Simplicity, paper collage, 2022
Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, this is me and the damned world can go to hell.Rollo May
When I first started The Used Life in April 2017, I wanted to create a space in which to not only develop my talents and interests, but also to share them in a way that might be valuable for others. That is, I wanted to do something meaningful. Something, perhaps, greater than myself. I believed wholeheartedly then, as I do now, that the best possible avenue to “meaning-making” was to follow my intuition: to really listen to my own inner urgings and desires. To trust that, when left to my own devices, my own being would lead me where I needed to go.
Indeed, when I look back at those first posts (some of which have been getting quite a bit of attention lately. Thank you to those who continue to read them.), I realize that they’re all focused on the same thing. Or, rather, they all attempt to do the same thing: to redefine myself for myself, or to redefine the world in terms of my experiencing. Discussions like On the Art of Femininity, On Feeling Pretty, On Sensual Living, and What Triathlon Taught Me about Creativity, Learning, & Achievement are all attempts at a kind of inner-directed approach to living. At aligning eye, heart, and mind. At making what I see, what I think, and how I feel exist in greater accord with one another.
It is my belief that, when the outer world has too much control over one or more of these aspects of my experiencing—eye, heart, or mind—I am not myself fully. I am left with a kind of inner dissonance, a nonspecific wanting, a yearning or a lust for…something (or someone) nondescript. I think most of us are familiar with this feeling, and very often we experience it as sexual, as physical lust, or carnal desire. But, I think more often, it’s a signal that, in one or more areas of our lives, we are sacrificing something of our humanity. What we perceive, what we think, and how we feel on the deepest levels are not lined up. It’s not our bodies that are in need of pleasure, satiation, or release. But our souls crying out to us that we desperately need to make a change. That we need to step forward and reclaim our humanity. To align ourselves within ourselves.
The only way I know how to do that is by redefining the world in terms of my experiencing. That’s my way of setting order to chaos, I suppose. When I define for myself, say, what it means to be a woman, I suspend all notions of what I think that should mean, what popular culture might tell me, what information I get from stereotypes, or external beauty standards. Instead, I operate from a standpoint within. I decide. Based on my inner experience, on the most intimate levels, what it means to be a woman. I then attempt to live out that vision, to orient, or fashion, myself around it, to alter my behaviors accordingly. That is how I reclaim myself. How I heal the sometimes very profound divisions between eye, heart, and mind. Then, and only then, as in the May quote above, am I able to stand up and tell the damned world to go to hell.