Eternal or Not? Part 2 of 4
You have to confront your mortality in a clear-headed and dispassionate way, seeing it in the overall context of life. Change is ubiquitous, inevitable and unstoppable. “We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not,” said the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. The river changes moment by moment, as do we all. So why not accept this fact and go with the flow, wherever it takes you?
So you might as well say ‘carpe diem’, as you don’t know when your days will end, and vow to live life to your full potential. Which is why you are reading this blog, right? Well, that and the epic cartoons, awesome photographs and frenetic flash fiction, of course. Plus all those amazing books that you are going to buy and that will add immeasurable value to your already amazing lives.
So you decide to confront your existential reality with courage, acceptance and excitement. Maybe it’s time to do something that challenges you, makes you feel more alive, gets your juices flowing and so on. After all, as is said in ‘Fight Club’, “on a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.”
Or to quote the awesomeness that is Anaïs Nin, “life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage”.
Now clearly this does entail a little bit of controlling of the passions, you don’t want to be going and running amok. Tempting as it may be to nuke people who annoy you, there are consequences, and you don’t want to be spending your remaining time on earth incarcerated.
Plus we are social animals (which is why we have mirror neurons in our brains and social networking on our computers and devices) and need to treat others with respect so that they do the same to us. Check out the article on the Zen of Friendship to find out more about picking the right people for various parts of your life and explore the articles from this site on nuking toxic people to learn how to avoid individuals who add no value to your life and in fact undermine it.
So at this point, we may look to the Greek Stoic philosophers as our mentors, with their emphasis on reason and taming the passions.
They also believed it’s groovy to realise the majority of things are outside your control – you can look on this as fate, if you are so inclined. The only thing you can control is your reaction towards them. The same thoughts are echoed by the Buddha, whose ideas concerning impermanence and how to overcome the inevitable vicissitudes of life often inform articles on this site, and who has been commemorated in this lyrical piece of flash fiction.
“In a man’s life, his time is a mere instant, his existence a flux, his perception fogged, his bodily composition rotting, his mind a whirligig, his fortune unpredictable, his fame unclear. In short, all things of the body stream away like a river, all things of the mind are dreams and delusions; life is warfare, and a visit to a strange land; the only lasting fame is oblivion.” – Marcus Aurelius articulates it as it is.
If you have been reading the articles on neuroplasticity (and if you haven’t, mosey on down having finished this piece first, of course), you’ll realise that these ideas map elegantly onto specific regions of the brain.
Our passions stem from the more emotional regions of the brain, the limbic system, amygdala, and so on. When we seek out pleasure we engage the nucleus accumbens and the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Our powers of reason and planning, and our ability to tame the passions are products of the most recently developed prefrontal cortex.
It’s all fascinating stuff and enables you to understand yourself better. Furthermore, you can start to make positive changes to your mind and brain (and therefore your life) by learning and applying the skills of DIY Neuroplasticity. Re-read the articles. Better still purchase the forthcoming book “Pimp Your Brain, Neuroplasticity for Pleasure and Profit”.
(Yet another shameless plug, you can appreciate how embarrassed we are, but then again, if you don’t ask, you don’t get).