What are you afraid of ? (A case for experimentation)

We all have limited time on this earth. So what will we do with it?

Why not experiment?

There is no good reason to assume that there is a blueprint for this life, if for no other reason than the paradox that any historical model we tried to follow could only be based on the lives of humans that didn’t face what we face in this epoch.

Of course, we can extract principles from the past, and it’s well worth our time to do so.

But what great books should we read? Which heroes should be our models?

Those questions might have some popular answers, but they will always be subject to debate.

Furthermore, even if we agreed upon a collective Bible (surely one of the candidates for guiding us), there is still the problem of interpretation. And not only that. Once you interpret the mythical lessons, how do you determine if you have interpreted well?

All you can do is put your hypotheses to the test. It’s probably a good idea to test repeatedly, but keep in mind that the conditions you live in will continue to change.

Did you see Covid coming?

I don’t mean, did you imagine that a global pandemic was possible. I mean, did you imagine three years ago that life would feel the way it does now? That you would relate to people the way you do now? That you would think about life and death the way you do now?

But Covid isn’t a hypothetical. It really happened. Just like 9/11.

Things actually do happen from time to time that rip through the veil of what you previously thought was possible and change your sense of what might happen tomorrow.

What do you suppose could happen tomorrow?

Does it make perfect sense to think reality will be consistently reliable? (Time travel back before the pandemic and ask your former self.)

You’ve probably heard that building your resilience and adaptability is a good idea. That’s true, but not very specific. Here’s another way of looking at it: 

What are you afraid of doing?

Settle on just one thing out of the many possibilities. Now lie on your back, close your eyes and imagine doing it.

I’m serious.

Why do this?

A lot of reasons could be given, but if you find yourself resisting the idea, that’s the best reason I could give you.

So what happens if you lie down in the comfort of your home, your body’s weight fully supported by the floor and you allow that movie to play inside your head?

I don’t know, but I imagine that something will happen with your breathing. Something will happen with the length of certain muscles in your body. Certain words may appear in your head, even a certain tone of voice.

And yet, as scary as it might be, you will be perfectly safe. 

Can you imagine that you could imagine something scary – and be simultaneously aware that you are perfectly safe?

I’m not proposing this as a daily practice. I imagine that most people that read this won’t even take the time to lie on the floor and try it out. I’ll never know.

But perhaps just reading this far has already taught you something about yourself. 

How willing are you to engage with the unknown, especially those scenarios that are far from guaranteed to turn out the way you’d like?

If you aren’t willing to even imagine it, how prepared are you for tomorrow, when reality might be ripped in half by unforeseen events?

On the other hand, if you trust in the safety of lying on your back with your eyes closed, if you believe that the movement of your breathing, the state of tension in your musculature and the thoughts in your head might tell you something relevant about yourself, then you might be able to start imagining what it could mean to live a more experimental life.

I’ve spent a lot of my life in communities labeled “experimental”, “avant-garde”, “radical” and the like. But hopefully I’ve matured enough to leave behind the notion that rocking the boat is inherently a good thing.

But I know for sure that fear of rocking the boat is a disease. It’s killing us.

We’re pretty damn cozy, us modern day humans – at least those of us born into the so-called 1st world. If life doesn’t feel cozy, just take a moment to think about being a member of a different species. Think about being a naked body in nature, where there is no law against predators chasing their prey.

Compared to that, we’re pretty damn cozy.

So why should we fear experimentation?

Why should we fear improvisation?

Why should we fear imagination?

Why should we fear doing what we’ve never done before?

The fact is, most of these realms can be explored safely in the comfort of your own home. That’s a great place to start. 

Then you can go outside.

Then you can talk to people you’ve never talked to before. You can consider points of view that you’ve never considered before. You can step outside of the algorithmically generated echo chamber of your default spectrum of permitted opinions and information sources.

You can discover new ways to breathe, new ways to feel, new ways to think, new ways to be.

And you can do all this one step at a time, at a pace that feels right for you.

But you can’t expect tomorrow to be like today or next year to be like this one. That’s just being foolish. That might actually be at the core of all human foolishness.

Our foolishness is killing us.

We’re going to have to start facing how vulnerable we are. A great way to start is by being a little more vulnerable with each other. 

What could you do that you’ve never done before?

I’m not telling you “go do it.”

But imagining it might be a valuable step. 

And if you want to take it one step further, you could share it with a fellow human in the form of a conversation.

Who knows, you might learn something – you might even find you enjoy it. You might start a trend. You might make a real difference.

It’s also true that you might not know why you are doing it.

But tomorrow you might find out.


Want to experience more connection in your daily interactions and closest relationships?

Explore how basic elements of your daily experience (such as your breathing, your relationship to the ground below you and the space around you) can be used as supports to create that kind of harmonious connection at the monthly Musicality of Being workshops, live in the park in Washington DC. Learn more here


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