The Art in Living: Navigating the Mind's Paths of Expression

The Art in Living: Navigating the Mind's Paths of Expression

I’m not usually one to voice controversial ideas. I find that when I suggest things that force people to consider their own fundamental beliefs and perhaps, even for a moment, call them into question, guilt creeps like fear into distant territories of my mind. I sometimes feel like I am responsible for maintaining the happiness of others and, because of that, pacify others and modify the outward manifestations of my internal notions. However, after operating in this way for some time now, I have begun to feel trapped. Only now do I realize that my inability to be authentic around others has triggered a homeostatic inauthenticity within myself — offering a compelling diagnosis for the profound volatility I experience across a typical day.

The disconnect between my thoughts and my actions has now widened from a simple divot into somewhat of a valley, and I am forced to descend into this valley each time I shift between versions of myself. However, with each journey, a deeper path forms underneath my footsteps, making this crossing darker and more treacherous as time wears on. Sometimes I descend and just barely make it up the other wall, but upon my arrival, forget about my precariousness and bask in the sunlight. On other days I begin this descent but become apprehensive and decide it’d be better to turn back and remain safely on one side of the valley. I thus cement in my mind the fatal assumption that safety and comfort are preferable and foreshadow an adulthood I wish were not so imminent.

Recently, I descended in spite of my apprehension, but became disoriented and was forced to spend time wandering about in this strange valley. Although it was my doing, I quickly realized I knew not one square nanometer of this place outside of the path upon which I routinely trudged. Wondering, I wandered and, amidst the dark shadows, ascended the branches of a large tree for vantage. Only when I summited the final limb and cautiously poked my head out above the canopy did I recognize the true seismic extent of my impact upon this land. Out in front of me stretched a vast sea of rainforest, with two sheer cliffs rising like gods on either side. Picture the canyon in which Scar tricked Simba into waiting just moments before those creepy hyenas stirred the wildebeests into a frantic stampede. Only in this version, mist and fog twisted like macramé and lingered low amongst the trees like the apples picked first in the fall.

In this moment, I realized there would be no clear path back to the safety and comfort of my previous life. In order to one day return to the path that would lead me up the peaks, I would have to mingle with and tame this wild valley. But what if I didn’t want to find the path again? Looking back now, why had I wished to cross from one side of the valley to the other only to predictably tire of the latter and return to the first? What if I’m not meant to reside on the safety and comfort of the peaks? What if, rather than mingle and tame this wild valley, I wish, no, yearn, to waltz and writhe with the wildness? What if I am meant to remain here, to learn the language of the world and befriend its humble residents not as a fractured being but truly as myself? As these questions and many more flitted behind my eyes, the daunting forest that creaked out before me began to look rather serene and inviting; that mist beckoning to me like the horizon inertia commands our helpless sun each evening. Gazing into this strange place, I felt stripped of the nearly imperceptible layers to which I had grown so begrudgingly accustomed. I was no longer constrained by an abrasive and dismissive society. I was no longer homogenized by the cruel combination of time and diversion, and I was no longer subject to the systematic definitional indoctrination of what it means to be ‘successful’ or to ‘live a good life.’ I yearned to question the very nature of my perceived precocity like wildfire yearns for the land of the meek, and I reveled vehemently in the penetrating weight of my own existence. I had once again, or possibly for the very first time, stumbled upon my own free will.

Conceived through perception, warranted by distraction, I began a lonely journey seeking truth in utter abstraction.