Beginning something new is never easy. I’m sure there are thousands of very important exceptions to this absolute and exceptionless universal rule, of course, but I think we’ve beaten that topic to death now and we can all agree that there are absolutely no exceptions. This is a familiar part of the human experience: time and time again, we are faced with a blank canvas, a dangerously overgrown forest, or a newly constructed building with walls devoid of personality. How to begin to paint the masterpiece, how to hack down the oversized, gaudy eyesores of trees and extract the valuable timber for pulp production, what type of spray-paint best to tag the building walls, how best to artfully smash the windows? It is the very act of beginning that is so daunting. It is at times like these that we do well to pause, to let the fear melt away, to feel the strength deep within us, and to recall the wisdom that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, followed by an exhausting, overwhelming, pretty much impossible number of steps. But there’s no need to be too discouraged by this very discouraging fact; instead, you simply need to set your sights much lower. How about a journey to the fridge to see what’s in there? There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Not so daunting after all.
When you start to let go of your narrow preconceptions, your rigid old ideals and values and your ossified ‘hopes’ and ‘dreams’, and you begin to really surrender yourself to this new, more flexible attitude with only slightly dramatically lowered expectations, the sense of liberation you experience is palpable and intoxicating. Palpable in a metaphorical sense — it is notoriously difficult to literally palpate a sense of liberation, even with the most advanced traditional Chinese medicine techniques. You ask yourself: why do I ‘need’ to go to med school? Why indeed! Why do I ‘need’ to be respectable in the eyes of my peers, why do I ‘need’ to pay my bills and respect stodgy old ‘laws’ limiting my ‘senseless’ acts of violence, why do I ‘need’ to clean the pizza grease and Red Bull spills off the computer keyboard and change my adult diapers daily? The sense of liberation is as intoxicating as a case of beer and a mugful of assorted psychotropics, making your daily consumption of a case of beer and a mugful of assorted psychotropics more or less redundant, but you don’t care. You’re free now. You’re in charge. You begin to realize that not only were all the goals you had set unrealistic, they just weren’t right. They might be right for someone else, but that someone isn’t you anymore. You used to be, to put it delicately, a pathetic failure, but that’s only because you were trying to play by their rules. Now you’re in charge of the game, and you’re winning. (You’re also the ref so if somehow you’re still falling behind you can fudge the scorecard a bit.)
That’s the approach I swear by regardless of the fact that it’s totally ineffective. I believe I can justify that apparent contradiction by invoking a bit of poetry by Walt Whitman where he says something annoying about how he contains ‘multitudes’ of contradictions but he’s cool with it. On the surface, it might sound like he’s copping out, perhaps stirring within you a Socratic, questioning attitude where you feel moved to thoughtfully bash him with a large hunk of basalt, but then you recall that this is some famous and respected artsy-type guy we’re talking about here so taking a critical perspective in this context is impermissible.