Today’s mojo

Today’s mojo: I just read an article over on tinybuddha.com titled, “Don’t Forget to Appreciate How Far You’ve Come”. It’s a good read if you’re so inclined.

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I’m guilty of this. I get focused on ‘The Plan’, forward momentum and goals, and the fact that I’m not necessarily meeting them or following ‘The Plan’.

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Taking a minute to realize what I have accomplished and goals I’ve met in the last 3 years, year, month – even down to the week or day – is a positive and affirming exercise and reminds me that everything isn’t going to go to plan, but if I stay focused and present, I can get things done and good things will happen. 

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Part of the trick is not being hung up on whether or not they’re good things I’ve planned or not.

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For example last winter I put 324 kms on the trainer, this winter, over 1500.

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You’ve done some things right, or you wouldn’t be here. It’s important to acknowledge that from time to time.

Intensity

So got an email in my inbox the other day announcing some new NIN live shows. Always a surprise to get an email from NIN. I joined the newsletter years ago and they only send out a note when there’s shows or new music. No spam. No 5 posts a week. That’s newslettering done right – but I digress, perhaps a separate post on that.

Although I regrettably can’t attend any of the live shows announced – they’re in Europe, and I’m far too old for these type of shenanigans – it did get me thinking about NIN live shows and a series of fantastic ‘from the stage’ videos shot some years back by band member and long-time art director* Rob Sheridan. These are great clips, and just as advertised, gives you the feel of standing right there on the stage. No gimmicks. No editing, just performance.

And that’s what’s striking. The intensity of the performance. Trent is intense. These cats are intense. Anyone who knows anything about Trent and NIN knows he’s a pretty intense guy. His performances and lyric matter are cathartic.

Then something occurred to me. When was last time I did something that intensely?

Don’t mistake intensity for anger, angst, rage. Intensity can apply to other emotions and situations. I think we most often associate it with violence or extremes of physicality or action, but it can manifest in other ways as well.

in·ten·si·ty
inˈtensədē
noun: intensity; plural noun: intensities
1. the quality of being intense.

in·tense
inˈtens
adjective: intense; comparative adjective: intenser; superlative adjective: intensest
1. of extreme force, degree, or strength.
“the job demands intense concentration”
synonyms: extreme, great, acute, fierce, severe, high;
(of an action) highly concentrated.
“a phase of intense activity”
synonyms: extreme, great, acute, fierce, severe, high;
2. having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious.
“an intense young woman, passionate about her art”
synonyms: passionate, impassioned, ardent, fervent, zealous, vehement, fiery, emotional;

I started to think about when most average people (say, non-superstar musicians) could act or behave with Trent’s level of intensity. Is it even called for in daily life? Should we be more intense at times?

Can we think intensely – would that be considered meditation?

Can we parent intensely?

Can we apply a similar kind of intensity to our job? The daily grind?

I was thinking perhaps I exercise intensely. Sometimes though I’m still thinking about other things. Intensity seems to imply singular focus. Sometimes exercise seems passive. I’m riding the trainer or on a bike ride and I’m suffering. That seems more like it’s something being done to me, or I’m struggling through it vs. me directing intensity at something or acting with intensity.

Do we need more intensity in our lives? Does it make sense if you make your living pumping gas that if you tried to be more intense about it, you would be better at your job? Happier?

Or is it something that only applies more where we often see it – to creative activity or performance. Sports. Physical activities. Do we feel like only artists, musicians or athletes can be intense. Is this because primarily we see these activities as emotional, tied to or expressing emotion, or perhaps because they might be extremely difficult.

Can you be an intense garbage man? Would it matter? You career is in some ways your life – should you do it with more intensity?

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*band member and art director for NIN - I can think of a lot worse gigs one could get.

Amor Fati

Shared my Camus/Sisyphus observation with my buddy and personal sage, A. Titus Esq., the other day and he of course responded as only he could:

“A position I have long held to be so…One must imagine Sisyphus happy. Nietzsche called this ‘Amor fati’. Or as I like to call it, ‘be quiet and go’.”

