God Won’t Do Your Homework

As I kid, I loved to bounce around the room listening to records. I loved to learn. Or, at least, I loved the idea of knowing things.

What’s French For “Failure?”

I heard someone speaking French and decided I wanted to learn to speak it myself. So I got my hands on some French lessons on vinyl. I listened to them as I bounced around the room, throwing a Nerf ball against the wall and thinking about a million other things at once.

I had always done well enough in school just by showing up, staying quiet, and being patient. I thought that’s how this sort of thing worked. I didn’t realize that, in order to learn French, I needed to practice speaking it. I expected to learn French by osmosis.

After a few hours, I got bored. I moved on to a bag of gummy snacks, an imaginary basketball game, or some other diversion. And I still can’t speak more than a few essential words of French. I failed to learn French by osmosis.

A Tiger In My Tank, Chasing Its Tail

It’s Friday evening, at the end of a boring and brutal work week. This is my time. I’ve got a reservation for 90 minutes in a sensory deprivation tank.

I’m anticipating a peak experience. I expect to achieve enlightenment and return home with at least one million-dollar idea, probably two.

As I ease into the salty sludge, I begin to meditate. As I float, I notice my heartbeat, drumming fast and hard. I notice my breath. I notice my thoughts. Those thoughts are relentless.

I go deep into my boredom and neurosis. I confront my inner asshole. It’s not pleasant.

Under certain circumstances, my brain functions as a perfectly engineered torture device, designed to inflict excruciating pain.

The inner bully takes over. It lets me know that I have no friends because I don’t deserve affection or trust. I have accomplished nothing noteworthy in my creative pursuits because I am a dull and lazy coward. I will never have even a dozen-dollar idea. I forked over $40 to drift in this dark, silent tank, and for what? I am a ridiculous, narcissistic cretin. I deserve to suffer.

There is nothing for me to do but give up. So I do. I give up on improving myself, or having a creative epiphany, or even relaxing. I simply move on to the next moment. I resolve to show up for the next moment and do my best in that moment. I give up on everything else.

The One Big Idea That Explains It All — It’s the Last Thing You Expected!

I’ve traveled. I’ve gone into hiding. I nearly drank myself to death. I smoked 5-MeO-DMT, saw spinning lollipops and cresting rainbow waves of sheet music, and encountered a toad who spoke in non sequitur and refused to give me straight answers. I’ve meditated for hours and days at a time. All this time, I would’ve done anything to achieve my one big breakthrough into pure truth, freedom, and peace with the universe.

Eventually, I found it.

When the big breakthrough realization arrived, I realized it was something I had already realized long ago. It wasn’t an epiphany; it was a reminder.

It reminded me that this is all there is. This is all we get. And our only job is to take it and like it. Or, if we can’t manage that, to take it and love it.

All we have to do is show up, pay attention, and care for one another.

And that has to be its own reward. It doesn’t come with bonus features, free ebooks, or follow-up emails.

We don’t learn French by osmosis. We learn it by practicing. We don’t come up with million-selling hits by mainlining drugs or depriving ourselves of our senses. We do it by writing a dozen-seller, revising the first draft, and doing the work.

Showing up is the hard part. Confronting the ego, preconceptions, and resistance is hell on earth. It’s boring and humiliating and it never gets easier. But if we can do that, cut through the crap, and show up every day, we’re the way. If we can learn to hear through the chatter and listen to our instincts, the rest of it is relatively easy.

The universe loves me, in its own weird, passive-aggressive way. It will take care for me. But it won’t do my homework. I have to show up, sit down, put pen to paper, and practice.

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