past mistakes, stemming from a refusal to feel – a lack of vulnerability

Artists are some of the bravest and most open people in our society – they have to be to do their job, which is to create connection, the manifestation of art. That’s what I’m trying to create now, too. Open communication, connection, vulnerable authenticity. Growing into becoming a person who experiences & express herself fully, accepting all aspects of her life.

// How to?

I am by no means an expert on anything, but here are a few tips I’ve found useful in my own personal journey:

– Reach out. I try to open up to people when I’m feeling upset. Sometimes I disregard my own emotions as dumb or unnecessary, but talking to a loved one helps validate them. In addition, articulating my feelings often allows me to understand what I’m really struggling with

– Something really key for my journey in vulnerability that my personal development teacher impressed upon me was to always speak from” I”. Often, in an attempt to distance myself from being vulnerable, I would speak in vague generalities, saying things like “sometimes this happens” or “people do this”. Even using second person & first person plural, “you should / we feel” connotes an element of separation from self. The way to overcome this distance and really connect? Speak from I. After all, the only things I can ever really know are those I experience, so it’s all I can talk about with any certainty.

// Additional resources:

Brene Brown has done some incredible research on the importance of vulnerability in relationship and life satisfaction – I highly recommend any of her works if you want to learn about the concrete effect of vulnerability.

Reality is Perception

“Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it rock!” – Hannah Montana, 2007.

Our nervous system is what allows us to think, to plan, to make decisions and take action based on our perception of the world. Our brains are able to process massive amounts of data from the universe we inhabit, and the combination of chemical signals and electric potentials allows us to interpret the environment in which we live. Despite the large amount of data we are able to process, we are not directly connected to the universe the way single-celled organisms are, through a simple membrane. Instead, all of our sensory input is organized and processed by specialized areas of our nervous system. There is an absurd amount of information incoming all the time, so a significant portion of our brains are devoted to determining what’s worth processing. We are only consciously aware of the input we attend to. Subsequently, our world view is determined by the input we attend to, which form our observations of the world. The decisions we make are based on our respective interpretations of the world. The images we remember are conjured by our brain, not accurate reproductions of the universe. Since unattended sensory input is not remembered, it cannot factor into our perception of the world, and it therefore cannot have any impact on our decision-making process. Awareness is key because it determines our outlook which determines the actions we take which impact our environment are based on the decisions we make.

The only objective truth we can know is that all we know is what we experience. Everything we know about the world is from induction – we assume it’s true because our experience is all we have. We make assumptions and, if our experience never contradicts these assumptions, we accept these assumptions on lack of counterevidence. This is possible because all the information our consciousness is exposed to is interpreted by our brain.

Information comes in through our five sensory organs: touch, smell, taste, hearing, and seeing. Each is experienced in the sensory cells, then the information is transmitted to nerve cells in the brain. All of the sensory imagery except smell is then processed in the thalamus, a specialized part of the brain. In the cortex of the brain, there are many different areas that process and organize sensory imagery, especially visual and auditory imagery. Our brains alter the incoming information, organizing it to form a worldview. Our belief systems compose our worldview – we see what we think we are going to see. This is why outlook is critical. We process information based on what we attend to.
There are many interesting related psychological phenomena – inattentional blindness is a process whereby people don’t notice something, often something obvious, in their environment because they are busy attending to something else (demonstrated in this video).

Life, which is composed of your personal experience, really is what you make it to be. This is the single most important lesson I’ve learned over the past year, over and over again. I still forget sometimes, but my life is always better when I’m able to remember that I have the power to create the world I inhabit.

Love & Fear

I think every meaningful human action can be traced to an either love or fear-based motivational drive. Every decision we make, every word we say and thing we do comes from a place of either love or fear.

1. Love

All good things come from & return to love. Joy, faith, compassion, connection – love is the link that connects us to one another, what motivates us to create. Acceptance is found through love, because when you love something unconditionally, there is no need to change it. I think all positive changes in the world come about as a result of a love-based underlying belief paradigm, e.g. wanting to help people because you love them or make the world a better place for the love of it. When  you are immersed in an activity, whether it be a conversation or a drawing, this is where you find love (I expand on love as connection and creation in Lust for Life).

I have found that all the perceived negative aspects of love (especially in the context of relationships) are solely those that do not come from a place of love, but fear. Relationships built on conditional love are not built on love at all, but fear of being alone. There’s a huge difference between being with someone because you love them, and being with someone because you’re scared of being on your own. The latter is a fear-based behavior.

2. Fear

Fear is a mechanism that allows us to recognize that we are uncomfortable with a situation and challenges us to change (see Expectations vs. Reality for information on how to change to make it better). We’re not able to change for the better unless it’s through love.

