I've mentioned before that I have a tendency of playing things safe. I suppose we all are predisposed to keep doing the things we’re comfortable with, to be complacent with our routines and expectations. But the truth is, as good as we get at managing our outcomes, there’s always a margin of error, an element of risk. That bit of information overlooked, misunderstood, or simply unknowable that suddenly reveals to us that order is an illusion. We are often steps away from unexpected chaos.
For a play it safe kind of guy, you’d think my response to chaos might be to try to prepare for it, to have that emergency fund, that earthquake preparedness kit, a solid plan B – like most rational people, especially a rational hedonist, would. And, I do – to some extent; though perhaps not as completely as I might like...
After almost 30 years in the same business I’m now unemployed. I’m anxious about what I’ll do next, where I might live, how I might have to adjust. To be sure I’ll be doing what's traditional and expected. I'll update my Linked-In profile, network with peers, keep up with industry trends, etc.. But in this moment of chaos, I’ll also cast a glance to other far off options. What else can I do? Could I start my own business? Is that philosophy store even possible? What would it look like? What other imaginary lives can I entertain and make real?
I’ll fantasize about pursuing these options, turn them into thought experiments, always weighing the risk.
Rational as that might seem, I can’t help but look at my risk aversion as one of my flaws. A flaw that might actually be preventing me from living as fulfilling of a life as I might otherwise. As a rational hedonist I ought to be willing to take a few more risks. So, as much as I like to play it safe, I secretly welcome this sort of anarchy and chaos. It destroys my excuses, makes me vulnerable, but also opens me to possibilities I might never allow myself. “That which does not destroy me, makes me stronger, “ remains a favorite Nietzsche quote.
Is it any wonder that the worlds of myth and folklore often have some god or hero associated with Chaos and destruction? Loki, The Trickster, Shiva – they all play a role of disrupting order. They humble us reminding us that we are not always in control of our destinies. Truth is, these are the characters whose stories I most enjoy. They shakes things up and challenge the status quo. Their disruptions often make the unimaginable possible.
When faced with the frustration of choosing the right “key words” to get past the robo-gatekeepers of corporate HR, a friend suggested I use the terms, “Hedonist, Mixologist, Existential Detective, Philosopher, and Aesthete.” I quickly made business cards with those titles. They have become my affirmations. I look at them and am reminded who I really am. What I value. Who I really want to be. Something to look at while I create and market my “brand” – that distilled “safe-for-work” version of myself carefully crafted to fit into the resumes and cover letters designed to secure gainful employment.
Chaos to me is a gift. When I am unwilling to take that leap, I'll invite chaos comes along and gives me a good shove. I’m still afraid during my free-fall, worried about my potential crash, but I’m given a chance to land on some different ground and explore the new territory I had only dreamed about before. Sometimes a world must be destroyed to make way for a new world to be created.
I look forward to exploring this new world.