The Evaporation of Fantasy
A note to my 47 year old self
Let’s talk fantasy and adventure. Now that’s something you never want to lose. I don’t know exactly where you are or what you are up to. You probably consider yourself “old” and think thoughts like “you can’t keep up”. At least I’m sure most of your peers do. Many of mine do already, and you’ve got 10 years on me. You’re income stabilized, housing stabilized, but on the other hand as people age, we tend to “realize” we will “never” be that millionaire. We buy into that phenomenon of people settling right from our mid-thirties. We begin to confuse apathy with happiness and contentment. You’ve lived a “good, decent life” and generally done the “right things”. You are made. But beware of the problem, a sneaky and insidious, that creates havoc in the lives of the most talented and individuals. The problem is that you think THE JOURNEY IS DONE. That hunger to experiment, to be exposed to new situations? To be thrilled any day of the week? Where your weekends are not just for sitting on the porch, mowing the lawn or watching the telly? It’s been replaced with a more “matured” and “adult” point of view because you are fifty and a professional and a very, serious person. Step back from the ledge!
Here’s the thing. Nobody is saying to shirk responsibilities but also we want to be in a place where our mind is firing up. Be silly more. I hope you are still laughing a lot. I hope you are goofier than I was. I hope you are still lifting those weights. I hope you are fluent in Italiano. I hope you are discovering new hoods, whether by daylight, whether by dinners at new restaurants, whether by flights to different cities. A major reason to keep going is the engagement itself. Play some flag football. Go on that hike. Yes, do that tougher mudder. Don’t worry about being a “try hard” or the uncool uncle, it’s ok to live life, you don’t have to “stay in your lane”. None of this is being “childish”. Like the adventure is it’s own payoff. I’m all for non-attachment, but it’s also good to still maintain the potency to even be mildly irritated and “upset” (not depressed mind you) by things. That’s something we can both learn from our 17 and 27 year old selves.
“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” — C.S. Lewis
Stay “out there” on some level as we need those tangible experiences of life too, to always engaging, being out there, getting new or maintaining experiences (people, skills, experiences,) otherwise we become a facade of presence.And when you’re in a zone of “self-acceptance” over “self-improvement” , you are essentially like a frog getting boiled in that facade of “self-acceptance”. What I hope is that you’ve found a way to maintain a healthy balance between the two.
Maybe it’s my fault, but probably you are stuck in a headspace where you resonates more with “being chill” than “taking action”. It’s ok 17 year old and 27 year old us was “chill” too. But now that I think of it, being “chill” is not an excuse. Because remember that ultimately, especially at your age now, you probably need a more complex level of stimulation for contentment, or you might find the simpler pleasures to be what turn your crank — it depends on your personality and tendencies, and neither is better or worse, so actually being chill is not the problem.
What’s important however, is your readiness to keep that “candle of awareness” burning bright, because the decision to stop travelling our journey is will for sure be a slow “fading away”.
This isn’t some woo-woo new agey bullshit. This is the idea behind entropy! The universe doesn’t stay still. It’ll impersonally rip apart any entity that stubbornly stays in a steady state. Whether it’s the eventual dustification of ancient cities, or that satisfied individual that is standing still— it doesn’t care. The universe is ruthless towards any unstable energy (note: this includes people — me and you) that deceives itself into believing it can “become stable i.e. still” for too long a period of time. Because see the universe itself, is not static, it is the ever-changing, shifting, and morphing.
I don’t know if you remember this late-30s phase, when you were caught up with paradoxes? Here’s one I’ll leave you with as you approach your fifties. One about how we are meant to be happy, just by being…yet we still need to take some action. I told you it was a paradox!
Happiness is not achieved by avoiding what’s meaningful to us, in exchange for a more predictable life. You could say it would only have applied to #17, and #27, and maybe to me. But this is also the case for any man who wants to enjoy his life to the fullest, so it well applies to you.
I do certainly believe that happiness is in fact our “default state”, and that part of our “inner purpose” is to get out of our conceptual worlds and into REALITY long enough to realize it, I ALSO believe that by ignoring our “outer purpose” and creating delusions and facades in order to deal with it, we in fact drive ourselves further into our heads, and away from that very reality that could bring us that same happiness by default.
I know you are wiser. More calm. More wordly. More comfortable in your skin. My biggest wish for you is that you don’t, “settle down”, that you are still living in your mind, and that your eyes are not dulled. That you do not live the latter half of your life in a justification of apathy.
I’m confident that this letter will find you well, that you are a better me, and that you will relay some excitement to #57.