This has been a long, long journey. Not as long as some, but long enough to realise that there is a purpose to everything we do. I recently heard a comment by a Buddhist monk, “Behind every human endeavor is the quest for greatest happiness.” It was spoken in one of those broken South-East Asian accents that seems to add another dimension to an ancient wisdom. Indeed it is a quest. Some get eaten up by it; others prevail; some transcend it. But I would also add that the quest is itself is the happiness – perhaps in disguise – and when that is realised the world seems a little lighter and, inside, it feels a little quieter. Of course like any great work of art, it speaks through us and the art itself is never really ever finished, because neither are we.
When I was a younger I used to like politics. I enjoyed hearing my own opinion and the self-declared sense of authority I often spoke with. I wasn’t bad; sometimes I convinced myself I actually knew what I was talking about. I really believed that others actually wanted to hear what I had to say. Most of the time, behind my sense of righteousness, I was internally confused. Politics, at least globally, increasingly feels a bit like a circus, a circular parade without much vision. I wonder if anyone else has that feeling?
There was a time not too long ago when I also used to think in black and white – this is wrong, this is right. That was until I realised the absurdity of this worldview. At the time I also started to take responsibility for the knowledge, and lack thereof, that I possessed on all sorts of levels. I started by investigating my own thoughts and, more importantly, how and why I felt and reacted a certain way about … well, just about everything! I started to question my own education, the food system I was bought up in, the values I placed on life, people and the environment. I noticed that some of these views were my own (as far as I could tell); some were indoctrinated and some I inherited by the consensus of those around me. It’s not easy questioning the foundations that I’d staked a lot of my sense of identity on. Harder still was to see those reactions that appear on the subconscious level, racist remarks that for most people would seem normal. I discovered I often reacted even before I’d had time to actually consider the cause in the first place. This was hardly what I would call real choice. I have to admit that sometimes it felt like I might have been intentionally driving myself crazy.
Things that appeared to be certain and, for lack of a better word, ‘real’ suddenly became less certain and ‘unreal’ (in both the modern use of the word and the implicit meaning). It was a time where I felt more confused about the state of affairs than I ever have in my whole life. This, too is okay – I’ m sure it serves a larger purpose. Away from the media, away from institutionalised ideas and my rock solid associated sense of self, derived from my family and friends, I sort of stumbled across being able to see things in a much larger context. Of course I still have all the prejudices I inherited (for they are not my own), but now many of these ideas hold far less weight – especially after travelling the world for many years, seeing and experiencing things directly for myself, talking with an amazing variety of people, sharing ideas, dreams and hopes and discovering that in fact nothing is ever black and white.
Personally, this time of questioning did help highlight the educational, social and institutional paradigms that I was raised with. For example, I used to believe that in the West, our ideas of governance and liberty are ‘right’ and others are ‘wrong’. I used to believe that we had the best system; the others were all bad, and that it was okay to make profit at another’s expense. The defining mythos of our society had become scarcity, reductionism and separation. In short, I was never taught anything else in my education other than to be able to do stuff – almost like to fill a role – much less the ability to critically think for myself. Perhaps this is being too harsh. I just think we can do a lot better. This is a constant ongoing process for me and underpins many of the reasons why I set out on such an adventure. I just ask, who is serving who? Is the system we have serving us or are we, by and large, serving this system?
The most common question I get asked is why? Why do this? The short answer is that it makes me happy but, strictly speaking, that is not true either because it always comes in its opposites. So I don’t really have an answer, except to trust that there is a larger undefinable purpose. That is enough I think. Perhaps I and, in a larger context ‘we’, are not searching for a meaning but rather the experience, the rapture, of being alive. One truth has become clear; like a great work of art the quest is never finished. Ultimately we are the artists. Recently I think I found my canvas. Now where’s the paint?