Letter to M
As of writing this, I am propped up on the front porch of this cramped yet cosy cabin, overlooking the still waters of Port Neill. For the sake of imagery, if I prop my head low enough I can see the moon - teasingly close to full - shining down and out in front of me, and I have one of the last West End’s from my uncle’s stash in my hand. It turns out Port Neill doesn’t have a bottle shop so I’ve been forced to ravage his entire supply (sorry Uncle Geoff).
I write this not for any particularly pressing reason, but purely for the sake of wanting to write to you. It can be refreshing seeing a corresponding name atop my writings for once, as opposed to the usual decrepit, page-infesting word filth that is only ever seen by my own eyes. Sometimes I feel like I am in a never-ending literary-induced mania, ravenously carving questions of truth across the cave walls waiting for the day people appear to see it, when in fact I am in this great, big bastard of a cave all alone, and the entrance points have sealed shut around me.
In our conversation last week, you were outraged with my saying 'happiness is not the ultimate goal in life’ (at least for myself). I certainly understand the reaction, and I figured I would use this letter as an opportunity to clarify my reasoning - for my own sake. When I said I don't care about being ‘happy’, as the dictionary definition would have it, what I mean is that happiness - in its true and pure form - could only ever exist for me within the guise of true purpose - however that may look.
While my adolescent idealism would dream blissfully of it, the idea of a white-picket-fence kind of life died for me a while ago. It wasn't killed by a piercing wound from society’s cold, sharp blade; rather a painfully gradual realisation (call it euthanasia or assisted-dying for the sake of metaphor) that it would be impossible for me to find true happiness through the ordinary routes. Here I am reminded of an H.S. Thompson quote:
“Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on the shore and merely existed?"
Personally speaking, in terms of a blanketing philosophy of life, the purpose is everything. I could wake up tomorrow - far away from this freezing, lonely little cabin - to three hourglass thick Brazillian supermodels feeding me watermelon; my best friends downstairs in a joots rotation; and my parents yelling through a megaphone down the street how proud of me they are - I still wouldn’t be ‘there’. Yes, I would certainly be happy in the temporary, moment-to-moment sense of the word, I’d be thrilled. But in a larger, more purposeful sense, I would not be. For if this was my everyday existence (which would still be far better than the one I lead right now, don’t get me wrong), what would I have achieved? Whom would I be? What storms would I have braved? The same questions that have riddled the underlyings of my mind since a child would still be there, only now they would be squashed down and hushed between the sour nectar of tequila and the externally produced gratification and reassurance of loved ones.
I have come to an internally peaceful resolution that the only path to true happiness for me is to embrace this twisted individuality and sail valiantly (even if blindly) by the storms and ever-changing winds of my own gut; run in an all-red satin suit headfirst for the cosmic bull so to speak. The external, the glitter, the achievements, the systematic pat-on-the-backs; they don't lead anywhere but back down into the rabbit-hole, and I feel far more equipped in this ol’ thing going forward now that I fully realise that.
I see where this is perhaps the part that very much separates me in this life-through-the-looking-glass way, but to me, it doesn't matter at all where I end up. I hold no inclinations for reflecting one day as a smiley old man about where I got to from where I was. Life is viewed as a ‘journey’ - as a proverbial climbing of the mountain in which everyone is trying to claw their way to the glowing striptease of happiness waiting at the top (if you don’t fall off the cliff first). I just want to be in it, moment-to-moment, because that is all we are promised. I don’t want to walk a path already laid out for me simply because it's predictable and pleasant and just ‘the way’ it goes. To achieve the purpose, I must venture off the track into unchartered territory and find my way, despite the closet monsters I may find there, and I guess that was the point I was drunkenly trying to make the other night.
