Knowing nothing about the people we love is what allows us to really love them

Dear quarter lives,

Have you ever known someone for so long and felt like you knew nothing about them? And the more time passes, you realise how little of them you really know. Take our parents for example, we don’t really know them at all and yet they are probably the people we’ve spent the most cumulative time with. We know nothing about the people we love and that’s precisely why we can love them so deeply. Can you imagine if we really knew the people in our lives, could we bring ourselves to love them, to really love them without conditions or biases. It is because we are safe from each other’s thoughts that we can bring ourselves to love one another. Have you any idea what your mother went through at the age of 5, or how your grandfather felt like as a little boy? Do you really know if they almost died or killed another? Do you know if they lied, stole or used their bodies for power to negotiate with another or with god? Do you know how ugly or beautiful they really feel, or how sick or healthy their minds really are? We don’t really know anyone for certain, even our own selves. And what great news that is, to not know, to be free of a certainty that brings judgment along with it. If we knew for certain we were good people, we would judge others based on that certainty of goodness, and condemn those who fell outside of that box of goodness we carved so precisely around ourselves. What a relief it is that we do not know what goodness exactly is, and what a relief it is to be free to ascribe it to everyone. What a relief it is not to know another and to be unable to judge them accordingly. But yet we go around judging all the time. And it is because we seek to know ourselves and in turn others so precisely. We go on seeking to know who we really are, prescribing identities onto ourselves and onto others. But you see, the certainty that knowledge illudes, the security it might make you feel to know another, the price of safety in knowing is judgment. And judgement is a hefty price to pay. It is taxing not only on us but on others. It is unfair and limits our experience of everything within us and around us.

I invite you to take a moment and try to feel yourself without judgement. It is very difficult. Now, take another moment, and remember all the people you came into contact with today, and try to feel them without judgement. It is very difficult. Let me clarify here that judgement does not only include negative statements but it could be positive or even neutral ones. For example, the clerk at a shop you bought something from recently, your interaction with them was based on the fact that they were a shop clerk, so your feelings of them were tainted by that identity you gave them. It is a very difficult exercise to feel another without any preconceived notions, to really listen to someone when they speak without projecting our own prejudices onto them. How long can you hold your gaze with another, eye to eye, pupil to pupil, soul to soul? There is a reason it is uncomfortable, and it’s not just because we’re afraid of what they’ll see but we are afraid of what we will see. To see without judgement does not mean we’ll see rainbows in each other’s eyes. We all have shadows, we all have secrets, some darker than others, but all complex, all because of things that happened to us, and all our own fault too. So you see, feeling one another, gazing into another’s eyes aren’t easy tasks. They are an exchange of information between two parties, whether they are aware of it or not, and so these moments of human connection can be very uncomfortable at first but only because we are judging what we see, and we think that whatever we might see will stick to us like some contagious disease, but it is true only if you choose to hold on to whatever you see. The thing is the world is filled with both joy and pain, most of us find it much easier to receive joy and really hard to let go of it. Pain, on the other hand, is very difficult to receive and much easier to pass on. But it all passes anyway, from one human to another, one interaction to the next, we pass it all around and around. A smile can travel the same route, though with smiles, we embrace them thinking that it is our embrace that brought the smile our way but it would’ve passed through us anyway whether we greet it or not. The same goes for anger, fear, doubt and hope. Around and around they all go until we have no idea where it all began, where it ends, if ever. This circle of information growing and multiplying, circles within circles, with no beginning and never ending. A dizziness falls upon us as we dance within and around these circles, round and round we go, a little here and a little there, but never any where in particular. March, they drum. Dance, they drum louder. Can you hear the echoes of the voices that once were, these voices of the quiet, that were never heard, never received, because they could never be loved by another. They wailed and flailed from the pain of never being loved. They screamed, and I screamed louder, until one day I stopped screaming, and they spoke to me. All this time, they had been speaking to me and I thought they were talking about another. Love me, love us, love you. That’s all I heard. For some reason I didn’t hear the I. They were screaming not for help. They were screaming to help me. I love me. I love us, I love you. I had all the love in the world inside of me. I had all this love but I had to unknow what I thought I knew for certain about myself, it is when I realised I know nothing for certain, nothing about me, nothing about life, that I was able to love myself completely. Without any conditions or biases or expectations. It was love for the sake of nothing, and that’s what I mean when I say we can only really say we love other people when we love them without any prejudices, even our family and friends we are biased with our love towards them because they are family but when we let go of the weight of that relationship and allow these biases to fade we find we are able to love them more completely, regardless of who they are, and regardless of their relationship to us, we love them just because they are here, because they are who they are even when they don’t know who they are and precisely because we don’t know who they are. Sometimes we think Knowledge gives us the power to make better decisions, but knowledge often satisfies a need to be reassured that said decision, said action, said information is the correct one, but knowledge often taints how we really feel. Knowledge suppresses emotions, our rational side often at war with the irrational side. There is purpose to knowledge but not in matters of love. Love itself cannot be accurately described in the language through which we communicate knowledge. Love falls outside of all known things. It resides in an uncertain place between feelings and sensations, a crevice so small, so deep it can hold only something as fluid and as dynamic as love. So love yourself regardless of what you know about yourself. For there is much else you don’t know about it. This lack of knowledge is an invitation to love each other more freely. Embrace the fluidity of love and hold it for a moment until it leaks through you and seeps onto another, but trust there is more to come your way, if you would only let it flow without knowing why. And the next time, you get upset because someone you love doesn’t really know you, celebrate their lack of knowledge of you, for it is an opportunity to be loved unconditionally. And what greater way is there to be loved than unconditionally based on nothing at all. It is love based on no information that is most reliable, most stable. Isn’t it ironic that the thing we thought protects our hearts from love is the thing that breaks it in the first place?