Fear evolved as a motivational mechanism to make us aware of threats that mostly don’t plague civilization today. The overwhelmingly strong fear response successfully kept us alive and out of danger for the majority of our time on this earth. However, we simply do not have the same threats we used to. As a result, the majority of fear we experience is psychological, not legitimate threats for our safety. Because of this, the negatives often outweigh the benefits of fear. This is one of the reasons clinical psychopaths, who don’t experience fear the same way regular people do, are so successful in places like business – it’s more advantageous to take a risk when it comes to things like investments. We don’t have as much to be scared of as we perceive. Our reality is usually more optimistic than we perceive it to be.

A lot of people in our society are driven by fear, so we normalize it. But we can change this. We can defeat the fear through awareness, through acceptance, because that’s the only way to bring about positive change. Fear is a manifestation of unconsciousness – it tears us away from one another.

Fear IS important for who we are as humans – it’s what allows us to change our world and keeps us alive, part of what has made us so successful as a species. Despite this, it’s blatantly counterproductive for happiness and inner peace. Fear doesn’t make you stronger, it tells you where you’re weak. Don’t believe your mind when it tells you not to be vulnerable or real – this is where we find real love and connection. Bravery is one of the virtues I hold in highest stead, because it’s the ability to love in face of adversity. It’s what allows us to overcome fear.

3. Conclusion/Personal thoughts

Something I personally struggle with is having a want to do stuff vs. being scared of not doing something. Here, my self-worth is contingent on the activities I engage in. The goal: having all that is be enough, but still be able to enact positive change through a want to make the world better, through love.

I know I can make the best difference when I’m the best me. This is me when I’m coming from a place of love, not of fear. So I try to forgive myself and others and believe the world is enough as it is. Because it’s the only world we have, because I’m the only me there’s ever going to be, because it’s all the time I’m given. Because ultimately, it’s not the time that matters, it’s what I do with it. And I could be fearful about it, put pressure on myself to do things as if being were not enough. Or I could love ,and be grateful that I’m able to be alive in the first place, not to mention do great things on top of that!! I choose love.

Some additional references:

Daring Greatly – Brené Brown (love her)

Expectations vs. Reality

Something I think a lot about is whether or not expectations are a good thing. Some people say they forgo them altogether, but that doesn’t resonate with me. It’s true that by having no expectations you will never be disappointed, but how can you create anything new if you only accept the world as it is? I think that there are definitely situations in which having expectations are favorable, and this is me rationalizing that process.

Emotional suffering is created by the disparity between your expectation of what the world will be, your “ideal reality” and actual reality, the world as it really is. To alleviate suffering, the two have to be reconciled. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Change your current situation to resemble your ideal reality
  2. Change your ideal reality to suit your current situation

If you can change the world to suit your ideal reality, do it!! We have an incredible ability to change our environment to suit us, and the people who believe this and take advantage of it are way more successful than those that don’t. If you can change the world in a positive way as a result of your expectations, create something new that is different and better than the world used to be, that’s incredible. However, I think this is the only instance in which it’s good to have expectations – if they are realistic enough that you can actually change the world to mirror them.

If it’s not possible to change the world to fit your expectations and you’re suffering as a result, this will make you unhappy and upset. Unhealthy attachment to unrealistic expectations can definitely have negative repercussions. If your expectations are negatively affecting your life, you should let them go by pursuing the second option: changing your ideal reality to suit the real world by accepting what is. Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual teacher whose principle philosophy is to be in tune with the present moment. In many situations, this is a really good thing. It increases your awareness of your environment and greatly reduces the possibility of experiencing emotional suffering. When you are immersed in the moment, in the real world, there is no issue, no conflict, no reason for the disparity. However, there’s no motivation for you to change the world either.

I believe that the only instances in which you can’t change your current situation are those that involve other people, because you can control a lot of things, but other people’s actions are not one of them. This is why relationships are really good at teaching people to have faith and let go: it’s the only option left to alleviate suffering.

inspirations for this post:

– Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

– a failed relationship or two

 

What Matters?

What matters?
Much of human literature attempts to answer this question. Beauty? Money? Love? Other people?

Ultimately, what matters is what matters to you, since reality is perceived. I will definitely elaborate on this in a future post, but long story short: our perception of the world is contingent on the information we attend to, which is determined by what we choose to focus on. We usually choose to focus on information that is congruent with our previous experiences so we don’t have to expend energy changing our beliefs.

