He looked confused. Caught in a battle. One between two sides of himself. The woman looked at the boy that was right across the pond. Ducks were wiggling around in the water. Young ducklings struggle to keep up with their mother. The boy was struggling just as much.
There wasn’t anything special about him, just like any other human he was confused. Well, at least most humans the woman had met were confused. Torn between two parts. Two inner voices. One strong in its silence, the other weak in its noisiness.
‘What do I want?’ The boy asked himself. ‘What do I want?’ Again. ‘What do I want?’ The voice in his head became louder and louder. ‘What do I want for god sake!?’
‘You know what you want.’ Was the answer the boy heard. ‘You want to pursue your dreams of becoming a gardener. You should become the best version of yourself!’ The other voice in his head said.
‘No, you should just get a normal job. One with a steady payout and get a house. You’re young. You have plenty of time to pursue your dreams. Now it’s important to have some money in the bank.’ This voice sounded like that of his dad.
‘Shut up!’ He said to himself. ‘I don’t want you. I don’t want to listen to you anymore.’ He tried to drown out the voice of his dad, but all his effort wasn’t enough. It only got louder and louder.
‘Just get a steady job. You will never make it as a gardener. You will not have enough money. This world isn’t as rose-colored as you think it is.’ The boy sank deeper on the bench. He felt his motivation to become a gardener, to live his dream life, sink into the ground. He looked at the ducks. They were playing around.
‘I just wished all this fighting and struggling inside my head would stop.’ He softly whispered to himself.
‘I could help you with that.’ A smooth, and confident woman’s voice said. The boy looked to his right, and next to him sat a woman.
The boy looked startled. The woman had red hair. A pale yet gorgeous skin. On her face, the boy noticed a few freckles. Her legs were folded over each other and she wore a beautiful flowery dress.
‘Sorry, were you talking to me?’ The boy asked.
‘Hmhm’ the woman mumbled in agreement.
I Am Not Worth It
‘Why?’ The boy asked. ‘Why would you help me? I am a total stranger to you. You seem friendly, so don’t get me wrong, but it’s just that…’
‘That I don’t know you?’ The woman interrupted.
‘Well I don’t know you, I just know the look of a confused kid. That confusion often finds the same root, in every kid that I talk to.’ The woman said.
‘Which is?’ The boy asked.
‘You are confused because you have two opposite sides within you. One part of you wants to follow one path, whilst the other wants to follow another path. It’s all part of this cycle of being alive.’ The woman answered.
‘All part of the cycle of being alive?’ The boy asked hesitantly. ‘So you spoke to more people like me?’
‘Yes, I did. Quite a few actually. They all have this idea, this belief that they need to know who they are, and what they want. And if they don’t they need to find it. It has become part of the cycle of being alive.’ The woman looked at the ducks going in circles. ‘It’s like the ancient stories of the devil and God. One part of us is godlike, the other is devillike. This cycle is always going on within us. It makes us confused. But yet it is part of the cycle of being alive.’
‘So we shouldn’t find this out? Is that what you are trying to tell me? That yet again I have to follow someone’s advice on what to do?’ The boy said he sounded agitated.
‘Well is that what you hear me say? That you should follow my advice? Or that you shouldn’t find out who you are, or what you want? Have I spoken such words?’ The woman looked the boy in his eyes. He quickly looked away, not wanted to be confronted.
‘Well…’ the boy paused for a moment. ‘No, you didn’t.’ he softly answered.
‘Good, so do you want me to help you?’ The woman asked.
‘How are you gonna help me? Everyone tells me I am a lost cause if I don’t know what it is I want to do. Why would you put in that effort.’ The boy returned the question.
‘Okay, I’ll leave then.’ The woman said, stretching her legs, straightening her dress, and getting up.
‘No, please, that’s not what I meant.’ The boy said.
‘What did you mean then?’ The woman asked.
‘It’s just that I am amazed that someone wants to take the time to talk with me about this constant confusion that’s going on inside of me. I don’t feel worth it.’ He said and then looked down at his feet.
‘Look up boy. Look around you. Life is happening everywhere. Inside you as well, and everything alive is worth the effort to help. It’s the way of life.’ The woman said as she sat down next to the boy again. ‘So tell me, what’s the confusion that’s going on inside of you.’
The Nonsense We Teach
The boy looked up and paused for a moment. ‘You see, I…’ the boy stopped, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to share his story with this stranger. He looked at the ducks and saw how the mother duck pushed one of her ducklings on land. It was as if the world was telling him to go on. A subtle push in the back, that’s what he needed. He chuckled. The woman noticed the ducks two and smiled.