I think it might have a lot to do with the middle-class Australian bubble we both live in, but I am exposed to these ‘happy’ people every day, and it seems like a great reality TV show scam to me. Their happiness seems too transparent, too propped up and far too easily washed away in the ever-changing whirlpools of human emotions. I do not believe many of these ‘happy people’ are truly happy, but rather positively content. I think people want to feel happy so they almost trick themselves into it. They find ‘happiness’ in things that make them feel good, rather than in things that give them joy on a deeper level. For how can someone truly know in their hearts what makes them happy when they are simply enjoying the view from the shore? Yet they have not even gone skinning dipping in the pond for fear of what creatures could lay under the surface. How can one be sure that what they are feeling is ‘it’, when they have never dared to explore beyond their kingdoms of fear into the unknown? How does one even define happiness in the first place? Is comfort deemed happiness? Is getting what you want deemed happiness? Is finding company for our misery deemed happiness? Where is that line drawn? And what makes one kind of happiness legitimate and the other not?
If there is one thing in this whole letter I want to say with true clarity and absoluteness, it's that people should not make compromises in life. The only way of knowing that the happiness you’ve found is a genuine joy is by bracing the storms for long enough that it is no longer a question, you just know. Perhaps this is over-dramatic, but I think anytime someone has to ask themselves if they are truly happy in their current life situation, the question has already been answered for them. For the record, failing to acquire happiness is certainly nothing to scoff at. It would be a truly Herculean achievement given this world we live in, and I think it resides in a very slim margin of people. I simply mean to say that few people pursue happiness with the entirety of their being, as the word should dictate. As a Plato-meets-50 Cent figure would say, “get happy or die trying.”
So if, byways of achieving my purpose, I also find happiness, then great. I would love nothing more than to live a very long and happy life. I truly would. It gives me tingles just thinking about that possibility. I guess the point is that it must work in that order. I cannot find purpose through happiness, but rather purpose must be the means to that end. I guess this is why this way of looking at things can often get cloudy - it is far simpler for someone to imagine what would make them ‘happy’ than would what would give them ‘purpose’.
I don’t know if this comes simply from a place of ego, or something more, but I want to leave my stamp in this world in one way or another. I guess it’s hard for me to discuss purpose in any great detail because I still don’t know what my own is. The only purpose I currently know is that I am going to chase purpose - hauntingly vague I know. I think it’s probably why I like this whole writing schtick so much...it’s just about the only thing that has given me that truly ‘purposeful’ inkling in my tummy, and why I’ll probably chase that literary dragon until it ends in either glory or despair.
I hope this doesn’t all seem too nihilistic, because it’s really not. Sometimes people seem to view my ways of seeing things as dark, which makes me less inclined to speak about such topics, but I do not think they are necessarily dark - off-beat? Sure. Chaotic? Perhaps. But dark? No. If anything, I think it's more positive in a way because at least it's trying to draw something positive and worthwhile from the clutches of the encompassing darkness, rather than fumbling around with our hands over our faces pretending the darkness isn’t there at all. At this point in my life, I have no time left for people who want to live in their little propped-up falsehoods of reality just to avoid asking the tough questions.
For the first time, my compass does have a direction pointing on it. It may not have any destination, but that direction is what matters. I would take that over running around lost in an artificial bug-light any day of the week. I also just want to clarify that this is how I feel my own life must be lived. Despite my criticisms here of how many go on their paths, even my own waves of arrogance wouldn’t dream of telling other people their 'journey' must resemble my own. I simply mean to say perhaps some people are not entirely honest with themselves about the whole thing.
You may disagree with what I have said, but I hope, at the very at least, I’ve come across as honest and genuine. I’d like to think that if I had any redeemable qualities at all, that would probably be it, of which I could give most thanks to the roughly picture-drawn philosophy I’ve laid out above.
That’s about all I have in me for one night, I think. Thanks for reading if you made it this far. Until I hear from you again, I remain,
Your closest ally and fellow rider of the storm,
P.S. Below is one more quote I wanted to include for some food for thought, and to further exemplify there are no dodging questions or running from it in this game of life. The big ugly bastard will catch up to us all in the end, so we may as well stand tall and face the prick!
“It kills the very brave and the very good and the very gentle indiscriminately. If you are none of these, it will kill you too. But there will be no special hurry.” - Hemmingway