The fundamental premise of a person’s belief system is the foundation upon which their perception of the world is built. All of their resulting ideas, including any subsequent premises and ultimate conclusions, stem from this thought process. Since our actions are based on our ideas, our underlying system of values determines our ultimate impact on the world. For this reason, I think that the most important aspect of our thought processes is our system of constitutional values, the things we believe in that allow everything else to happen.

What do you believe in? What matters to you? How can you construct your life around your beliefs? It is impossible to deduce a sound conclusion from an uncertain premise. That’s how logic works. How can your actions be aligned with your system of beliefs if you don’t know what you believe in? Awareness is key to instigating change. Faith is found while pursuing the ends regardless of means, making any sacrifice, but one shouldn’t believe blindly.

If you want to do something meaningful, you need to create meaning. If you want to do something you believe in, find something you believe in. It’s so simple and logical, but it seems like few people make the time to think about what they want, what they value, and pursue it.

I give a lot of meaning to all forms of life, especially human experience – I consider peoples’ feelings and memories to be very significant. I believe that what we do, how we impact the living world and alter the future is all that matters. I believe it matters because it makes a difference. I think our actions are especially meaningful if they’re able to shape a person’s experience, ideally for the better. I believe love optimizes human experience, so it’s really important to me.

I try to embody these values as much as possible, to love all I can and shape my actions to create the best possible future. It’s easy to write out and explain, so simple and logical in theory, but it’s not as straightforward in practice. Sometimes I forget what I’m ultimately trying to do, and I get lost, influenced by external factors (read: societal pressure and cognitive dissonance). I mess up all the time, but I’m trying to make a positive difference in the world, because that’s what matters to me.

((matter matters))

Lust for Life

 

Whats the difference between living and being alive?

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the world is hearing what drives people. Why they do what they do, why they live where they live, what they want from the world and why. I am intensely curious about what drives us to want to live and create. I think this drive is fundamentally linked to our feeling of “being alive”, and I think that we feel alive when actively connected with our environment, often while engaged in tasks that bring about a change in the world.

Lust for life, the way I interpret it, is the feeling we get when we want to create, to bring something into being, to change the current state of the universe. I associate this with its positive connotation, when we want to improve the world, when it’s love that drives us to want to do, want to be, want to live in a beneficial way. Lust for life is synonymous with our motivational drive, and similarly essential to our experience of “feeling alive”.

While asking my friends their thoughts on this subject, most people knew what I meant when I asked what the difference between living and being alive is. My friend Allie agreed that “everyone dies but not everyone lives”. I wondered what makes the difference? What is responsible for the feeling of “being alive”? I used what I had experienced, the people I knew who seemed more “alive” than others to create a theory. Someone’s level of “liveliness”, the strength of their motivational drive & lust for life can be mostly simplified to two main factors: consciousness and effective application of energy.

Everyone has different desires, and some people aren’t yet aware of what they want. This is the factor of consciousness: the people who are aware of the environment they’re in and know what they want to do in this environment are a lot more likely to experience “liveliness” than people who don’t know what motivates them.

It’s one thing to know what you want, but it’s a different thing to actively pursue it, to invest the energy and take the risks, to commit to and take action by changing something or creating something. Humans, like all matter, adhere to the law of inertia: everything will remain in its current state unless acted on by a force. Consciousness is essential to impacting the world, but ultimately it’s the actions that count and have an effect that ripples outward into the universe.

The people which are aware of their environment and their desires are more engaged with the world in which they live, and as a result are better able to effectively devote energy toward achieving their goals. This makes them more successful at achieving those goals, which helps to inspire a feeling of purpose and fulfillment in people. The positive experience we have, the feeling of lust for life, must then be evolutionarily favorable; after all, the people with more lust for life have more lust and as a result seem to be more successful in terms of reproduction and survival of the fittest. This is one explanation why most people who are around and impacting the world feel like they have a purpose, feel driven to do things, to change things.

If this theory is applicable to humans, how does it apply with other organisms? Where does consciousness come in on an evolutionary timeline? How has our ability to impact the environment made us so successful? I found you could apply the same concepts here: conscious awareness of the surrounding environment in terms of data interpretation and ability to impact the same environment using energy distribution are two key to determining perceived “liveliness” of a species.

“It is easy to overlook this thought that life just is. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours – arguably even stronger. If I were told that I had to spend decades being a furry growth on a rock in the woods, I believe I would lose the will to go on. Lichens don’t. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer any hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be.” ― Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

What separates us from the lichen?

