Is life is some sort of sordid lab experiment within which humans are the test animals? It’s as if seven billion people were thrown into a hedgerow maze, but weren’t told what’s at the end of it. We go on searching and searching, and what do we expect to find? Happiness? Is happiness really something that can be found? Or is it something that can only be experienced on the way to a greater destination?
One of my favorite poems is in Polish, and it’s entitled “Rzuciłbym to wszystko” by Julian Tuwim. I won’t bother you with the entire poem, but it roughly summarizes to this:
I would throw everything away at once and move to the countryside.
In a house, on a quiet street.
Roosters will crow, neighbors will get fatter and dumber.
I will go to the inn, I will talk with you over a glass of wine:
Well, my love? Well, my only?
Do you long for the capital? Are you bored here in the countryside?”
Nothing, you would say. Nothing, my love.
You would be listening to the morning wind howl across the chimney.
You would wonder in anxiety and longing,
– What is he looking for here in the countryside?
(Czego on tu szuka w Kutnie lub Sieradzu?)
Often do we make odd or arbitrary decisions based on some sort of quest whose goal is none too clear, and we spend too much time rationalizing them with half-truths; so rarely do we find the actual answers we’re looking for. The narrator envisions moving to the countryside in search of great idyll, but does he find it? What is he in search of if not idyll? Does his love exist in opposition to his envisioned happiness, or as a reflection of his doubt?
I just moved to Austin, Texas, where I know nothing and nobody. I had left Los Angeles: a place where I had good friends, a good apartment, and a lifestyle I enjoyed. In a way, my last six six months in Los Angeles were some of the happiest six months of my entire life; my personal connections bloomed and my life experiences grew plentiful. I had it all, except for income. Why then, did I leave it all to head into the ambiguity that is a life of no knowledge and no connections? (and even less income, which is to say negative income)
What am I looking for here in Austin, Texas?
Obviously, I’m here to study music composition, but perhaps it goes deeper? I do love composing music, but what do I expect myself to achieve? Does the rare and unparalleled joy of composing something I think is good outweigh the agony of coping with writer’s block, elusive talent, and the reality that, even if I write the greatest orchestral piece known to the 21st century, only a relative handful of people will ever listen to it, and even less will like it?
People have asked me what I expect to achieve with my masters degree. “Be a better composer.” That’s my only answer. I don’t see any definitive job prospects. I just want to be better than I am. If I don’t take the resources available to me, then how can I say I’ve tried my best at life?
But what does it mean to try at life? Is trying at life akin to taking a shot in soccer? What happens when you score? Is life a game that can be won? Or suppose we have to think about it in those terms in order to maintain some shred of sanity; thinking of life in terms of a sports game with winners and losers is easier to grasp than life in terms of a maze to nowhere. After all, if nowhere is for where we’re looking, how can one not go insane? You’d be insane not to go insane.
This is why I envy those who are confident that God exists. For them, they can have peace knowing (whether for truth, does it matter?) that there is in fact a destination and their journey through the Maze of Life has goals and guidelines to follow. God is at the end of the maze, and as for why we’re placed in the maze to begin with, there’s no need to ask – God knows, and as sheep to his shepherding, you follow. It’s simple. I want it for myself.
In any case, why did I come to Texas to become a better composer? I didn’t need to. I wanted to, and I still do, but I don’t understand why. There are teachers in my beloved Californian homeland. But apparently I’m looking for something.
Czego ja tu szukam w Austinie?
Why does Man climb mountains? Why does Man vacation in national parks? Other animals don’t seem to have this ongoing quest to find solace or answers in abstract or irrational ideas. Some of my happiest moments of the last six months were on the open road to wherever, perhaps to find myself whatever that means, but the happiest moment of each journey was coming back home to my friends or family. Maybe our recreational activities aren’t as much distractions as they are juxtaposing life as we idolize it against life as we actually live it so when we return to the reality of our lives, we can remind ourselves of how lucky it is to be in the maze with everyone else who is also in the maze. After all, the greatest moment of a backpacking trip is the shower and hot meal after it’s done.
Czego my tu szukamy w życiu?
Sometimes it feels like the point of life is to find a companion, get married, and have a family so your children can go through the same existential crisis you went through until they get married and inflict the same life-penalty on their own children. I’d want to say the end of the maze is family, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a functional family these days. And then what would that say about the lifelong bachelor? Did he fail? As long as the Rich are lonely, the Loved are restless, and the Intelligent are impoverished, I will forever be confused.
Although confused as I may be, I hope to never stop searching alongside the aimless hordes of humanity. I don’t know what we’re looking for, but if we don’t go out looking for it, we will never find it, even if it was right back where we started.