Sometimes I feel a little sad about my life.
For the last three years, I’ve spent most of my time inside, alone, doing the following things:
- writing my thesis
- reading books
- surfing the web
- looking at porn
- playing with my two computers and their three operating systems (Windows XP, various Linux distros, and Mac OS X)
- watching anime
- occasionally studying Japanese
- playing videogames
I’ve also done some other, more social things:
- spent time with my on-again, off again girlfriend (who I love dearly), and with my few other close friends
- gone drinking on Friday nights with other postgrads from the Melbourne University’s Department of English with Cultural Studies (at least, until I decided I hated the Department, no offense to my postgrad colleagues, who know exactly what I’m talking about)
- been the secretary of the Melbourne Zen Group
- presented at two academic conferences
- worked at a supermarket
- tutored in Cultural Studies
- volunteered at an anarchist bookstore
- had sex with a woman I met on the Internet, who I can still count as a friend
- edited press releases and shareholder reports for a publicly listed Chinese pharmaceutical company
- learned to play go
- and, most recently, started this blog.
But the inside and alone activities dominate. Not only that, but where’s the purpose behind it all? How far have I gotten towards my major goals, towards
- publishing my first novel? (it’s still not finished, after seven years of writing)
- promoting real freedom in the world?
- finding lasting and certain love?
- overcoming my deepest flaws, Thus Spake Zarathustra style?
- knowing how to live?
On top of that, I feel like in the past year and a half, I’ve had to reject most of the things I learned in my seven years at university, the leftist and postmodern ideologies that dominate there these days, because they simply don’t describe the world truthfully, or represent a reasonable way of responding to it. So what I’ve learned, in that time, is only that a great many things are false, and not a great deal about what is true. Sure, I’ll soon be Dr. Ben Hourigan (all going according to plan), with two manuscripts (one fiction, one non-fiction) nearly ready for publication, but such achievements can seem a little hollow at times.
But at the root of it all is a thing I feel sometimes at the end of a day filled with consuming media, thinking about it, and then producing my own cultural artefacts. It is a profound agitation, a sense of having accelerated so much, and having become so full of ideas, that there is no space, and no time in which I simply am, and in which I know myself and know what joy it is to live.
I suspect that this feeling is not unique to me, and nor is it produced, solely, by the intellectual life. And much as I hate it when people moan about how children spend too much time in front of the television, and suggest that they should go outside and play before something terrible happens as a result of their voracious, sedentary, media-consumer lifestyle, sometimes I feel like taking their advice. After all, every moment we spend absorbed in someone else’s creative vision or their opinion about current affairs, or even creating our own works of art and analysis, is a moment we aren’t having the most direct, vibrant experience of what it is to be alive.
When the melancholy hit tonight, I would have done well just to go out for a walk, if it hadn’t been dark already. Instead, I just lay on the couch for an hour, with the lights off, awake, but not doing anything. When I got up again, I felt more real than I had all day.
My advice to you, readers, is to take some time to do nothing else but be alive: to breathe, to feel the sensations of your body and of the world around you, and to watch the endless cavalcade of thoughts tumble through your mind. Don’t procrastinate on this one, it’s the most important thing of all. Before you know it, you’ll be dead, and will have missed your chance.