Friday, October 07, 2005

The 41 Year Old Adolescent

I'm just back from a trip out to the outer western suburbs of Sydney, almost to edge of the map (where the dragons are). My boss and I went out to give a presentation to a new client who owns a string of fashion stores around Australia. The presentation itself went well and we drove back in quite a relaxed mood.

On the way back to the city my boss and I were chatting about life in general, and it tipped over into a weirdly parental conversation. Keep in mind that my boss is only about 5 years my senior, but her life involves kids, her own business and probably at least one mortgage. At one point she said "Maybe it's time to grow up", not in a nasty way, but in the context of taking on responsibilities.

It sort of got me to thinking about how other people might view my lifestyle. I'm single, don't own a house or car, have only small debts, no pets or kids... I certainly do feel like I'm a grown up, but I guess in many ways I have engineered my life so I can live in permanent adolescence. That is, if you take these sorts of responsibilities as signs of adulthood.

I'm interested in simplifying my life, not getting too attached to things, and in giving myself some mental 'room to move'. I think it's interesting that once a journalist asked one of the most senior Lamas of my Buddhist order for one piece of advice that would be of use to readers. I think he was expecting something profound and mystical. The Lama's answer was "Simplify your life."

It sounds easy and simple, but when it is so easy to get caught up in doing more, having more, keeping up, filling up time with distractions... it actually takes quite a bit of effort and resolve. At least, that's my take on it.

I think the Lama was skillful in that his statement was the simplest way of saying a whole lot of things. That we should put our concentration into what is really important. To stop getting so caught up in ego, in acquiring things, in fearing that we will lose what we have, or not get what we want (or get what we don't want), or thinking that things are permanent, and that we are permanent.

Anyway, I'm not advocating throwing everything away but I do think that being too attached mentally to all this stuff just brings stress and anxiety. I think it's interesting to consider the mental freedom that comes from having simplified your life.


The B&G said...

it's true, out possesions own us in a way

Michael said...

" fearing that we will lose what we have.."

That's a big one for me. I'm used to being comfortable and it's my biggest fear of starting over somewhere. My work is such that it will entail REALLY starting over. I can't just find another job where I'll have the coin I do now. What does it really matter though? Let's face it. I'm good. Maybe I'll skip the symphony for a few years. Maybe I'll have fewer shoes. What'll it matter if I'm living in the gayest section of Queerville? On second thought, I might be needing lots of shoes.

Michael said...

I'm reading "The Power of Myth" right now, basically a transcript of interviews Bill Moyers did with Joseph Campbell for the PBS series. Loving it. Juicy morsels all over the damn place. I'm folding pages like a son of a bitch. Anyway, I read this during the night when I couldn't sleep:

"In Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence: Sat, Chit, Ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture."

No "Stuff" in there. I know this wasn't exactly on point. Ummmm. Take care!

The Other Andrew said...

Michael, interestingly there are a lot of Sanskrit words in Buddhism. They creep into mantras and prayers, and date right back to when Buddhism travelled from India. Beautiful words. I love the thought that there is a long lineage of people stretching back thousands of years who have sat just like we do, calmed their minds and recited the same words. Oooh, chills!

Did you ever get the series 'Status Anxiety' by the philosopher Alain de Bouton (sp?) in the US? Very interesting, and so much of it all boils down to the big issue of attachment.

Sometimes I think I have more attachments than a vacuum cleaner factory. (ba, dum, dum... tish!)

duane said...

I think that you are way more on track than your boss; mainly because you don't feel the need to have those things that she feels the need to have. We are all convinced we need so much, and that we must have so much in order to achieve a certain status, but really, what we have is more than enough, and we should just be content.... This relates to my post today, and you have totally made me feel EVEN better! Thanks Andrew! =o)

The Other Andrew said...

You're welcome Duane. I read your post in this similar vein a little while ago and had to smile, we're on a similar wavelength.

My boss is one of the most stressed people I know, but I do appreciate that she has set out to provide a good life for her family. She works incredibly hard, in part to pay for a very expensive education for her two boys.

That satifaction in life I'm lokking for is much more internal though.

Sunshine said...

Very refreshing post. I'd probably need to learn about simplifying my life since every aspect of it feels so cluttered. Don't think there is anything wrong with staying in "eternal adolescence" if that lifestyle suits your circumstance. You've got to live in a way that makes you happy. :)

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

well, you *know* my TOA, I have about three lifetimes worth of possessions. and almost enough room to store it ;) I'm also in a position to already have some of the big things that people have to spend a lot of time and money aquiring.

that's actually a mixed blessing.

I love all my crap but I have no illusions about any of it.

maturity and being 'grown up' is about taking responsibility for yourself, and also for your relationships with others. it's about being capable of standing alone as an individual and yet capable of forging happy, strong connections which also mature and develop, because everyone needs that. it's about being responsible in a mental, emotional AND material way.

all the groovy shit you find in a second-hand shop is just the icing on the cake ;)

worldpeace and a speedboat said...

ps: also, I believe in something more than just 'personal' happiness. because there is no point in your being happy if those you care for aren't. I think to an extent this must be applied to both your personal circle and the wider community, although always balanced with a certain self-preservation of course!