ᴀ LETTER ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ LOST

(Animation from GIPHY.com)

It’s always just out of reach. Isn’t it? Every day the search begins anew. Every night you lament the fact that you could not find “it”, yet again. But you’ll continue to try again tomorrow, as you always do, as long as you draw breath, until the end of your days if need be. What is “it”, you might ask? Well, “it” can be as difficult to describe as “it” is to comprehend. Some mistakenly call it happiness, but it’s not that simple. You’ve no doubt figured that much out already. Happiness comes and goes, a relative thing, not absolute. If happiness were absolute, it would become meaningless. It would set a new standard for normality. Happiness, like sadness, pain, they serve a purpose, but “it” is far beyond fleeting emotion.

The concept of “it” then further develops, usually growing to be seen as though it must be a sense of purpose. A meaning to exist, a life’s pursuit, something to pour years of passion and devotion into. A vast and growing collection of efforts. This could be anything, entirely self-serving like the acquirement of funds or things, boundless generosity towards others. Finding love, having children, creating a sense of stability and security, could any of this be “it”?

Maybe it’s health and general well-being. Maybe it’s spirituality and/or religion. Maybe it’s keeping busy, using time wisely or even just being entertained. Maybe it’s traveling the world, luxury and/or accumulating a vast cornucopia of experiences the average person never lives. Maybe it’s constantly striving, then reaching the very pinnacle of success, being better than everyone around you? Ask anyone that ever got there, and they’ll tell that’s not “it”.

When it comes down to it, in the end, for most of us, enough, is never enough. So, we carry on. Like ships traversing seas, “it” is all too often the wind in our sails. Utterly misunderstood, yet it guides and shapes the course of our lives.

Is that what “it” is? An insatiable yearning, a burning desire without end, the curse and doom of Mankind? Is there really an abyss in all of us, an endless oblivion, a void. An ultimately unrewarding driving force, so we may wander this world, searching for whatever “it” is, forever hoping to quench the fire, but nothing ever will, it merely feeds “it”.

The Ancient Greek word Aithôn, means “burning”, it was also one of the variations of the names of Erysichthon of Thessaly. Of all the Greek mythos, there isn’t a tale quite like that of Erysichthon. In it’s simplest explanation, Erysichthon wanted to fell every single tree in a sacred grove. When no one would do his bidding, he decided he would do it himself. Upon cutting down one of the sacred trees, Erysichthon unwittingly killed a Dryad, one of the spirits of the forest. For his insatiable self serving and destructive ways Erysichthon was cursed with a hunger that would never be satisfied. Inevitably, the story ends with Erysichthon, having depleted all the food sources he could acquire, slowly devouring himself, piece by piece, to a gruesome death. In a very literal sense, his greed consumed him.

So where does this leave us? Does “it” have to be this way?

Over a decade ago, it was a lifelong dream of mine to stand on the top of Mt. Fuji and look out over the sea of clouds (うんかい) and marvel at its splendor. After the euphoric high rapidly dissipated, while still standing at the top of the mountain, I began to think “well, now what?” It’s funny, I based the entire trip around that one goal but looking back the memory isn’t even clear anymore. The clearest memories are the ones that always stick out to me, the moments where something happens that you couldn’t have predicted would ever occur.

One of these anomalies, was on a train. I was eating barley sugars (a type of rock candy), when I noticed the toddler on the other side of his mother next to me, seemed intrigued by what I was eating. So I offered him one (through his mother) and he ate it. But the mother seemed as though she might want one also, so I offered her one too and she took it. The old man across from me was intently watching the exchange, so I offered him one and he took it. Then he wanted one for his wife. This eventually carried on with every passenger in view. Not one single person refused a barley sugar, I gave out dozens, I emptied an entire bag of cheap brandless barley sugars. To this day, it still strikes me as odd, this train carriage where for whatever reason all these people were grinning at me, seemingly grateful for this trivial gesture. Were they all just not refusing to be polite? I wouldn’t eat anything from someone who looks as suspicious as I do. We were all going to different places, with different worries, but for a brief time, there was a cordial pleasant moment that I doubt anyone foresaw occurring.

It took me awhile to figure out why that experience meant anything to me and I think it applies to a philosophy that encompasses everything in this life. Where you came from and where you’re going are actually quite inconsequential details, in the grand scheme of things. Just like the dates 1912-1996, do you think those dates mean anything to that deceased 84 year old? The – between the dates, is everything. It’s the life that was lived, it’s who that person was and it’s the journey.

I had quite a few friends who died far too young, but most of them were the kind of characters that lived in the moment, quick to laugh, even quicker to forgive, those are the ones I grieve the least. Because in their extremely short lives they lived more than many who grow to be quite old. Making the same mistakes over and over again, while their features contort and their hair turns white.

“It” drives the billionaire to keep making his billions, just as “it” drives the junkie to crave high after high. “It” will always implicate you, but whether you let that implication be positive or negative is entirely up to you.

Don’t be a slave to “it”, don’t worry about yesterday and live constantly for tomorrow, seeking “it” until the ends of the earth. Because “it” is really just a small part of “this”, and “this” is a journey. We’re all on it right now, just as I was on that train, all those years ago. You can let the moment pass into nothing while you’re fixated on what you want, or where you want to be, or you could open up a bag of barley sugars and enjoy the ride?

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