suggests we try
to develop our
abilities to their
fullest. His latest
book, Physics of
the Future, peers
into human life
You will never be happy if you continue
to search for what happiness consists of.
You will never live if you are looking for
the meaning of life. —Albert Camus
I was going through one of those existential
crises where you spend a few weeks
of sleepless nights torturing yourself with
unanswerable questions like: Is my life
meaningless? What the hell am I doing?
Does anything really matter?
Eventually, I did what any spiritually
bankrupt person with internet access
does—I googled “What is the meaning of
life?” Predictably, the interwebs provided
buckets of inspiring quotes, psycho-babble
rants, links to desperate girls with low
self-esteem, and a painting of Christopher
Walken building Optimus Prime.
(Seriously, the latter is bizarrely awesome—
google the image if you dare.)
Ultimately, I lighted upon a self-appointed
motivational guru with an article
entitled “Don’t Die with Your Music Still
in You.” It seemed appropriate enough, so I
gave it a 3 a.m. read and found:
To abandon a comfortable lifestyle that
isn’t deeply fulfilling is to abandon nothing.
There’s nothing of real substance
there to protect. An income, a car, a
house, or a lifestyle is not worth protecting
if the cost of such protection is your
own fulfillment and happiness. People
who achieve some of the external trappings
of success without internal fulfillment
are only living an illusion when
they tell themselves they have something
of value to protect.
This made perfect sense, as if God
or ghosts or the (until now) indifferent
Universe was speaking directly to me.
People die every minute, having lived their
lives of quiet desperation and unfulfilling
servitude, never experiencing the joys that
life held for them had they followed a more
risky path. It got me thinking about making
some radical changes.
Thankfully I went to sleep without quitting
my gig or calling old bandmates and
setting some misguided course for a new
life direction. In the morning, I realized
that this is the kind of pop-psych-feel-goodery
that one should not read while
sleep deprived, vaguely unsatisfied, and
perhaps a bit buzzed. This web swami (who
apparently gleaned most of his shtick from
self-help tapes while serving time for a felony)
ignored the fact that most of us actually
need to earn money every month.
Life is not a smorgasbord where you put
only the most delectable bits on your plate.
Life is a package deal. You want absolute
freedom to pursue only your passions?
Then you either must already be rich or
okay with being very poor and a burden to
those around you.
We all love the idea of betting on ourselves
and winning big, but sometimes even
when you win, you lose. Yes, Paul Gauguin
had incredible posthumous success, but his
wife and five kids suffered horribly after he
quit his job and abandoned them to paint
naked natives in French Polynesia. Gauguin
spent most of his artist years depressed
and suicidal. He died at 54 of a morphine
overdose—broke, ostracized, syphilitic, and
waiting to serve time in prison. People look
at Gauguin’s work and forget that his is a
cautionary tale. Sometimes following your
dream can be a nightmare.
Beware of “sages” who imply that earning
a paycheck and building a home is
beneath you. As musicians, we tend to be
susceptible to this hippy-dippy nonsense.
I use to think that all I wanted was to
write songs and play music, but with a wife
and son and no trust fund, I had to sneak
that dream in on my down time while
working to pay bills and spending quality
time with my family. I’ve had dry spells in
my career where, to feed my family, I took
soul-crushing jobs as a waiter, a telemarketer,
a roofer, a landscaper, a teacher, a
bread-truck driver, and a pawnbroker. I’d
get home from whatever crap job I had at
the time, play with my great kid, have a
family dinner and maybe a walk and a talk,
maybe watch The Simpsons or play a game.
After the bedtime story, when my son was
asleep and his mama was lost in a book, I’d
have 30 minutes to work on music before I
passed out from exhaustion.
This was nothing I ever imagined I’d do,
and yet it remains my life’s greatest work—
far better than any TV show, record, or
tour that I’ve been part of when my career
is going well. Life is a package deal, but as
mundane as the package may seem, all of
the parts can fit together more perfectly and
wonderfully than you could ever plan on
your own. Happiness and fulfillment isn’t
about getting what you want, but rather
making the most of what you’re lucky
enough to have and not undermining your
self-worth by comparing yourself to others.
Here’s something to ponder from theoretical
physicist Michio Kaku:
Beyond work and love, I would add two
other ingredients that give meaning to
life. First, to fulfill whatever talents we
are born with. However blessed we are by
fate with different abilities and strengths,
we should try to develop them to the fullest,
rather than allow them to atrophy
and decay. We all know individuals who
did not fulfill the promise they showed
in childhood. Many of them became
haunted by the image of what they
might have become. Instead of blaming
fate, I think we should accept ourselves
as we are and try to fulfill whatever
dreams are within our capability.
Second, we should try to leave the
world a better place than when we
entered it. As individuals, we can make
a difference, whether it is to probe the
secrets of Nature, to clean up the environment
and work for peace and social
justice, or to nurture the inquisitive,
vibrant spirit of the young by being a
mentor and a guide.
Now you’re talkin’ words I can understand,
is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist
best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six
season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star
, the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over one hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger