Friday, July 23, 2010


“I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love’s not impersonal yet not wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions, as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I’ll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time …"
— The Journals of Sylvia Plath

For the better part of the past five years since leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses, I have conducted my life as a great social experiment. Digging through all of my belief systems, and abandoning most, I was open to exploring life with a deep curiosity and willingness to try new things and have new experiences.

And I have enjoyed this exploration. Much as a scientist enjoys looking through the microscope, I have delighted to watch myself explore this life. But you cannot continually be both the observer and the observed. It is a great thing to dive into when you need some perspective, but it's no way to live life from
moment-to-moment. At some point, one must jump back into inhabiting the human experience fully and be content with that human experience as it is, however limited and finite it may be. I cannot be everything in this life, or everyone. I cannot live every possibility. There are choices to make, paths to choose.

I have had one recurring dream for the past five years. In my dream I am a bird circling the earth, but I cannot find a place to land. I fly and fly and fly, but to no avail; there is nowhere for me to stop and find rest.

This has been my life for the past five years; I, the bird, circling above my own experience, watching, observing, taking it all in. I have been freed to fly by means of letting go of what I no longer needed and I have flown well. But now, it is time to find a place to land. It is time to choose a path and a set of beliefs to govern my life, an operating system if you will. It is time to find my place on this earth.

I knew this moment would come. I feared it for a long time. But now, I am excited to choose for my life. This life is mine. Really mine. And although I cannot do everything I want, I can do anything I want. And that is enough.

tall penguin


Anonymous said...

Tall, I don't know that anyone ever really figures out their operating system. I think you just sort of keep going, making decisions as best you can when you need to. And when you screw up, you try again. And we screw up a lot. Daily. And we just keep going.

I hope you have a smooth landing.

Laura P

tall penguin said...

Very true, Laura. The operating system changes and morphs over time. Well, we hope so anyhow. If it doesn't, we're stagnating, which is not a good place to be.

I guess what I'm saying is that I've spent the last five years stripping myself bare. I've abandoned so many beliefs that my mind looks like a completely different mind from the inside looking out. But at some point, you have to let the constant questioning simmer down to a place where you can function a bit more on auto-pilot, not trying to live out every possible angle.

I've had a hard time making major decisions during the past five years because there was so much upheaval going on in my core mental structure. I needed that time to sort through things. And now, it feels like I'm more able to decide, not that I'm any wiser necessarily, but I've come to terms with the idea that there's no ultimately right or wrong decisions and you can't possibly live out every angle in life; sometimes you just have to decide and see where it goes. And as you say, screw up and try again.

And just keep going.

Anonymous said...

The more I thought about the idea of an "operating system" today, the more I thought it sounded like religion. Of course, I know you would never go down that path again.

I know you and I come from very different backgrounds, so I hope you take all I say in the spirit it is intended, supportive!

Laura P

tall penguin said...

Laura, your comments have helped me flesh out a bit more what I mean by the idea of an "operating system". So, thank you for that.

From where I stand now, the idea of an operating system is more like a set of premises, rather than beliefs, that I currently hold to be the most probable basics for living my life.

1. There is probably no god. May as well get on with this life, here and now.

2. There's no definitive evidence to suggest life after death. May as well get on with this life, here and now.

3. There's no definitive evidence for any innate meaning to existence. May as well create it and get on with this life, here and now.

4. Change is constant. May as well accept it, use it to your advantage and get on with this life, here and now.

5. The mind is a vast universe. Learn to watch it, learn not to take it too seriously, and get on with this life, here and now.

I'm guessing you're seeing a pattern here. Basically, the premise upon which I'm choosing to operate my life is: Live life, here and now. It is what it is. And it will be what it will be. The rest is just details.

It might seem like a pretty obvious and simple set of premises to live a life. But it's taken me the past 5 years, if not the past 36 years, to come to terms with.

And of course, it all comes with the caveat that if there comes enough evidence at any point in the future to show that these premises are incorrect, then I will then re-evaluate. But for now, I'm making them the foundation of my life. This is what I mean by finally landing somewhere.