This short film is well worth fifteen minutes of your attention:
This former doctor has found bliss roller-blading* by the beach. He chucked his living-by-the-rules-and-society’s-defaults kind of life and just started doing what he wanted to do.
He was inspired by a chance encounter years before with a 93-year-old whose life advice was: “Do what you want to!”
That story reminded me of Joseph Campbell recounting this story in his 1980s television series with Bill Moyers:
Campbell: Remember the last line [of Babbitt]? “I have never done the thing that I wanted to in all my life.” That is a man who never followed his bliss. Well, I actually heard that line when I was teaching at Sarah Lawrence. Before I was married, I used to eat out in the restaurants of town for my lunch and dinners. Thursday night was the maid’s night off in Bronxville, so that many of the families were out in restaurants. One fine evening, I was in my favorite restaurant there, and at the next table there was a father, a mother, and a scrawny boy about twelve years old. The father said to the boy, “Drink your tomato juice.”
And the boy said, “I don’t want to.”
Then the father, with a louder voice, said, “Drink your tomato juice.”
And the mother said, “Don’t make him do what he doesn’t want to do.”
The father looked at her and said, “He can’t go through life doing what he wants to do. If he only does what he wants to do, he’ll be dead. Look at me. I’ve never done a thing I wanted to in all my life.”
And I thought, “There’s Babbitt incarnate.”
That’s the man who never followed his bliss. You may have a success in life, but then just think of it—what kind of life was it? What good was it—you’ve never done the thing you wanted to do in all your life. I always tell my students, go where your body and soul want to go. When you have the feeling, then stay with it, and don’t let anyone throw you off.
“Follow your bliss” is not a call to a shallow, selfish life. It’s the call to listen and to act. To not just follow the expectations of others. To not just get locked into a groove that someone else made. Live your life.
*As an aside, I was intrigued by Slomo’s neurological explanation in the documentary of the science of the joy of accelerating. Because, the inner ear and gravity and the center of the earth…
Recently, I’ve been borrowing my seven-year-old daughter’s scooter at every chance.
Me, to my kids: “Hey, girls! Do you want to go ride your bikes…?!”
Me, to myself: *…so I have an excuse to ride the scooter*
I delight in zooming down our steep driveway and onto the road. And when we go around the block, I live for the smooth, even descent where I can just glide downhill back to our house, the wind in my gray hair. It puts a smile on my face and creates this simple little pleasure that most fifty-year-old men rarely experience.
Slomo, I get it. Skate on.