If 99% of the world’s religions are to be believed, the lion’s share of our strange, bittersweet journey on this earth is a quest in learning how to live right. Kind of backwards, isn’t it? Here we are, marvels of bio-kinetic technology, cracked out of the box in mint condition – only to spend the next eighty or so years writing our own user manuals.
And it’s true, some of the lessons are hard. Staying calm in the face of adversity? Giving boldly and fearlessly of yourself at the risk of catastrophic hurt? Figuring out what you want to do and then doing the heck out of it? These aren’t exactly intro-level courses.
Then again, some of the stuff we need to do to be decent people seems pretty straightforward. In my time so far, here are the meager lessons I’ve worked out:
If someone comes to you in tears, comfort them. Whether you’re best friends, siblings, or just two strangers standing in an elevator, it’s the right thing to do. Even if you end up making fun of them to your co-workers later, for just this moment? Look ‘em right in the eye and tell them, “Dude, I’m sorry to hear that. That really sucks.” You never know what small moment of humanity is going to turn someone’s life around.
Treat monetary loans like gifts – and if you wouldn’t happily fork over the cash with no dream of getting it back, then just say no. From the mocha you buy your boss every morning to two grand in bail money, lending money can transform a relationship in one of two ways: you can give it freely and let it color your friendship with a sense of casual intimacy. Or you can let it fester into unthinkable bitterness – after which, you still probably won’t ever see your money again.
If you take a deep drag of a cigarette as you’re stepping into a building, then exhale after you set foot in the door, yes you are still smoking inside. Please don’t ever do this.
If you have a problem with someone, tell them. As soon as you’re able to string the words together with a modicum of tact, let them know that you have a problem with their behavior and come up with a viable compromise. Half the time, people don’t even know that they’re bugging us. And as satisfying as it can be to complain to other people, wouldn’t it be even more satisfying to complain to the right person and then end the behavior altogether?
Fortune favors the bold. Think of the thing you’ve always wanted to do. Are you physically able? Can you afford it, with the help of a little strategic personal budgeting? Is it legal? There are tons of good reasons to do it, and only one (very bad) reason not to. And call me crazy, but considering we spend our lives walking around in incredibly fragile bodies, nurturing relationships that can explode at any moment, working ‘til we sweat blood to earn money that has no objective value – I mean, what is there to be more afraid of?!
This is literally everything I know about being a human being. Leave some more universal truths in the comments section. Let’s write the first chapter or two of this instruction manual together.
“Nostalgia Art Journal” johwey @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some rights Reserved.