The only way to live a life is simply to start living. Your goals and dreams may seem huge and unattainable, but if you do not take that first step, they will never be achieved. My Year of Beds was a succession of tiny steps that took me once around the world, but they also took me deep into myself, and in the end, this journey was a rite of passage, a stripping away of the known, familiar and taken for granted. I did not set out to find anything, but unexpectedly was confronted with my self, my ignorance, and my hidden prejudices, intolerances and petty narcissism. It has been a long road to get here, to a place where the tensions of modern life have drained away to reveal a capacity of thought that is drowned in the daily rush of deadlines and the torture of constant noise.
I have discovered that with the acquisition of knowledge, there comes sadness. Knowing too much, seeing too far is a constant source of sorrow. The world is not, on the whole, a happy place. But worse than sorrow is ignorance. Ignorance is the root cause of fear, and fear allows us to be controlled. I have discovered that our economic system runs on fear, which controls our thoughts and behavior. The manipulation of our basic fears makes us constantly dissatisfied, constantly striving towards the wrong goals, and chasing after material things, for which we can find no sensible use. Through fear, we judge others, based on half truths, and become less of ourselves in the process.
The foundation on which all great philosophies – but not, unfortunately, all religions – is built, is the mastery of self. Self-control is a worthy goal.
“He who cannot obey himself will be commanded by others.” Nietzsche
But our goals are dictated to us by the media, whose sole purpose has become to ensure that we never achieve mastery of ourselves, but continue to buy stuff. To do this, the advertising media present us with unattainable goals and standards, set in a world in which uninterrupted moments of bliss, perfection and happy endings are guaranteed. Our reality can never match up to this, and so we remain forever dissatisfied with our own achievements, our lives, and ourselves. Today our economy depends entirely on our continued dissatisfaction. By basing our goals on those that the media feed us, we demand to be happy all the time; then we are angry at the inability of our emotions and lives to maintain the constant stream of happiness that we have come to see as our right. We forget that every life consists of moments of bliss, hemmed in by long mediocre hours, and to envy the lives of others is to be mistaken. We tend to see only what we want to see. Every life, no matter how exciting it might seem from the outside, is mired in day-to-day reality.
The goal is to learn to recognize happiness in the million small moments of every day. To pursue happiness doesn’t work; you have to be open to the experience. If you are open to the possibility of happiness, it will always come to stab a little light into the dark of whatever sorrow you might be feeling, and when it does, you have a choice. You can decide to be happy for that little light, or you can decide that the light is not strong enough, bright enough, flashy enough, to drag you from your sorrow and despair. To be happy is a choice you make each time you recognize one of these small moments of joy. Happiness is a habit that you can cultivate. But, like any choice to change something fundamental in your life, it takes discipline and work. You do not become habitually happy overnight; you have to work at it. But I have discovered that if you decide to be happy, happiness grows in you, and the more it grows, the less you need to make you happy, and you achieve something greater than happiness, contentment.
In this discovery, I have corrected the philosopher René Descartes, who said;
I think, therefore I am.”
I prefer to say
I think, therefore I become.
When you think about what makes you truly happy, then you become happy. The goal is to recognize the moments in which you are truly happy. When is it that you experience total joy and contentment? When does time no longer matter, and the outside world vanish from sight? When are you aware that you are part of a grand unfathomable whole, and although you are a tiny part of that whole, you recognize that you are as important as the whole. Those moments of deep insight into self are the moments in which you will find your truth.
It is said that the truth shall set you free. The problem with this statement is in ‘the’. ‘The Truth’ is an indefinable concept and to seek ‘The Truth’ is something that you cannot control. But if you change just one word and say,
Your truth shall set you free.
The search for truth becomes something that you have full control over. But how?
This is a journey of the mind. It is to think very carefully about things that are often forgotten or overwhelmed by the barrage of information we have to process every day. To search for your truth is to join the global movement towards questioning modern values and down-scaling. This is a revolution of silence, of stepping away from the noise of every day, and stepping back into the centre of your life.
Your truth is something you can strive for, and have total control in finding and living, but there has to be a willingness to delve into yourself, to clear the decks, to allow that truth to emerge. By taking mastery of yourself, you achieve the ability to break down false boundaries and barriers in your mind that separate you from them, you from the world and the universe – barriers that society placed there in order to control you. When you break down these barriers, you are able to judge the true value of your thoughts, your desire for things, and the goals you set for yourself.
In this revolution of thought, your truth will allow you to stop hunting for happiness in shops, because you will discover it in yourself. You will stop chasing fashions, and the latest gadgets, as you will discover that all the change you need is your growing joy. While we are conditioned to be in constant competition with one another, and we want to be seen to be different, in the end when it comes to truth, there will be a recognition that our truth is shared by everyone. We all want peace, harmony, love, security, companionship, respect, tolerance and moments of silence.
Silence and the condition of being alone are considered anathema in today’s world of multimedia and constant connection, but great thought, ideas and originality do not spring from the noisy mass. It is important to embrace our silence and solitude, to hold them close and dear, as only in them will we discover the true depths of our thoughts, and the wellspring of our joy. And only in this silence can we start to create the changes that will make us fearless, happier, and more contented with our lives. We all want to change the world for the better, but often we stand on our soapboxes, and say it is they who must change. The truth is we cannot change them, or the world. The only thing we can change is ourselves, and that is hard. For many, change is an uncomfortable thing. Most people love the thought of change, the delightful daydream of living a different life, but very few choose to go through the discomfort and inner turmoil that true change requires. Only when we are prepared to take that uncomfortable step, can we hope to bring progressive change to improve the world.
When you have found your truth, you will find a growing confidence in your instincts and emotions. You will slowly lose fear; you will lose doubt; you will inspire others; and make them confident and fearless. Through your fearless tolerance of others, they will become loving, mindful, and tolerant as well. The fearless know their minds, will trust until proven wrong, and, if so, will walk away without judgment. The fearless will step from the path, put out a helping hand, not allow themselves to be swayed by the crowd. When you are fearless, you do no harm. There is no need. The fearless spread their calm, and make others fearless too. Without fear, there is no need for violence. Without fear, there is no jealousy; the fearless do not fear loss or betrayal; without fear, there is no loneliness; the fearless stand in the middle of their lives, and embrace their silence and solitude; and open the possibilities of this vast calm universe to all who come into contact with them.