It’s no secret that a lot of things are in a bad way. The economy’s out of whack, cutting jobs and raising prices and sending the overall morale of a people into a nosedive. We’ve got this war on our hands and this whole political shift of power, hope-filled as it might be. Oh! Oh! And let’s not forget that ever so tiny addition of our own personal problems going on in our own heads and our own lives. I’m not saying that these are the worst times (Who the heck am I to say that?). All I’m saying is that change is needed, and I’m not talking that political definition which usually results in what would be the equivalent of replacing a few loose nuts and bolts on the Death Star. I’m talking a complete overhaul.

You see folks, tens of thousands of years ago a bunch of early men and women, directly following that “hunter-gatherer/ everything is magic” era, started forming civilizations and coming up with a bunch of really (and I mean REALLY really) retarded ideas as to how things should be run. That’s when mankind and their not-so-hidden desire to be “god-like” gave birth to the whole class system thing, judging success and power by how much higher your position was than some other guys’. They discovered early on that boundaries and limitations were to be made between peoples because as long as they were maintained, the lower classes could not rally up against a tyrant that could be so easily thwarted otherwise. But boundaries and limitations weren’t enough to do the job on their own. Nope, punishment was crucial in making sure folks would “know their place”; a system based on scolding wrongdoers instead of rewarding do-gooders. In other words…man discovered the greatest weapon of them all: fear.

Fear. Fast-forward to the present tense. It rules everything. EVERYTHING! Fear of getting caught, fear of disappointing someone, of failure, of rejection, of trying something new. This is what we’re taught; what we’re raised on: a political, social and religious trap we step into the moment we’re born. Religion. Organized religion, to be a bit closer to what I mean. Boy oh boy, how I could go on about this forever. About the use of fear to force a group’s interpretation of an ancient moral code. What is the Devil, what is Hell, if not the biggest freakin’ religious (and political- don’t pretend it’s not) scare tactic ever concieved. Like I said, I could go on…and I will in a bit. Now or never, right?

Let’s take this global playing field and zoom in a bit to what’s really important: you. The individual. The government, the afterlife, art, the environment: these are all mind-bogglingly massive ideas that are so steeped in their own paradoxes and problems that we as single souls cannot even begin to adjust, alter, or destroy our perception of such things until we know ourselves. And we cannot even begin to know ourselves until we learn how to be free.

FREEDOM. Capital letters. Important freakin’ word. We are the products of our society. Anyone who tells you any different is an idiot. Society shapes us, gives us those boundaries and limitations, fears, initial wants and needs. We are spoon fed a big box of planks and nuts and bolts and a manual on how we are expected to put it all together. It’s as simple as that. But true living (never to be confused with merely being alive), true experience and growth can only come with seeking out that elusive and beautiful “something more”. In life we are given countless opportunities to gather more pieces, be shown more manuals. We have the option of taking them or leaving them. Our decision should be the result of a series of educated guesses and checks and trials and errors that result in us finding out exactly who it is we want to be. Gather your parts. Make new parts. Become your ideal self. And do not (I repeat, DO NOT) use someone else’s manual, because someone else’s manual is just that. Not yours. It can never be fully fulfilling (or, I should say, fully freeing) because you are trying to fit your unique one-in-a-trillion self into someone else’s design. It’s cramped. And here’s the part that gets people’s underpants all up in a twist: There is no manual more dangerous, more deceptive, than that of the organized religion.

