It is often stated with some force that there are no absolutes in life, save for the certainty of the grave and the inevitable visit from the taxman. I, however, tend to think that the presence of the absolute depends upon the contents of one’s mind and heart, the severity of one’s discipline and the strength of one’s convictions.
Consider this for a moment: we each own our thoughts and our bodies. Our thoughts mysteriously arise moment to moment in consciousness, authored by the strange inner workings of our brains. Concepts like good, bad, absolute, finite, infinite, impenetrable — they all exist within that inner landscape through which we experience life.
Based on the workings of my particular inner reality, there is presently a list of things that I’m quite sure (or at the very least I hope) I’ll never do again:
- tolerate abuse from anyone.
- take my friends for granted.
- waste my talents.
- text while I drive.
- post a vertical video to YouTube (sorry, I had to throw that one in there).
You get the idea…
Although these things are serving me well in life so far, there is never any end to the amount of self-inquiry and, more markedly, self-doubt that goes into the construction of declarations such as these, due to the not-so-simple and yet plainly obvious fact that it is nearly impossible to predict every future circumstance.
For instance, I once vowed to be a vegan, a discipline to which I faithfully adhered for the better part of ten years and then, after paying closer attention to my nutritional needs, I started eating eggs again last year.
Did I fail as a vegan? Some would certainly say I did. I would rather suggest that I succeeded in doing what I felt was (and seemingly continues to be) the best thing for my health.
Still… the idea of the absolute, of absolute truths, is a very strong one and it regularly captivates my imagination. I want to believe that my life as I know it right now will continue, that my current happiness, relationships, concerns and vocations will sustain themselves.
But then I remember:
Intentions, circumstances, relationships, hearts, minds, people are always changing.
The only certainty is uncertainty.
Although I don’t subscribe to any supernatural or metaphysical claims about reality, I do as a musician have somewhat of a working relationship with the idea of the absolute. Perhaps it is the nature of – or even the curse inflicted upon – an artist’s imagination to attempt to distill reality into easily manageable fragments, and to do that work within the limited – one might say the absolute – scope of the medium: notes in a scale, colors on a palate, etc.
And yet… somewhere in my 3 pound brain, I know that even these things are not absolute. Varying shades, rhythms, blue notes – so any voice of expectation to adhere to some standard is strictly internal and self-imposed.
I don’t need to put any further strain or stress on myself to be a perfect person. Who has time? There’s too much living to do. No one is perfect. We all deserve a pat on the back for even rolling up our sleeves and trying. So, rather than impose impossible expectations on myself, I instead try like hell to savor each rare and precious moment, to always follow my heart, wherever that may lead me, and to experience life completely and honestly, warts and all.
“The more I learn, the less I know what’s going on
And all the while the hard work of living keeps rolling on.”