I’ve read some Nietzsche, but not much and never studied his philosophy formally so had never happened upon this observation of his, but apparently Amor fati was a recurring tenet from his writings. From Wikipedia:

“Amor fati (lit. “love of fate”) is a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not. Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, [emphasis mine] but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Nietzsche apparently means by the concept of “eternal recurrence“: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.”

I don’t know how your days usually go, but not every one of mine includes a ‘holy shit’ moment, so when I come across one, I stop and recognize it. I particularly like the notion that acceptance of one’s fate doesn’t mean you still can’t strive to improve or change it, just that you are no longer at odds with it.

Excuse me while I get on with the being quiet and go-ing.

The Myth of Sisyphus

So, according to Camus, Sisyphus was happy with his predicament.

Huh. Hadn’t seen that one coming, but kinda makes sense.

“Finally, he is clear on the fact that the purpose of life isn’t to live as good and comfortable as possible, but it’s to live as much as possible. It’s to have a zest and a passion for reality no matter what it brings you, and this isn’t at all dependent on the world but on each of us.”

Capitalist-Consumerist Ethics

As someone who is by no means innocent with regard to the following tendencies, yet has been working to be more self-reflective and step out of the cycle, this passage from a book I am reading struck me last night and though long and slightly out of context, I thought merited transcribing. It’s relevance to this time of year is oddly coincidental (Fortuitous? Prophetic?) as well.

“Consumerism has worked very hard, with the help of popular psychology (‘Just do it!’) to convince people that indulgence is good for you, whereas frugality is self-oppression.

It has succeeded. We are all good consumers. We buy countless products that we don’t really need, and that until yesterday we didn’t know existed. Manufacturers deliberately design short-term goods and invent new and unnecessary models of perfectly satisfactory products that we must purchase in order to stay ‘in’. Shopping has become a favorite pastime, and consumer goods have become essential mediators in relationships between family members, spouses and friends. Religious holidays such as Christmas have become shopping festivals. In the United States, even Memorial Day – originally a solemn day for remembering fallen soldiers – is now an occasion for special sales. Most people mark this day by going shopping, perhaps to prove that the defenders of freedom did not die in vain.

The flowering of the consumerist ethic is manifested most clearly in the food market. Traditional agricultural society lived in the awful shade of starvation. In the affluent world of today one of the leading health problems is obesity, which strikes the poor (who stuff themselves with hamburgers and pizzas) even more severely than the rich (who eat organic salads and fruit smoothies). Each year the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world. Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over.

How can we square the consumerist ethic with the capitalist ethic of the business person, according to which profits should not be wasted, and should instead be reinvested in production? it’s simple. As in previous eras, there is today a division of labour between the elite and the masses. In medieval Europe, aristocrats spent their money carelessly on extravagant luxuries, whereas peasants lived frugally, minding every penny. Today, the tables have turned. The rich take great care in managing their assets and investments, while the less well heels go into debt buying cars and televisions they don’t really need. The capitalist and consumers ethics are two sides of the same coin, a merger of two commandments. The supreme commandment of the rich is ‘Invest!’ The supreme commandment of the rest of us is ‘Buy!’

The capitalist-consumerist ethic is revolutionary in another respect. Most previous ethical systems presented people with a pretty rough deal. They were promised paradise, but only if they cultivated compassion and tolerance, overcame craving and anger, and restrained their selfish interests. This was too tough for most. The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideas that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum.

In contrast, most people today successfully live up to the capitalist-consumerist ideal. The new ethic promises paradise on condition that the rich remain greedy and spend their time making more money, and that the masses give free rein to their cravings and passions – and buy more and more. This is the first religion in history whose followers actually do what they are asked to do. How, though, do we know that we’ll really get paradise in return? We’ve seen it on television.”

-From Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari