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The Art of Living

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2012-08-02-20120801ry4801.jpegEverybody has a dream. Some unfulfilled fantasy where your imagination actively engages in some devilish feat or artistic pursuit that you are just hankering to try. Most people never do. They spend their life making up excuses about the impracticality of their dreams. A life defined by "Why I can't."

Actually, most people could. They just don't. "Living" can be mundanely defined as your day-to-day existence, or "living" can become your own personal art. It is the art of living that conjures up a person who accumulates a life of saying yes instead of no. I think of the art of good living as adventure for the masses.

"Well of course YOU are" is my favored friend line. I usually hear it a couple times a week. This week perhaps five in reference to my describing the jet simulator that I signed up to fly.

Depending on the activity at hand, my endearing pals roll their eyes, warn me to be careful, and remind me of my age. Their gentle reproaches aside, what I generally sense is that they would really love to be coming along but generally invent some feeble excuse as to why they must not.

There have been moments in my life where I pursued peace, that quiet and submissive serenity that one feels tucked away with a worthy book and fine Pinot. I failed at peace. So, rather than surrender, I decided to make peace with my passions.

In the realm of, "No, I can't," the excuse that is easiest to spittle out is, "I don't have time." As a single, working, mother with five children and a plethora of pets ranging from a 100-pound Sulcata Tortoise to a brooding bantam silkie hen to a chinchilla, savannah, hedgehog and falcon, I am a pretty good litmus test to "I don't have time" being ridiculous.

We always have time for what we want to make time for. This is something I note to my women and men friends when they are dating someone who says they "don't have time" to see them. Translation: They don't want to see you enough to make time. Or, it's time to move on.

I happen to be a completely, thoroughly embarrassing, uncoordinated klutz, so the alibi "I am not physical enough" is particularly lame. I am an embodiment of the empirical evidence that if I can do something anyone can. The reality is that people's lives get cluttered with ambiguous views of responsibilities and ambitions. Too often the goal of "having enough" gets in the way of "experiencing enough."

Before leaving the topic of excuses, there is of course the "Fear of Failure" excuse. If you FAIL at skydiving you really do have a legitimate problem. Many people do not see much upside in jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet and free falling until the last possible moment, or doing a back flip off a galloping horse, or swimming with sharks, or training a falcon. However, if you can begin a new activity knowing that you are statistically safer in this endeavor then during your daily commute on the freeway to work its fair to say that fear is not really what is holding you back. People pontificating about the dangers of encounters on the wild side are often the same people who don't have time to learn to grow a bonsai tree, take a salsa class, play chess or tennis, or master chocolate dessert or spun sugar. The art of living is not about creating risk -- it is finding your own personal passions, whatever they might be, and saying, "Yes, I can try that."

My biggest fear in life is the things I will fail to try. If you have a goal and you don't reach that goal then you might say you have failed. But "failure" is often the end to a truly wonderful experience. Doing nothing is a failure with no upside. The mistake in that is being afraid to make one. There are few individuals who are not a tad panicked when they begin something new. I'm two years in to overcoming my fear of scuba diving. If life was meant to be viewed in terms of the level or final aptitude that the masses might accomplish at anything we might just as well get a tattoo that says "professional failure." Not a lot of us regular folk have the interest to devote 10 hours a day, seven days a week, year after year (after year after year) to any one activity, so I begin my adventures well aware that I will never paint like Rembrandt or compose music like Rachmaninoff or reach the heights of Jet Li as a martial artist. And while it would be magical to feel that level of accomplishment it would be mean sacrificing too many other experiences along the way. Since few will ever have the intellectual capacity of Wittgenstein or Einstein, or even most Vassar professors, one could argue that thinking is a waste of time as well. But of course its not. Doing is valuable simply because it requires both a choice and an action.

I often ask myself would I rather observe or experience. To be the viewer is to live in a perpetually vicarious state. Watching means that you can never travel past your imagination. Reality -- even a scary, clumsy, fiasco of reality -- is almost always worth the effort. And almost always is very good odds for anyone who enjoys math and or plays poker.

To be continued.

The Art Of: Skydiving. Martial Arts. Scuba Diving. Motorcycles. Falconry. Pole Dancing. Kindness. Poker. Salsa. Koi Ponds. The Perfect Horse. Race Car Driving. Adoption. Wilderness Survival Camp. Tennis. Parenting. River Rafting. Calligraphy. Charity. Painting. Detoxing. Piloting. Love. Guns. Snakes. Bonsai Trees. Parkour. Cattle Cutting. Chocolate. Organic Gardening. Music. Fasting. Friendship. Chickens. Physics. Snow Boarding. Wine. Knife Throwing. Fly Fishing.

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