The ability of an organism to self-replicate is widely cited as the defining quality for a collection of molecules to be categorized as a living thing. Another important feature of living things is that they are able to alter their environment, by changing the concentration of specific elements within and without their cellular membrane. The organism must take everything from and return everything to the external universe, however the creation of a closed system containing different conditions than its surrounding environment allows for things to happen in the cell that would not happen in the environment and allows for introduction of new compounds. This usually happens in a way that favors the organism’s continued existence; according to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the organisms that are currently alive are those whose ancestors were the most successful at surviving and reproducing in their environment. If an organism is not well-suited to its environment, it simply won’t live long enough to propagate, and its genetic information will be discontinued.

For an organism to be well-suited to its environment, it must first be aware of the makeup of its environment, able to process the information coming in from the external system. This awareness or consciousness of the surrounding environment is fostered by the ability of an organism to accurately process data, which is determined by its degree of connectedness to the outside universe. Higher levels of consciousness are more intimately connected to the universe and better able to accurately process larger amounts of information.

Additionally, an organism is better suited to its environment when it is able to use its circumstances to its advantage, process the nutrients and harness the energy surrounding itself to its greatest use. This drive to maximize situational circumstances is essential to the triumph of life on Earth, and is the main reason why humans are so successful. It is evolutionarily favorable for organisms to alter their environments in a way that allows the environment to better suit the organism. The more suited an environment is to the organisms that inhabit it, the better chance of survival and reproduction of those organisms. Anything that allows you to change your environment makes you more likely to suit it better, survive better and reproduce. It’s true that over time our genome will be randomly altered and these mutations will be selected for by the environment (this is what natural selection is), however the opposite is true and is faster to act. The Earth waits millions of years for life to evolve, however we can change our environment in a matter of seconds.

This ability to impact our environment through our actions is the human race’s biggest strength and the key to our evolutionary success. As humans, we have had a bigger impact on our environment than any other species in the history of the Earth. The agricultural, industrial, and technological revolutions have vastly altered the face of our planet, and changing our environment to allow us to become vastly more successful as a species. A direct example of this can be found in places where it gets very cold; instead of freezing outside and waiting to evolve thick fur, we have created heated buildings that keep us warm, directly altering the temperature of our environment. The people who live in these buildings didn’t die of hypothermia and instead reproduced, so the people still alive live inside instead of outside in the cold.

Our nervous system is what allows us to think, to plan, to make decisions and take action based on our perception of the world. Our brains are able to process massive amounts of data from the universe we inhabit, and the combination of chemical signals and electric potentials allows us to interpret the environment in which we live. Despite the large amount of data we are able to process, we are not directly connected to the universe the way single-celled organisms are, through a simple membrane. Instead, all of our sensory input is organized and processed by specialized areas of our nervous system. There is an absurd amount of information incoming all the time, so a significant portion of our brains are devoted to determining what’s worth processing. We are only consciously aware of the input we attend to. Subsequently, our world view is determined by the input we attend to, which form our observation of the world. The decisions we make are based on our respective interpretations of the world, the images we remember that are conjured by our brain, not accurate reproductions of the universe. Since unattended sensory input is not remembered, it cannot factor into our perception of the world, and it therefore cannot have any impact on our decision-making process. Awareness is key because it determines our outlook which determines the actions we take which impact our environment are based on the decisions we make.

I believe that what separates us from lichen is both the amount of data we can process and how we can use it to impact our surrounding environment; we have significantly greater consciousness and control. To reference the previous example, lichen not suited to cold weather would not survive in cold weather because they would have no way of regulating the temperature of their environment. As far as we know, they aren’t even aware of the greater part of their environment, only their immediate surroundings. (Side note – to be fair, no person has ever experienced being a lichen, so their experience could theoretically be vastly different than what we imagine). Humans, on the other hand, have learned through conscious experience that being near a source of energy such as fire increases the surrounding temperature. We are able to see the fire and experience it because of our increased awareness of the environment, while the lichen is pretty much absorbed with its rock since its processing capacity is significantly lower. Lichen are not able to observe the wood, connect it with a memory of warmth, light it aflame, and huddle next to it all night as we are. This is not part of their experience, but it is part of ours. This is one reason humans are able to live in areas where lichen are not.

So what does this mean in terms of our lust for life?

Because our perception of our environment determines our impact on it, focusing attention on the current moment is not only important, but evolutionarily favorable. The more information about our environment we can process accurately, the more aware of our environment we are, the faster and better we can adapt to our environment (usually by making our environment more favorable for us). Though our ability to plan for the future and learn from the past is essential to the successful continuation of our species, devoting energy to the analysis of something that isn’t real takes energy, leaving less to process information we are currently surrounded by2. This causes us to be less aware of the current moment, reducing our consciousness. This gravely impacts our ability to change our current environment. our motivational drive, because you have to be aware of something to be able to change it.