With love for absolutely no reason at all,

S.A.

Fix your Gaze

Dear quarter lives,

Fix your gaze — a meditation practice. They tell you to fix your gaze on something and sit still and observe. But what does it really mean to fix your gaze? Is it simply a practice in focus or is there much more to it than meets the eye? Let us take the phrase and break it down. To fix means to correct. And to correct your gaze, to correct where you were looking implies you were looking wrong. But is it looking in the wrong place or the wrong way? Or is it that you were looking in the first place? Is it transforming our unconscious looking into a conscious act that transforms it from mere looking into deliberate sight. Seeing is choosing to look. And by choosing to look you make a deliberate choice to direct your attention to a specific object of your sight. It is that which we must correct when they say fix your gaze. The practice indeed requires focus, but it is because you are “focusing” i.e. directing your attention to a specific point. It is training you to consciously choose to look, i.e. to see.

Many of us walk through life without seeing much. Our eyes collect information constantly, but how much of it do we choose to see, how much of it do we choose to experience? It is only when we use our senses consciously that we fully experience them. Otherwise, they just exist. And by extension, we just exist. But when you choose to see, to hear, to feel, that is when your senses come to life. And by extension, you become alive.

In his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism, Oscar Wilde wrote, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” These two short sentences stuck with me ever since I first read them over a decade ago. Though their meaning for me has changed over the years as I have changed and grown. It might seem like a self-explanatory statement. But the more I contemplated it, the more obscure it grew. It had so many layers, and the more layers I peeled, the more I found. Is it simply that a few of us choose to live, and others let life happen to them? But what is the nature of that choice? I mean no one wants to go through life sleepwalking. Most of us want to live, but why don’t we? If it is a choice, why aren’t people choosing what they want? Or can they not find the choice, is it hidden somewhere — a puzzle, only a few can solve? And if so, what is the best hiding place for choice? What is the best hiding place for anything? In plain sight!

It is that obvious that we miss it. The best place to hide anything is in plain sight. It is in our sight, literally. We just need to fix it. The choice is in our sight. It is in how we see the world, that is how we come to life. The choice to live, the ability to live rather than exist, comes from the choice to see rather than to look. We must choose our eyes. Which eye am I going to see the world with today? What kind of eyes am I willing to use? Am I going to use my looking eyes or seeing eyes? That is the choice we must make to live or exist. Practices like meditation are also like the statement I shared above, they might seem simple, but once you contemplate them, and sit with them, they reveal their layers to you, and the more you peel, the more you will find. It is not just about breathing, or focus, or observation, it is about much more. The thing is about these layers is that they are person specific, they reveal themselves to you in the order you need to learn them, in the order that you are ready to become aware of them. What I have shared here is only one of my insights, but it might not sit with you or stick like it has with me, not because it is incorrect or correct, but because it is not time for you yet. There is always a time for each one of us to receive insights from the universe that will guide us along our path. And because my path is unique to me, and your path is unique to you, the lampposts for all of us are unique, our crossroads are unique, so I am sharing my specific learning with you not to tell you that this is what you should do now, I am sharing it with you because I want to illustrate to you the great potential there is for discovery in contemplation. It is only a possibility that I share with you, and I hope that you take it as a token of my appreciation for your life, and find your own.