‘You see, I’ the boy continued. ‘I am about to finish college, and the degree I worked so hard for turned out not to be what I want to do with my life. It’s not the best version of me. Cause that’s what I want. To be the best version of me. I see it all around me, so many people succeeding in life. Doing things like getting up at 5 am, working out, implementing new habits.’ The woman sighed. The boy looked at her and stopped talking.
‘Go on, continue my boy. I am just a bit done with all these ideas on habits. They make our lives so dull.’ She said. The boy looked a bit annoyed but continued.
‘All these things people are doing, I want it too. I want to be the best version of myself and live my dream life. I want to be a gardener, designing and creating beautiful gardens for people.’ He smiled at the idea of this.
‘Yet on the other hand I constantly think about how this isn’t gonna make me a lot of money. How it isn’t gonna be a steady career, after all I am starting my own business. And…’ He paused for a moment again, and his smile disappeared.
‘My dad keeps telling me that the world isn’t as rose-colored as I think it is. That things are hard, and you can’t just make money doing what you love. He tells me that it is great to pursue this dream, but that I should first focus on getting a job before I start pursuing my dream. And he is right, it would be the save option. Yet I’ve always played it save. So yeah that’s my confusion. I feel like I am the only one with this constant struggle between who I want to become, and who I should become.’
The woman smiled. ‘You aren’t anything different. You’re just like me, and all the other kids I talked to facing this same problem. The problem of becoming, of squeezing ourselves into boxes. It’s a shame we’ve taught our kids this nonsense.’ The woman’s smile disappeared. ‘But that’s why I am here!’ She said excitedly. She began smiling again.
‘So you had the same struggles as I do now?’ The boy asked.
‘Oh yes I did, just as much as you are confused right now, so was I when I was young. I had a dream, but at the same time, my parents had an idea for me. They wanted me to be safe, whilst I wanted to make my dreams come true. But you see, all this, both of it, is absolute insanity.’ The woman said.
The boy was taken by surprise.
‘Insanity?’ He asked. ‘Isn’t it a good thing to pursue our dream, or on the other hand to follow our parent’s advice?’
‘Not at all.’ The woman replied.
Is Your Box Open or Closed
‘Those voices, the ones you have in your head, the one that wants to pursue your dreams, and the one that says you shouldn’t.’
‘Yes?’ The boy interrupted.
‘They are both based on ideas. The first voice is based on the idea of who you want to be, the second on the one you ought to be. Now that’s no way to be living. It means you aren’t even living in the first place.’
‘How am I not living if I am pursuing my dream? It’s a great thing to pursue your dream!’ The boy was annoyed with what the woman was imposing.
‘That’s what you believe. But in reality, if you truly open your eyes, you’ll see that you aren’t living. Cause if you are so focused on becoming either what you ought to be or dream of being, you are missing the reality of everything that is. You are worried about a future version of you, not about just being.’ The woman said.
‘But that would be so empty. To not have anything to strive for, or work towards. Wouldn’t it?’ The boy asked.
‘Yes, it is empty. You will be empty. Empty of the idea that you are an individual, a personality. You’ll just live empty of all fears, ideals, beliefs. You would just live. In harmony with all of life. Now that’s probably not how you look at being empty do you?’ The woman asked.
‘No not at all, to me being empty means I am boring. That I am lost, even more, confused than I am right now. Being empty, even reciting it sounds awful to me. I want to do things, live.’ The boy answered.
‘I didn’t say that you couldn’t do things. That you couldn’t live. Did I?’ The woman said confidently.
’No you didn’t, but you did say I should live an empty life.’ The boy looked confused.
‘So you say that I told you to do nothing? To live empty of every experience life has to offer. To maybe go sit in a cave and well, wither away?’ The woman again asked.
‘Yes.’ The boy said in a shaky voice. He started to doubt himself. ‘Or am I getting this wrong?’ He quickly added.
‘You are, but that’s okay. We’ll work through it together.’ The woman said kindly.
‘So you say that becoming the best version of you, and living your dream life is what you want right? But that you at the same time doubt that decision because you feel like you should become what others aught you to become? And now I say that you shouldn’t become anything. That you should be empty. Empty of all of this. Of the idea of a future self, whether that future self is your dream self or your expected self. And instead, live in harmony with life. According to its ways, not your ways.’ The boy nodded.
‘So see yourself as this box. A closed box. In that box there is a lot of space, if you open the box there is even more space because you can overspill it into all the space around it. That box is you. Now the moment you say “that is the ideal version of me” and then describe that version in vivid detail your box is gonna close. You have a set idea on perfection, anything else isn’t perfect. So you narrow your space. There’s just the space inside the box, which is filled with ideas, beliefs, and judgments of a perfect version of you and your life. Isn’t it?’ The woman asked. Again the boy nodded.
‘Now let’s say you follow the advice of others, and become what you ought to be. Again your box closes. This time it is filled with all the ideas that others imposed on you. In both cases, you are closed off as well as packed completely with ideas, beliefs, and pieces that you combine and say “well this is who I am”. Doesn’t that sound boring? To live inside a box, in which you are creating this illusion that you are happy. Meanwhile, if you peek outside the box you see all these people opening up, experiencing the beauty of their lives, and doing many different things. But you say, no that’s not the perfect version of me, or no I ought to stay this version of me. And you close the box again. Sad isn’t it?’ The boy stayed silent.
‘Now then, I hope you see that all this becoming, this striving for a better or different version of you is nonsense. It restricts your life and confines it into a specific box. Now let’s say you let go of all those beliefs, empty yourself. You neither become the best version of yourself nor become what others aught you to be. You just go on living, doing what it is you like, or trying something else. There are no restrictions. You live in harmony with life. You aren’t forced to just do what you like, you can also choose to do things you don’t like and see that even these things are beautiful. The same thing goes for choosing your intentions in life. You pick one and go with it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, you let it go and continue. You’re empty, completely empty, and therefore can take in many things. If you are empty of the ideas, and beliefs you have over yourself you have opened your box. Now there is a tremendous amount of space. Space that can be filled with beautiful things, yet never will that space be full. Never will you feel constricted to do, or not do anything. Now wouldn’t that be beautiful? That there’s nothing you have to hold onto, and that you can just go with the flow of life?’ The woman asked as she smiled.
‘That sounds amazing actually. But how do I do this?’ The boy asked. There was a silence. The boy looked to the side and…
The woman had left. He was so confused. He looked around him and noticed how some people were happily enjoying the sunny afternoon. He noticed the trees, the flowers, all of a sudden everything seemed so beautiful to him. But he couldn’t find the woman. His eyes widened and he smiled.
He leaned back, into the bench and felt the sun on his skin. ‘That’s it’ he thought to himself. ‘That’s what the woman was trying to tell me, that I don’t need to know how I become empty, or how I do or should do anything. I don’t need to know what’s right and what’s wrong. I can just be.’ His smile widened. He was empty, not as the result of something, but he noticed how he didn’t need to have any ideas, judgments, thoughts on what was happening. He could just sit there, on the bench, enjoy life for what it was in that very moment. That was the space the woman was talking about. Living in harmony with life. We all have this space within us.
To experience it there is no how-to, for that would yet again mean we aught to become something. No, that’s not it. That’s not what life is. Life is just as it is, we only need to, well… do nothing in particular but just go on living. Living according to the harmony of life. What a trick we’ve been playing with ourselves. Creating this idea that we should become the best version of ourselves, or that we ought to be anything, or do anything. That we should know what’s best in life, or what’s the right thing to do or not. It makes life so complicated. So incredibly complicated.
I’ve been lost, confused, overcomplicating life. I was playing a trick on myself. Like the boy. But one way or another most of us figure out this trick. We lift the curtain and see for the very first time the beauty of life. The beauty of reality. The harmonious play of life. We all of a sudden hold this vast space within us.
You see this challenge was about space, about space we work in or live in, the space we hold towards people, or for people. Yet there is but one space we should always create in this very moment. Which is inner space. To open our boxes, instead of closing ourselves in with ideas, beliefs, and personalities we take on. Saying: ‘this is me’, or ‘this is what I want to be or ought to be’. To stop this trick we have been playing with ourselves.
To hold onto nothing, and let everything pass. To be empty of a personality. It is that emptiness, that vast space of having nothing to become, or change, that will be the centerpiece for peace, joy, and love. A place with endless possibilities and constant action in our lives. How can we bring this about? To not bring anything about, but to just be. To live. It’s simple, yet beautiful. Harmonious yet often chaotic. What marvelous wonder this life is, isn’t it? How contradictory it is. How everything always knows duality and therefore balance. It is this harmony in life that needs space to exist. So be empty of yourself of all you were, and all you want to become, and just live according to life. Because today we live, so continue to live and stop with all the nonsense of becoming, changing, or striving. Isn’t life in and off itself marvelous?