From One Side to the Other

Why The Middle Way is Most Beneficial

I’ve always been obsessed with the Truth. I really identified with Fox Mulder on the X-Files show, because I agreed — the truth is out there!

When I was a young boy, I wanted to find out how things worked. I would take small things apart, but watches, in particular, fascinated me. All of those cogs and gears and precise little metals things arranged together almost like a living thing! But it was simply brilliant engineering, not alive.

When the rush of adolescence hit me full force, I became obsessed with love and the meaning of life. What did it all mean? I read Camus and Baudelaire, Milan Kundera and Jack Kerouac. I began to smoke and drink, intent on becoming like my idols.

Religion didn’t make any sense, so I discarded those trappings first.

The educational system seemed inherently flawed and biased toward certain groups of people, like bookworms and athletes (even though I love books and am fascinated by health now, back then I was more interested in industrial rock). So I discarded education. I also thought that all teachers were authoritarian jerk. Now I know many of them are heroes.

Politics seemed like total bullshit, so I discarded any beliefs that I had in that system. Same thing with capitalism and the economy in general. Money was the root of all evil!

I kept discarding all of these things until I was more or less a hobo walking around my hometown, writing poems and sleeping on couches.

Much like Thoreau in Walden I was free of the encumbrances of mankind but totally dependent on them at the same time.

My older friends, who were all going to college, provided me with much needed resources, including culture, food, friendship, pot, and of course their couches.

I didn’t bring much to the table other than just myself and my creativity. I had discarded the trappings of civilization, you see.

But after awhile it became clear to me that, although my way of life was free-spirited, I was also becoming something like a parasite. I was working in kitchens to make spending money, and I ended up getting my own apartment for awhile when I was about 16 or so.

Thus started my long and strange journey toward owning land and meaningful work.

While working in kitchens as a chef I realized that I wanted to work with nature directly and produce food from the land. I didn’t want to deal with the insanity of dinner rushes and crazy bosses or even the noise and pollution of the City, so I began working as a landscaper. Landscaping was really fun and really hard but the paycheck was good, and I could have done that work the rest of my life. But that wasn’t the way my Truth-seeking genetic make-up was going to let me lead my life.

No, my pursuit of honesty in all things found me out in the country, farming row upon row of weedy organic vegetables, ducks that shat all over but produced tasty eggs, chickens that I eventually had to behead with a cleaver, goats that would tangle themselves up in fencing and sometimes die for no reason, and even some flowers and a couple of mushrooms.

My life quickly became incredibly wrapped up in the care and enjoyment of my land. You could say that my dream of living an authentic life was fulfilled, but the funny thing about dreams is that they don’t ever stop evolving. Sometimes they change because circumstances change. Sometimes they just change.

I had been married, and then divorce reared its ugly head. It’s funny how long we try to make completely unworkable situations work, when in fact we should let them go in order to move on to the next thing. The truth of the matter was that our relationship didn’t work for shit. We weren’t good for eachother. Toward the end it was a struggle to even relate to eachother. Even though it felt like a huge failure at the time, like when I used to take those watches apart but was never able to put them back together because they were so intricate and precise, it was all for the good in the long run. I learned a lot about life and about myself.

My next truths were out there, and they were about love, and about simplifying, and also about resting my body and enjoying the only life that I have to life.

The act of falling asleep and sleeping through the night without a million worries is revolutionary, but the hard part of achieving that is realizing that these worries that we carry around like precious jewels most likely don’t need to be worried about. In fact it is a very Catch-22 situation. You’ve gotta force yourself to rest in order to get the perspective that allows you to not worry your ass off over every little thing.

You can literally only do one thing at a time. Your brain can only process one conversation at a time, and everything else is filtered out. When we overwhelm our brains, we cause a hell of a lot of overload on our mental stress reactions. Perhaps that is, in part, why city dwellers are more stressed in general, and the reason they have to create a mental filter to decrease the mental noise of where they live, the manmade chaos that assaults their brain daily. On the other hand, the natural chaos that exists in a field or forest seems to relax our nervous systems regardless of our circumstances.

In any case, sometimes that doesn’t apply to farmers. As a farmer, all that field and forest is hard work, a checklist to complete, and the idea of work is what causes us to stress out, in large part.

Stress is the opposite of happiness. It isn’t something to pursue, it is something to consistently and methodically purge from your life. This is one realization that I had on my path toward my own Truth.

In a way, it’s almost like my life, up until I chose otherwise, was a pendulum that swung from one side to the other, where this happy little hippy punk kid who lived a hobo life without any stress turned into this stressed-out over-worked and perpetually exhausted farmer laborer who got a divorce and lost his farm.

From one side to the other I swung.

Now, I think that peace and happiness lies somewhere in the middle of that arc. And the truth is that we are all seeking happiness and happiness only exists in the present. And if we can’t enjoy the present, we can’t find happiness. And being in the present doesn’t mean that we are free of all encumbrances or trapped by all of our responsibilities. It means that we have found a balance, and to maintain that balance is what we focus on.

We balance between the highs and the lows, and sometimes we dip low and swing high, but always, if we are wise, we return to the middle way.

Sometimes that means we are stuck low for years, or swing high for hours, but that doesn’t mean that is where we must stay.