All that I hope to do with this work is to start an open conversation into our potential. We are at the beginning of our lives, dear and fellow quarter lives, and I believe we have so much potential for life, and so much possibility lies ahead of us but it is only if we believe in the impossible that all becomes possible. And perhaps I have shared here much of my contemplations into the absurd, but I have chosen the absurd to contemplate, because I believe that the absurd is a great teacher in humility and grace. It does not mean that if our human minds have not explained it, then it cannot be. If the history of scientific discovery has illustrated anything, is that it all already existed before we made theories of it. So the absurd is a magnificent teacher in that it allows you to approach everything with a sense of “I know nothing, but I am ready to learn”. And what a great place to be as a student of life, than a place of “I don’t know everything”. It is that specific place that creates space in your mind, in your senses, in your soul for more. For if you already claim you are full, if you already claim that you know all, then there will be no room in you to know more. So I have chosen the absurd, because I have chosen a path of learning. But this is my teacher, at least for now. Find your own. It is a wondrous experience to be shown the way. When visiting a historic site or monument, do you not seek a tour guide to show you the way, to tell you about the magnificent wonders of the site. Life is no different. There are many guides, who speak many languages. Find your language. Find your guide. Choose to see, and you will discover a whole new world. Just fix your gaze, and you will find grace along the way. 

Always with love,

S.A.

Welcome to the quarter life

Dear quarter lives, 

I welcome you to join me on my quest to better understand our lives. I, myself, am a fellow quarter life, a fellow human who like you hasn’t been on this planet for so long. And in my recent joining of this experience called life, I found myself struggling to settle in. Struggling to accept that I am here. For the longest time, I felt like I didn’t belong on this planet. Like there must’ve been some mistake out there that resulted in my existence here. I had so many questions, and there were no answers anywhere in sight. Growing up it was common to hear of the middle age crisis, but I had heard no one talk of that which comes before. The one that comes in our first phase of life — the quarter life crisis. The crisis of growing up. I remember wishing there was some book that would make me feel less confused, less like I was the problem, less alone. I so desperately needed to connect to another soul, another quarter life who was struggling to draw their breath like I had been struggling. I started writing these letters of contemplation to myself. To better understand what I was going through. I wrote because I didn’t have a direct line to a god to answer my questions. But through my words, many appeared, many came to speak to me, to offer some answers, some guidance, some comfort. This blog is a product of many years of contemplation. It is the journey of a quarter life seeking to understand their life. I dedicate this blog to all quarter lives in crisis, for it is the struggle that urges us to find our way back home, to find our Selves, not the Selves we are told we are by our parents or society, but the Self we come to discover all on our own. It is a lonely journey. It is a difficult journey. And so, I would like to offer you some company along the way if you would allow me. There is no right or wrong on this blog. Some of it will resonate with you, and some of it won’t. It is simply an offering in perspective from one quarter life to another. It is the dialogue that heals, so let us converse. Let us connect to one another through story, through contemplation. We cannot journey for one another, but we can journey alongside each other. Let us encourage the seeking, let us not repress what our anxieties are signaling. Let us not succumb to any status quo, but to the wisdom of our youth. Let us celebrate our quarter lives, for they are screaming to be heard. They are screaming to be acknowledged. So let us listen together. Let us support our transformations together. We are here, so let us escape no more. Be kind to yourself on this journey. You have made it this far. You can make it further. You can make it anywhere.

So, my dear quarter lives, welcome the quarter life with open arms, thank it, embrace it, love it and leave it behind. 

From my quarter life to yours with love, 

S.A.