The Paradox of Life

May 25, 2018

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I have a sick fascination with squirrels. I observe them constantly. If you think you're neurotic, go to a park and just watch squirrels for an afternoon. You will soon realize your feet are firmly planted on the extreme side of very laid-back animals. I don't care if you arrange matchsticks in alphabetical order. It doesn't matter that you lose your shit if the same barista doesn't serve your drink at the precise temperature you annoyingly requested. You lose. It's not even a close contest for you are an alpha predator. The threats that exist in your life are from other human beings, not other animals. This is why non-domesticated animals run away from you. Even the larger ones. Because they know nothing good can happen by hanging around you. I read somewhere in a book I made up that animals like deer, squirrels, rabbits, and other Bambi characters cannot speak Spanish. Okay, actually what I think I read, or possibly fabricated for this post is these animals only live in current 15 second increments. They literally have no memory of 3AM, last Christmas, the summer of '69, or any other song referencing a specific time, date, or event. The reason is because, if they did, they would go insane. Why? Because every single moment of a squirrel's life represents a near death experience. Soldiers in war have a term for it. "The thousand-yard stare." The sheer mass of death and awfulness causes their brain to just shut down. They can't handle it.

 

Years ago, I made a Facebook page (still active today in memorium!) for a squirrel named Sciurus. Sciurus Carolinensis is the scientific name of the Eastern Gray Squirrel. This is the one most of you are familiar with. If you go look him up, you'll see the adventures of Sciurus until he met his untimely death. Every single one of his interactions would end with the same sentiment. "Oh my God, I almost died!". Because that is what a squirrel thinks... constantly. He was a widower. Most of his children are dead. Family reunions involved looking into the bird bath and seeing his reflection. He knows at any moment, he will be dead, too. He'll be busy burrowing a buckeye when he hears a sound. Instantly, his head pops up because he knows things are going to get bad really quickly. Think about all the ways a squirrel can die. None of them are related to eating too many acorns, or old age. Getting run over, getting eaten by cats, getting eaten by hawks, getting chased to exhaustion….getting shot. I'm not going to Bubba Gump you to death with all of the ways squirrels can die, but let's just say when I heard that Seth MacFarlane was making a movie called A Million Ways to Die in the West, I thought he was making a movie about a squirrel in Los Angeles.

 

A squirrel knows the exhilaration of being alive because the squirrel might not be in that same condition a microsecond later. Being on such a high state of alert, and remembering all those moments can't happen with a brain the size of a tic tac. A frolicking squirrel gamboling in the park is about one of the cutest thing you can observe. You are miserable for no reason whatsoever. You are wearing the skin of another animal. No other creature does that. You have manipulated the laws of physics to move electrons in the manner of your choosing and yet, you can't replicate the same simplistic joy. Do you know when you feel the most alive? When you are faced with the loss of life. Just like the squirrel. Death creates an awareness of life. How paradoxical. That’s why roller coasters are so thrilling. It is simulating danger and potential death. Get in a near wreck? You're weeping at how beautiful leaves look. Beat stage four cancer? Your newfound outlook on life makes Tony Robbins look like Eeyore's jockey. All too often, we appreciate the joy of life when it is almost taken away from us. You wait in line for 2 hours at Universal Studios to feel that way. All a squirrel does is look at a mailbox at a different angle. And, who is the dumb creature here?

 

Thus, began my other obsession. Finding paradoxes and using them to my advantage. Finding paradoxes is remarkably easy. It's sort of like being obsessed with dog hair in my house. It's literally fucking everywhere. Paradoxes, are even more common than Pango's underbelly hair (basically his pubes) drifting through the atmosphere like pornographic dandelion blooms. You just have to know how to look for them. My favorite paradox of life is the one I believe I discovered: The only way to achieve a selfish goal is to be unselfish. When I came to truly understand what I was thinking, I found my life turned around drastically. For most of my life, I was living only for me. I was focused on my pain, my goals, my life. And yet, I continued to spin my wheels in pursuit of happiness. Yes, Will Smith, Happiness, not Happyness. It was only when I started focusing on the happiness of others I began to realize I was starting to become happy myself. I started to wonder if my maxim could apply in other areas of life. Sure enough, it fit like a final puzzle piece to complete the picture.

 

A good relationship is often like life. Like life, we don't appreciate it until it's about to end or, it finally does. We try to appreciate all the mundane moments. We try to appreciate the little things, but the annoying humanness of us erodes the appreciation until we forget how special it is. The jolt to the system suddenly reminds us of how precious it really is. I often think it is better to be a squirrel. To celebrate the shared life with a fellow squirrel and not remember who failed to take the trash out last week or any of the other tons of shitty baggage we hold on to. Jolts to the system aren't celebrated like jumping out of an airplane is, but they serve the same purpose. So, sometime when you're going through a moment that is less than fun in a relationship, imagine it's like getting shot out of a cannon. You are suddenly very aware you are living. That jolt makes you very much aware you are in a relationship. It doesn't have to be romantic, it can be platonic, or familial. Holding on to all the memories of past jolts can be very detrimental to the success and viability of your relationship. So, be like Sciurus, live your life 15 seconds at a time, but don't bolt out onto the road for no reason whatsoever. You dumb, fucking squirrel.

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