The feeling we experience of being alive, our lust for life, is inextricably linked to our want to change our environment for the better. The lust for life we feel is a result of our ingrained want to leave a mark, to change the world. To create something that will have an impact. This is also deeply connected with love, the feeling of peace and acceptance which comes from immersion in the moment. We feel love and joy when we let go of everything keeping us from the present moment.

Some activities are more effective at instigating this state of mind, at heightening conscious awareness than others. Being immersed in our environment forces us to inhabit our highest levels of consciousness and gives us the awareness to cause the maximum amount of impact. As a result, activities that force us to focus make us more effective and feel good. I think this is what drives creativity. The feelings of love and positivity we experience when immersed in the moment while pursuing an activity that impacts the world make us want to do it more.

I have a lot of memories, times while watching the world move, where my heart feels so full. No matter where I am or who I’m with or what I’m doing, I feel alive when I’m connected to the world around me, to the moment I’m in. This is when I feel love. This is what I feel love is – connection. Whether it’s a research project, a painting, a journal entry, a relationship, or a life you are proud of, anything that allows us to focus on the current moment, especially if we believe it will leave a mark on the world, makes us feel alive. This is at the core of our human experience – we experience a feeling of joy when we connect with the world we live in, with one another, when we can change it in any small way for any small period of time.

            This is what makes us feel alive. The neural signals that produce the feeling of euphoria most people associate with “feeling alive” make us feel good. The fact that we like feeling good makes us more likely to repeat the behavior that caused this feeling. And this is evolutionarily selected for because it makes us more likely to change our environment for our benefit. The feeling of being alive is evolutionarily favorable because our conscious awareness of our environment allows us to modify our environment for our own benefit. This makes us extremely successful and significantly more likely to reproduce.

The people who are more effective are often more immersed in the moment and more in control of their situational circumstances. We believe that life must have a point, that we have a purpose. This drive makes us more effective when we believe it. We want to make a difference for our own benefit, and by making our environment more favorable, we make it better.

We want to feel significant because it makes us more effective. We want to change the world because it makes us more successful. To optimize our potential to do this, we immerse ourselves in the current place and time, here and now. We create meaning in the things we do, the places we live, the people we love. These are acts of faith, of subjective perception, not of objective truth. Reality is perceived. What matters is what matters to you, and to me love and connection is all that matters.

The fundamental makeup of the universe and the metaphysics of human experience should help us understand the world we live in, but not trivialize our experience. All we have is our experiences, which are based on our perception of the world, and the fact that we are not only alive but self-aware enough to know we’re alive and think about why is absolutely incredible. I think it’s so cool that we have been selected to be this way. Even if we weren’t placed here by a higher power for a specific purpose, the fact remains that we are here. We’re alive. Our creativity, our behavior, our actions are here for a reason, whether that reason is chosen by an omniscient creator or chance. Ultimately, it’s us who get to decide what that reason is – we get to create our own meaning in life.3

The title of this post and the term I use is taken from the Lana Del Rey song of the same name. I love the images Lana creates in her music; they resonate with me as vivid idealistic images of human experience. She portrays a life where you’re always living in the moment, where nothing matters but the love you give, where all that matters is what you do right now with the time and energy you have.

I feel lust for life looking in the eyes of someone I love, running barefoot in the rain, spinning in circles with my head tilted to the sky watching the city lights blur around me. Gliding underwater, exploring a new place, learning what drives other people, seeing someone else happy as a result of something I’ve done. Being here, now, absorbed in what I’m doing. Feeling strongly about something, anything. Finding passion. Creating. Connecting to the surrounding universe, love. Experiencing, feeling in the moment: this is ultimately what matters.

We live. We love. We want to create; we want to leave a mark. We have the power to change our world. This is what’s important and what’s true about human experience, because we make it that way.

Disclaimer: This is all my opinion. The answers I give to the questions I ask make sense to me but they are by no means the absolute truth! My only evidence is my own experience and a few theories I’ve been introduced to (see citations) – this is mostly a reasoning process I’ve gone through. Everything I say is conjuncture but it helps me makes sense of the world. I hope you found this interesting, inspiring, maybe you learned something along the way. Use your own experience to come to your own conclusions!!

Works Cited – these are all resources I highly recommend!! If anything seemed interesting definitely check out the whole resource.

  1. Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. New York: Broadway Books, 2005. Print.
  2. Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now. Vancouver: Namaste Publishing, 1997. Print.
  3. Wolf, Susan, et al. “Meaning in Life.” Meaning in Life and Why It Matters:STU – Student edition ed., Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 1–33. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t3cm.5.