Rrrrreligion. I told you we’d get back to it. Prepare to feel strongly. Heh. Religion is an entire set of rules, views, and beliefs that have been wrapped into a nice little package for you by the hands of powerful dead men claiming to be guided by a greater being or power of some sort. Be it a royal family living at the top of a mythical mountain or a carpenter’s son who can return from the dead, they are stories passed on by men to explain and control in the easiest way possible. And the only reason the gods of Olympus seem ridiculous and the magic Jew does not is because of thousands of years of mental conditioning (not to mention the powers-that-be marketing Jesus in contrast to the usual fear-tactics, despite that being the inevitable result of all Western religions). I think Jesus was a great guy with a great manual. But it was his. Not yours. Do I think religions do good? Of course they do (so do politics)! But they also promote isolation (whether they intend to or not) which promotes a sort of closed-mindedness towards people of other faiths or belief systems. And in a world where togetherness is not only a goal, but an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY, that’s just not going to cut it anymore. But at the end of the day, Christians and Atheists and Scientologists can dream of a world where everyone agrees with them all they want. It ain’t happening. Acceptance and finding a common ground is where it’s at, people.

I got a little global on you there again, so let’s zoom in one more time and briefly talk about one of the keys to a perfectly beneficial life: BALANCE. Living any part of your life in the extreme will blow up in your face eventually. It’s a fact of life. Just look at the infatuation phase of any relationship. Either tone it down or it’s over. Balance, that yin and yang, complete internal and external equality, is what we seek. Between thought and action, war and peace, fear and courage, logic and emotion, introvert and extrovert, follower and leader…science and religion. There it is again. I fully believe that there is something far greater than what we know to be real, the organisms and physics that science is oh so eager to explore and dissect. Just look at how biologically perfect life is. The environment, symbiosis, photosynthesis, plate tectonics, the birth of stars and planets, mitosis, carnivores, volcanoes, tides and how each and every one of those and a billion more things are so intricately connected, so perfect, that there must be some unseen force of origin. Some energy that is beyond us. And why can’t it also be the core of whatever it is that causes a mother to just know when something has happened to a child, dreams to give glimpses of the future, and prayers to be answered where science and logic say that the fight is no longer worth fighting? Call this thing God or whatever, but don’t let someone convince you that it has any human feelings or prejudices. It’s beyond our pettiness. Heck, insects are beyond our pettiness! Anyway, balance. Good stuff. Everyone’s is different, but you’ll know it when you find it.

Question everything. Don’t take that rather short sentence lightly because it could damn well be the most important sentence in this whole thing. Questions are the only road to answers. Don’t hold back…now or never.

So let’s say we’ve gathered all of our parts and we’ve drawn up this lovely manual to our specific specifications and we’ve built our ideal self. Congratulations! Your journey has just begun. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll gladly tell ya! I’ll start off with something that for some stupid reason people find so hard to define: The Meaning of Life (Ooo! Ahh!, right?). Well, in case you haven’t heard me spit this out before, the meaning of human life is LOVE and GROWTH. That’s it. That’s all. Like I said, we’re all connected. And as such, we have a responsibility to the land we live on, the animals we share this land with, the plants we share this land with and, of course, our fellow human beings. Each and every one of us has an unimaginable effect on all of these things and through love, we can make it a positive one. (PS, you don’t have to like something to show love toward it…Got it?). On to growth. Existence is a series of beginnings and ends, mostly circular, but each rotation is slightly different than the last. From protoplasm and Pangea to dinosaurs and sea monsters to skyscrapers and capitalism. Life is birth, growth, and death. It is an evolution of species and ideas. What does not change for the better will come to an end. Reconnecting this with the beginning of this paragraph, the point is this:

Your manual is never complete. Your journey never ends. Write that thing down in pencil because you will erase, rewrite, and in the darkest most desperate times in your life, you will have to tear that piece of philosophical paper, that blueprint to your individual religion, into pieces and start over. It can be stressful and terrifying and come out of left field, but change or die and never betray who it is you want to be. Hope is great as long as you don’t put all your faith in it, because then you become a slave to the future, while letting the present (the only place a change can happen) slip through your fingers. Whether a bump in the road to something eternal or the alpha and omega itself, this life is the only one we’ll ever have like it. Our homes, our friends, our enemies, our chances to make a difference. This is it. Things are rough in a lot of ways, yeah, but focus on the good and you’ll be fine. Focus on your individuality and you’ll be free. Focus on a better today for the world we all share, and your life will have meaning.

It’s now or never.