On What We Want from Life

In another part of my life I work with children. All ages from five to eighteen. It’s interesting to see little people grow up, become big people at age twelve and then suddenly devolve into little people again. Life as a big fish in a little pond matures you, but beginning high school drops you into a wide flowing river where everyone gets jostled and jumbled and unceremoniously dumped into the sea. We might cry salty tears but the world itself is salty and no-one really cares. Not much moral to this story.

I talk with eighteen year old boys about their goals, their ambitions, their loves and hates and worries. One wants to be me. Most days even I want to be me. But is that enough for someone else to aspire to? Am I enough of a goal?

He pesters me, looking for the secrets that make up my fabric. Where did I grow up? What did I want to do? How did I get here? How much do I earn? Am I happy? All great questions, but my responses feel trite in this ever-flowing river that make up my life.

I don’t feel like my childhood has affected my profession. Sure, its affected my personality, and my worldview, the way I interact with people, the things that I love and hate. But has it made me a better musician? Maybe it gave me interesting stories to tell through music. But as a drummer the story I tell is of rhythm, and while the childhood rhythms of Africa still flow through my brain I don’t believe they appear in the way I play my music. As a lyricist I have a wealth of wild childhood stories that could be passed on through song. Instead I dwell on the mundanity (profundity? depends on perspective I guess) of winter loves and lost shoes and mans’ indelible impact on the earth.

So my childhood fails to affect the practical nature of my music (and I am a most practical man).

Is it enough to choose someone who interests you and mold your life on theirs? I did the same at university: flitting and floating between a series of musical crushes. I’d borrow parts and portions from teachers and records and videos on Youtube, blending them together into myself. I do the same in my small business: finding the people above me who achieve ‘success’ as I see it and following their processes, stealing their email templates, asking them for advice.

Indeed, human history is littered with admirable people and the people who aspire towards them. Religion itself as the main case in point, but the cult-like status of the Tim Ferris’s, Elon Musks and Joe Rogans of the world shows that a ‘higher purpose’ isn’t the sole requirement for a hero.

If we venture away from the human aspect of human nature, there lies a vast world of inspiration. We could devise a life built around accumulation. Accumulation of knowledge. Accumulation of wealth. Accumulation of experiences. Accumulation for accumulations sake, where I stockpile a warehouse of anything at all, just so I can show the world that I own it. We could endeavour to have the most of something, develop a status as the record holder for the fastest time or longest lap or biggest hoard. Surely this is where the Murdochs of the world take note. Accumulation of power as one of the oldest stories man knows. If we take Josephus at face value then the Pharisees were exponents of the power of religions’ hold on the common-folk and we can follow the thread back to the cradle of civilisation itself.

One last thought. Love.

So do I coach my young students to follow me, to build their lives around what they see of my life’s successes? Do I push them towards what interests them, whether that’s accumulation of knowledge or merely a safe life on a quarter block in the suburbs? Do I suggest they indulge their hedonistic desires and dive into the world of possibilities that presents at the arbitrary age of eighteen? It’s a slippery slope, one that no-one ever really prepared me for.

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