Curiosity is an antidote to despair.
Despair is the spiritual disease of believing that tomorrow will simply be a repeat of today. Nothing new. The future simply an unbroken string of todays, one after another. But curiosity, curiosity disrupts despair, insisting that tomorrow will not be a repeat of today. Curiosity whispers to you, You’re just getting started…
I didn’t want to live my life wondering,
I had seen people do that.
They had something nudging them in a particular direction, but they didn’t follow it. They didn’t take the risk. They didn’t listen to their heart. And years later they felt stuck, wondering where it all went wrong.
I didn’t want to live like that.
I wanted to know,
What if I tried that…?
— Rob Bell, Everything Is Spiritual
These last several months have been some of the most depressing of my life. I’ve felt stuck. Lonely. Empty. Confused. Anxious. I work from home full time now because of COVID-19. I like routine, but I don’t like repetitiveness. And often it does feel like I wake up and do the same thing every day.
Kids, meals, work, bills, mowing, weeding, cleaning, sweeping, taking out the trash.
Am I no longer curious? Have I not been following the nudges? It’s much harder to follow my heart and raise a family at the same time. I try, with music. But sometimes it all feels like it’s leading nowhere. As if the dreams never come to fruition.
Rachel says she likes it when I dream. But dreaming is risk-taking. Dreaming hurts when you put yourself out there, or you try something and it fails. Now what?
It’s at the end of ourselves that new futures open up.
Our plans fall apart. Our strength isn’t enough. Our cleverness fails us.
You cry out like that and you’re joining a long line of souls from across the ages.
I’d heard people ask questions about prayer.
Does God hear our prayers?
Does prayer work?
What if you pray and you don’t get an answer?
I never found those questions that interesting. It felt like they turned the great mystery into a vending machine. Say or do or believe or ask for the right thing and then you’ll get what you want. Or you won’t. That sort of thing.
But that Now what? prayer,
that prayer changed me.
There was a world of confusion and longing and frustration trapped in my chest and that Now what? prayer dragged it all out in the open. It gave language to that black hole of despair. I was angry that the one thing that had ever really made me feel like I had something unique to contribute was being taken away from me and there was nothing I could do about it.
— Rob Bell
Yes, Now what? It’s a question I’ve been asking at various turns throughout my life. A failed relationship. Dropping out of college. Burnout. Leaving a soul-crushing job, not really sure of what was next. The joy of another job — that I thought I’d be at for a long time — beginning to fade. Moving somewhere we thought we’d love forever, then returning. Music, taking off. Then suddenly it’s not. Friendships, fading away.
Why? I’m not sure I’ve ever questioned God about it. I think for the same reason Bell mentions above. God is not a vending machine. I’ve never seen it that way.
I have wondered Why? But I haven’t pressed hard for answers. Maybe that hasn’t seemed like the point. But yes, What now? is something I can ask. That is something I can turn into a prayer.
Because there are times it all feels pointless.
I have never been the type of person that could be blissful just from working and providing a paycheck. I need to do something that makes me feel alive. I’ve gotten closer over the years. But it’s an ongoing journey. Because people change. Circumstances change. There is no one-size fits all career for most people, I think.
Some people say you need to be very clear about what you want. I’m not sure what I want, though. Or maybe I do and I’m just afraid to say it, because it might not happen. Or it might seem too ridiculous. Or they’ll mock it. Or simply misunderstand it.
There’s always someone to mock your dreams, because they’re too afraid to dream themselves.
I do know what I want, because I’ve written it down several times over the years. And I leave it tucked away. Sometimes it gets physically buried, and I forget. More often, though, it gets mentally buried because there are so many other things to concern myself with as a father. So many things I chalk up as more important than my own interests. As more important, because they are practical concerns.
I know I want my days to be free and open to the creative flow. To have time and space to compose music. To read books and write words. Perform music in intimate spaces for people. A recording studio with vintage gear. To live close to water. In nature. To be a part of a community where people care about each other. Where there is no pretense. Where people are doing what they love rather than trying to impress each other.
I want this for myself. I want this for my family.
I can’t concern myself with the How? because that is impossible to know. What I do know is that there are people out there doing what they love, and living life in the way they want to.
I know it’s possible.
What I do know is that I won’t get there by giving up. I won’t get there through despair but through joy. Through curiosity. I won’t get there by judging my dreams as unimportant. I won’t get there by worrying about who’s actually paying attention.
What’s next? Do that thing. What’s next? Do that thing. What’s next? Do that thing.
It’s really quite simple. But also scary. Because there’s always some sort of risk involved.
Curiosity is an uncertain place to live, because it means you have questions. And those questions lead to movement. And that movement may not always be safe. It might not be secure. It may cost us.
Children understand curiosity innately. But somewhere along the way, we’re taught that anxiety is more important than curiosity. We’re taught that anxiety will preserve you and help you be more secure. “If you’re anxious enough, you’ll plan better. You’ll be a better father if you’re anxious for your kids’ future. You’ll save more money if you worry about what might break. You’ll be healthier if you worry about what you eat.”
Ironically none of this is true. And we know it. We know that anxiety leads to worse relationships, worse health and never enough money.
What will I choose today?
To be alive is the biggest fear humans have.
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.
Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans.
We have learned to live our life trying to satisfy other people’s demands.
We have learned to live by other people’s points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else.
— Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements