Thursday, July 7, 2011
Let's be honest: if most of us found out we had months to live, would we really bolt for the airport and jump on a flight to Paris? Or climb Everest? Or strap on a loin cloth and retire to an Indian ashram or Buddhist monastery to sit in meditation in the hope of squeezing out some last-minute enlightenment? Expedia notwithstanding, it's probably just a fantasy that taking some romantic trip halfway around the world would set the stage for a final post-mortem epiphany. Not to mention the fact that, if you've got a few months to live, chances are there is some brand new medical component to your life, like a morphine drip or colostomy bag. And good luck getting that past the gatekeepers at the TSA. Chances are the daydream of gazing at the Taj Mahal would be replaced by some more mundane goal, like leaving a bag of flaming dogshit on the porch of some girl who dumped you or taking a whiz in the gas tank of a hated ex-boss. Still, the momentary rush probably wouldn't approach anything resembling peace of mind.
In the movie-- The Bucket List-- Jack Nicholson was rich enough to go tooling around the world in a private jet in search of meaning. Most of us don't have those resources. That's why I don't have a Bucket List. I can't afford a Bucket List. I have the poor man's Bucket List; i.e., The Fuckit List. A list of daily, mundane, annoying chores, worries, fears, and concerns that I would immediately drop if I got the dreaded "your test results are in, can you contact the doctor as soon as possible" message. The idea being that a sense of ease might result from letting go of all the petty bullshit chores and concerns that plague our daily lives. Epiphany by elimination.
Fight with the significant other? Fuckit. Car payment lost in the mail? Fuckit. Work. Pilots. Scripts. Meetings. Pitches. Notes. Rejections. Who cares about getting a show on the air? I'm dying. Fuckit. Then there's being liberated from having to be nice to people you can't stand. In the course of the day-to-day you can't go telling everyone what you think of them. Too many hurt feelings and potential gunfire. But once mortality raises its ugly head and takes dead aim -- Fuckit! The day of the forced smile and the agreeable grin are over. Time to rediscover the cathartic pleasure of the well-deserved insult, the joy of the kick in the balls, or the child-like glee of the blaring car horn. What are they going to do? Insult me back? Shoot me? I'm dying. Fuckit.
Then there's politics -- the daily ups and downs of people jockeying for power. It's all become a carnival side show anyway. So much sound and fury, signifying nothing. Well, nothing to a dead guy. Who cares who's in power? Are they going to dig up my corpse or reconstitute my ashes just to tell me they're passing universal health care? Fuckit.
And of course, there's the diet. You're probably wasting away from the disease anyhow, so why not eat like a pig? Get fat. Fuckit. And then there's drugs. The problem with disease is that most often the only drugs you get are the ones designed to heal you. When healing's no longer on the menu, it's time for the happy drugs. Who cares about having your shit together to go to work? There is no more work. It's playtime. Fuckit. Stay home, get a rocking chair, face it toward nature and get blasted. No reason to leave home and nothing to fear about getting too high. There's no DUI if there's no "D." Fuckit.
At the end of the day, I think the only shot most people have at an insight into the sheer joy of existence might come from letting go of the nonsense that consumes our lives as they creep in this petty pace from day to day and worry to worry. It's not just a "stop and smell the roses" thing. It's more of a "put down the checkbook or legal pad and run naked into the ocean, splash around, come out, dry off, get high, watch the sunset with friends and family, eat a huge meal with tons of ice cream, pass out, wake up, and do it again" kind of thing. We have this activity called a vacation wherein we're supposed to relax and change the patterns of our lives. That's why it's called recreation. It's "re-creation." Changing the rules to find a more pleasurable experience of life. Unfortunately, we only do it two weeks a year, and it comes under the heading of recharging the batteries for the purpose of going back into battle. The only way we know if we had a good time is to look at the pictures.
Come to think of it, Fuckit doesn't sound like a bad way to live, even without the death sentence. Though it's more easily said than done. Assuming you're going to live forever, or at least for another 30 years, forces you into a mode in which you have no choice but to deal with the daily bullshit. If there is a tomorrow, you're forced to worry about it. Where's the money going to come from? What's the property value of my house? Is my kid getting into college? Is my kid getting out of high school? The broken sprinklers, pool motors, roof leaks, toilet backups, busted appliances and work crises. The daily detritus we fixate over to the point that the things we crave end up eating us alive.
And that's the problem. We've structured our lives so that only the guarantee of impending death gives you the excuse to cut loose and live. And by that time, you're either such an emotional basket case or physical wreck that living is impossible. You can't live like you're dying tomorrow yet, to some extent, you should. I guess the trick is finding some happy medium. A balancing act between caution and spontaneity, fear and fearlessness, fret and frolic, sense and nonsense. Or maybe the trick is taking a moment out of the day to drag up some problem that's eating you up and, instead of churning your guts over it, just let it go, and see what happens.
It could be that the journey of a thousand smiles begins with a single Fuckit.