Ever watch a mouse running on a wheel? What about that moment when the wheel over takes him, throwing his body into a helpless G-force spin even Maverick (TOPGUN) couldn’t pull out of?
More on this later. (I swear it’s relevant)
When the P90X workout hit the market it was the most expensive lesson in healthy living. At nearly $200 a pop, you’d think a free consult with a plastic surgeon might also be included—guaranteed to get you ripped (one way or another). But aside from the many egos this intense system would go on to obliterate, the cult mantra of muscle confusion had far more to teach us about how to live better than anyone might have ever imagined. Through all the sweat, blood, and tears of turning flab into abs, was a deeper message about how “mixing it up” has a value beyond chiseled arms and tight booty shorts that will make any grown man cry.
Much like how throwing random challenges at your muscles increases their response and prevents stagnation, the same is true for your life in general. Typically, discussions of “spontaneity” evoke thoughts of our casual youth, the sexual misadventures, that late night road trip, and the impromptu fashion photoshoot featuring you and your besties plastered in your underwear (It was a new DSLR camera. What the hell else were we supposed to do?). Yet, like so many other times in our lives, we may have missed the importance of the little things.
I’m here to make the argument that the very nutritious euphoria that once fed our greatest memories and achievements, can be injected into everyday life. Spontaneity in its most efficient and prevalent form adds up to a simple break in linear living. All of those arbitrarily planned events and tasks we take to on a daily basis, the “to-do lists” and “don’t lists”, should be utterly abandoned in the presence of any inspirational spark. Any plans of what we “should” do today—the dishes, the laundry, cleaning under the couch, having a shower and THEN making tea—should all pale and wane in the pull of what glimmering idea may intrude upon our thoughts. Give into the moment and forget the rest.
This all started last week. It goes without saying that the holidays have been absolutely exhausting. Things are a lot different from when I was six and, to be quite honest, it’s gotten downright frightening. There was once a time when all I had to do was wait the impossible 37 years it took for Christmas morning to arrive. I’d wake for the fifth time and count the minutes deemed appropriate enough to rouse the adults in the house—ANY adult in the house. I used to think THAT was torture; No, my friends. True torture is the holiday season as an adult. Christmas doesn’t lay patiently in the hearth of a distant mountain, hidden silently within a temple of doom far from miniature grasp. As an adult, the Christmas season mauls you like a grizzly bear, attacking from behind and ripping you from sleep to reveal the impact crater where your bank account used to be.
But beyond the financial ruin destined to ensue, the holiday season is a time of unending obligation; its an infinite caravan of things to do to make the people you love, smile—and to stave off the guilt that comes with realizing that a commercial American Christmas requires more than that useless Bachelor’s degree you bought for nearly fifty grand. Before you even have time to anticipate Santa’s inevitable breaking-and-entering, you start feeling like an elf yourself, slaving away at the North Pole for wages paid in cookies and hot chocolate. Planning for this, budgeting for that, and coming home from a full day’s work to an entirely structured evening of things to do is a recipe for burn-out and a suicide note.
Have you checked the blog this December? Nothing. Nada. That’s because any time inspiration would strike in the moment, its flame would be instantly doused by the water of “things to do”. Within a matter of seconds my mood would dip hopelessly into despair, my soul slouching with the phantom weight of some unknown burden. This didn’t go unnoticed and I attempted explaining it to my girlfriend.
For me, daily spontaneity and the frequent liberation from arbitrary obligation is necessary for my creative life. It’s an extremely fragile event with a hair-trigger to boot. Even the smallest amount of time and effort diverted elsewhere—like taking a shower or eating dinner—can completely destroy an idea and motivation to pursue it. This is the most difficult part: the slightest interruption of a spontaneous idea’s flow can completely derail it. Anyone who has ever attempted to remember something, only to lose it as it teeters on the tip of their tongue, can relate. Once my moment of inspiration has gone, it’s gone. And I’m left with nothing but frustration and disappointment. The unique package of both inspiration and the motivation to forge it into reality happens in the blinking eye of spontaneity. I find that for me, in this way, a linear life can completely destroy my spirit.
Okay. So you’re not exactly a creative person. But you ARE A PERSON. And I believe that this idea of breaking a linear lifestyle has merits for everyone. The power of choosing in the moment can be seen in the popularity of all nonlinear models we gravitate toward: THE INTERNET, Netflix, Hulu, and MP3 players. For the same reasons TiVO amazes us over regularly scheduled programming, a life lived linear just isn’t that interesting. But it’s more than that. The daily grind of structured time outside of our necessary working lives can be absolutely crushing to our sense of growth and happiness. I once told someone “If you want to get somewhere different, you’ve got to do something new”. Once you get on that wheel—a construct of limitation, of expending energy that does nothing to move you—there may be no getting off.
The mouse dies because the wheel was built to spin faster than his legs could ever run.
And that’s when you wake up and you’re forty. You did everything you planned. You did everything you were supposed to, and when you were supposed to do it. You put in all the effort and ran as fast as you could on a wheel that went nowhere. And whenever flighty ideas and fanciful silliness invaded your mind, you put it aside and said, “No, not now. I have things to do first.” And without you even knowing, the wheel took hold and spun you into oblivion.