28 December 2007

The Argument Against Living Your Life Fully

“The purpose of life is to fart around. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

We've embraced the notion of living a full life. Well, at least in public. I'm working 24-7, we brag to anyone who will listen. And of course, this is a lie and that is just one of the things wrong with the whole notion of living life fully.

Rather than 24-7, it might make more sense to live life from peak to peak. This suggests a life punctuated by bouts of love making rather than hours and hours of hand holding, or a mad sprint in a race of seconds rather than a stroll that goes on and on and on for hours. Peaks are not only wonderful - they demand recovery time that looks suspiciously slack jawed and glazed eyed.

And the more we scale these peaks, the more readily we can repeat the trick of finding those peak moments that distort time, cause us to lose self consciousness, and let only the task at hand command our attention, finding our perfect balance between challenge and skill. It is through these peak experiences that we are actualized. And it is from these peak experiences that we need to recover.

For one thing, post-peak order is the opposite of post-traumatic disorder. Peak experiences are hard to attain and impossible to maintain, but once we've had them, we feel more alive, more sure about our life's direction and purpose. Peak experiences lend clarity to life that would be lacking in an "every day is the same" kind of life.

The creative cycle includes peak moments and time that seems, on the surface, wildly unproductive. Aha! moments are preceded by incubation (which is preceded by immersion in a topic and problem set). The Aha! is a peak moment when things click to take shape, but incubation looks about as productive as a chicken sitting on eggs. And yet without this incubation time, its rare that anything pops out of the "ain't there" ether into the plane of existence, that miracle of creativity.

Lest the reader think that I'm just making all this up, offering this odd notion that one's life is best spent in a state other than flat-line exertion, allow me to quote from Warren Buffet, who, last I heard, is worth about $35 billion, a net worth that usually suffices as an attention-getting device in this world.

Think of yourself as you go through life as standing at the plate and people throwing you pitches. It is a very special baseball game. There is no one calling the balls and strikes and you can stand there forever. You have got all these people in the bleachers saying, "Hey, swing you bum!" on every second pitch. You just have to learn to ignore them and when a pitch comes along and it is straight but it is a little high inside, you let it pass. Another one comes along and it is a little low outside. Every once in a while a pitch comes along that looks like the sweetest, juiciest, fattest pitch you are ever going to see. And when it does, you swing from your heels on it. You come out of your shoes on it. That is how you go through life. And you are only going to get about ten swings like that, maybe five swings. That is what you wait for. Too many people go through life batting at every other pitch. So just wait for your opportunities and when they come you swing from your heels.

Don't live your life fully. Don't swing at every pitch so that you're exhausted when that juicy pitch finally comes across the plate. Instead, go from peak to peak and shamelessly savor the valleys in between.


LIfehiker said...

Interesting advice. I live my life at pretty much full speed with short interludes of music, reading, eating, or fooling around. At the end of most days I feel like I used it all and accomplished a lot. Other people think I'm a rather productive fellow.

Yet it would be nice to plan a few longer valleys of rest. This post has me thinking about that seriously.

Anonymous said...

If people want to play baseball, I wish them all the best. I hope they hit their pitches and enjoy every minute of it.

I, however, was put here to Polka. :o)

Ron Davison said...

This post has made you think seriously? Wow. That's pretty cool.

Polka! What am I to do with that? Wait on the wall until just the right accordian player takes the stage? Now you've messed up my metaphor.