We see these memes come across our Facebook feeds from time to time–snappy-fonted lists of ways to live. The most famous one I recall begins with “dance like nobody’s watching.” I guess that’s a nice sentiment, but I know myself well enough to admit that I’m never going to do that. It seems like advice for a certain personality type. The anxiety that would accompany such an effort outweighs any potential reward. It’s just not worth it, i.e., it’s not practical (for me, anyway, and probably not for about 49% of the population). The rest of the aforementioned meme rings equally impractical: we’ve all been hurt by someone we love and will likely be hurt again; someone is always listening, unless you’re alone in a far wilderness; and life on earth, though sometimes grand, cannot honestly be called “heaven.”
So I made a list. It’s too long to fit into a snappy-fonted meme, but each point felt necessary. It was designed with all people in mind, regardless of creed. I understand that some of these suggestions may not resonate with less individualistic cultures, but my intention was to root it solely in the modern human experience, as I have come to know it in first-world, western civilization. Please comment.
Alan’s Practical Guide to Daily Existence, Western Edition
1. Know that there will always be something out of reach.
2. As often as needed, figure out who you are. Operate from that place. This may require courage.
3. Moments of insecurity will come. Instead of trying to overcome them, learn to weather them with dignity and grace.
4. Everybody feels pain and loss. Weather these also with dignity and grace.
5. Learn to see the world with imagination.
6. Search for the explanation; accept that you may never find a satisfactory one.
7. Enjoy all of your senses.
8. Realize that the majority of people mean you no harm; they’re trying to get through the day, too.
10. If you create things, share them. Even when it feels like few are interested. An audience of one is still an audience.
11. If you do not create things, then nourish a love for the things created by others.
12. Accept that the thing you’re good at may not appeal to very many people. Then again, it may. Either way, your personal satisfaction in doing it should not diminish.
13. Remember that people who give advice are, like you, trying to figure things out. Suspect anyone who claims to have all of life’s answers.
14. Embrace the virtues of the social class* into which you were born. Social-climbing is soulless.
15. Let a landscape (or seascape, or cityscape) imprint itself on your psyche.
16. If you demand space to make up your mind, allow others the same courtesy. You cannot dictate another’s thoughts.
17. Travel, as far and as frequently as your circumstances will allow.
18. Try silence.
19. Be sure that your words are your own.
20. Remember that occasional loneliness is the price of individuality.