As you may have noticed from my 2017 reading list, I read a book called Designing Your Life last month, which was an interesting complement to a book I read last year called The Artist’s Way. Both books attempt to guide you into a life that resonates more deeply with you, which might beg the question about the taken-for-granted reality of this “you” thing that you’re supposed to spend your life becoming. Regardless, back to the books: the latter’s method is artistic, the former’s “scientific,” in that it applies design thinking. In the former, following a series of guided self-reflections, you’re asked to make three “Odyssey Plans,” which means you get to create three alternative versions of the next five years of your life. Why? As the writers, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, argue, “there are multiple great lives within you. You are legion” (104). As a Whitmanian “multitudes” fan, of course I was a sucker for this particular exercise. In each plan, you gauge your resources, enthusiasm, confidence, and coherence (to what degree it aligns with your lifeview and workview), and you create a visual timeline and a six-word title. There’s more, but let’s get right to my “outlandish” one, which will lead us into the main thrust of this post.
The six word title: I am the next Jim Carrey. This entailed – I don’t know – re-committing myself to comedy and acting and somehow “making it.” The details of my “plan” are less interesting to me now than the implications of the title. The next Jim Carrey? What exactly was I getting at there?
If I apply Jim Carrey’s own recent existential view to this matter, then I’m already Jim Carrey. After all, he’s just a character that apparently anyone can choose to play. And here I am choosing to play this Lou Canelli guy, who’s simply a different configuration of tetrahedrons coalescing in this moment to allow the universe to commune with itself in human consciousness. In these bloggy words then – coming from someone and somewhere, right? – we should discover only the (jesting) universe, not the mad ravings of some identifiable individual. All you’re reading are bits of information encoded into language that you were trained into being able to process. All you’re experiencing as your “self” are bits of information encoded into your genes that have been trained to manifest as a particular form of life. Word is bond.
When I dare to dream that I’m the next Jim Carrey, I’m forgetting that there’s no “next” because there’s no original Jim Carrey to follow. There’s just the universe experiencing itself through this peculiar instance of a “man” that might endure in a strange waltz of moments called “time.” How do I know this? I don’t. There’s nothing to know. I’m the universe recognizing its own singularity. I’ve heard one is the loneliest number. So too of One?
Loneliness is a byproduct of a failed memory; or rather, from a separation that you imagine is real. Caught between hope and fear, you wonder and worry, and yet who is the “you” who’s ostensibly caught? There’s nothing to catch, right?
So why bother with an Odyssey Plan? Why not just be the Odyssey? That is, be the adventure that is Life. That is your particular life. What Jim Carrey keeps espousing is not some hopeless nihilism but a liberating spirit of play. If you’re nothing, then there’s no risk in being everything, which is what you also already always are. As Camus reminds us at the end of his Myth of Sisyphus, “the point is to live.”
Yes, dropping Camus into this wayfaring post would likely reduce my ethos, but that’s if there were a “me” capable of losing credibility. In truth, I’m just letting the Universe wink at itself. I’m its “mirror, mirror on the wall.” (I hope the Universe isn’t Maleficent, or I guess that’s okay if She is; we don’t know the real story. We never will. We don’t need to. We get what we need when we need it, which is some standard bullshit way of saying “go with the flow.” It’s also profoundly, frustratingly true. But, I mean, go ahead and keep grasping at what you want because that’s always paid off, right?) I don’t get parentheses. (It’s the Universe’s way of hiding in plain sight.) Like, am I supposed to pay attention to what’s there? (Probably. It’s pointing out your bizarre default mode of paying attention, magnifying how there’s something new to discover in the places you’d typically overlook.) I doubt it. (Well now you’re stuck in a strange dialogue. I pulled you in. By the way, what did you intend to write here?) It doesn’t matter. Intention is for the birds, which is an idiom I’ve never understood; I’m also not sure it’s an idiom because I don’t really know what that means either. (If you’re the Universe, then how don’t you know?) I imagine, since I am the Universe and I like games, that the Universe likes games. You know, like hide and seek. Hide knowledge and seek it. There’s nothing quite like regaining what you lost. (Better yet, realizing that there was nothing for you to lose.) Exactly, so it’s not like I lost control of this post. I never had it. It’s writing itself, and I’m getting out of the way. I wonder what this might yield…
(Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.)