Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.


There are so many ways to feel. And yet, we humans have the tendency to:

a) mistake the feelings that we have about a certain person, situation or object as the only proper feeling suited to said person, situation or object; and

b) assume that the way we feel at a particular moment—especially when we’re feeling “bad”—is the way that we are going to feel into the foreseeable future, possibly forever.

The fear or anxiety associated with this last assumption is, I believe, really the fear or anxiety that our present feeling is the last thing we will ever feel—as if, at the moment of death, whatever we were feeling would be both the single feeling that defined our lives as well as the sole feeling to accompany us throughout eternity.

Chogyam Trungpa said that feelings are just “heavy-handed thoughts.” I’ve often used these words to calm myself in moments of panic or dread (or, frankly, remorse). I also use them to understand this (irrational) insistence that any feeling is the only feeling.

When the horizon looms up, and we’re swallowed up by its shadow, recall that the lip of the Earth has not obliterated the sun, merely obscured it.

Doing What You Want to Do

969487159_0537403a06_mThere’s a book called The Myth of Freedom by Chogyam Trungpa. It’s message is fairly straightforward: Everyone thinks of “freedom” in terms of “doing what you want to do.” What this formulation represses is the fact that we cannot free ourselves from wanting. At the core of our concept of freedom dwells an intractable kernel of compulsion. (In line with his Buddhist inclinations, Trungpa Rinpoche offers meditation as the diamond-hard hammer fit to crack this nut.)

When I was younger, I idolized people who were “doing what they wanted to do,” and perpetually lamented my own failure to join their ranks (somehow imagining that, in spite of the fact that I was doing many things, I was never quite doing what I wanted to do). I didn’t feel free.

Laugh if you want, but for a while Jerry Garcia represented this ideal of freedom – “doing what you want to do” –  in part because he seemed to be living the life I thought I wanted to live. But then I read something he said on the subject and it caught me up.

In his view, doing what you want to do is easy. First, do what you want to do. Then, don’t do what you don’t want to do. [Note: I’ve not been able to locate the source for this last bit. Will keep looking – Matt.]

While the stoned simplicity of this credo has its appeal, it rings false to me. “Don’t do what you don’t want to do” doesn’t sound like freedom so much as an avoidance of accountability and a refusal of responsibility. I understand that it can feel pretty free to be on the road playing gigs and taking drugs, but how free are you if you leave behind a trail of unfilled obligations, broken relationships and quasi-fatherless children? Are you “running free” or just “running away”?

Separating the moments of free action in our lives from those of mindless determinism is, on the one hand, a step towards maturity and self-awareness, and, on the other, utterly fruitless (as pointed out by Immanuel Kant). The important question isn’t, “Am I doing what I want to do?” The important question is, “Am I dealing with my shit?”

Image Courtesy of Damien.