Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And what if I do, and what if I don't....

Yesterday, I took a very long walk. In fact, I took a 7-mile walk. Why, one might ask?

Simple. I like the freedom of it, the insularity of it ~ the endlessness of it.

And on the practical end, I had to go get my post-cataract surgery prescription for new glasses.

As always when I walk, I think about things. My thoughts float around aimlessly, things coming in and going out in a totally fluid manner. While walking yesterday, I watched all the people in their little cars, headed somewhere, headed nowhere, trying to find something or get somewhere that likely doesn't even exist. Hardly anyone was walking. It would be surprising if I passed even three people on foot. Most of them looked rather bored, just sitting there at a red light, waiting for it to turn green so they can "go" again.

There's a Dorothy Parker quote I've always liked:

If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,

Then on the world I may blazon my mark;

And what if I don't, and what if I do?

And what of this lack of ambition? I am a person who is totally without ambition in the commonly defined view of that. Peeing on stumps, making a mark or building an empire doesn't ring my bell a bit. Material wealth won't motivate me to get out of the house.

It is times like that when it becomes a matter of curiosity how I could have been raised in a culture that considers ambition to be the highest value and the socialization never "took". It's times like that when I realize how truly alien I am. For so long, I felt defective and "less than" others because those things just wouldn't take root and matter.

On the other hand, I would walk ten miles to learn something new or to be involved in some activity I find important or rewarding. My determination borders on obsessive. Offer me something that excites me and I'll nearly die to get there. It's not total irresponsibility. It's just that I choose my responsibilities very consciously.

In Thai culture, there is a concept known as "sanuk". It means "fun" but not in the giddy sense of that. "Enjoyment" would probably be a better translation. It's about being alive, the experience of being alive. That isn't to say that Thai people don't have jobs (they do), that they don't build families (they do) or that they don't engage the world of commerce (they do). Built in though is the belief that life should be enjoyed. That comes first.

It reminds me of a Joseph Campbell quote I memorized some years ago:

"I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive."

As time goes along, peace comes with these differences and instead of wondering why I am "defective", I've come to see it as a blessing.




Caro said...

You have summed up how I have felt my entire life:)

MsLittlePea said...

It truly is a blessing. People who are only motivated by money and things are usually more miserable than they put out. Just my opinion. I love to walk--it's a good 'thinking' activity. Sometimes I bring an ipod, sometimes I just want the quietness of my own thoughts and the sound of wind. "Sanuk" sounds like a great concept. Me being the shoe-girl, I have to add that there is a shoe company called Sanuk that makes really nice and comfortable sandals and flipflops. Now I know what it means. ;O)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

To feel this way is above all, freeing. I have never understood the frenzied rush to the buck, the pissing on fire hydrants, either.

I love the Campbell quote. So true.

thailandchani said...

Caro, it's been for my entire life, too. I can remember thinking about this stuff when I was a kid! (Hm. Just because I'm getting old doesn't mean I'm grown up... LOL)


MsPea, I think the discouraging thing is the constant need for improvement and change. Sometimes things are just fine as they are.

There's a shoe line called "Sanuk"? I had no idea! Are they produced in Thailand?

I have some shoes from Thailand but they're not called Sanuk.


Susan, I really have a drive to experience my life, not endure it. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if everyone just *stopped*.

There's a sci-fi book in there somewhere. :)




QT said...

Chani - I love to walk too. I usually drift off like you do, pondering the what ifs.

Money isn't everything, this much I know. Some of the most miserable people I have ever met have more $$ than I could ever imagine having.

As long as you have found your motivation in life, and something you truly connect with, that is all the matters, as far as I'm concerned.

Anonymous said...

My favortie thing in life is learning something new, a new challenge. Took my years to understand that. I thought I just couldn't stick to something, turns out, once I've learned it, I want to learn something new and different.

As for pissing on stumps, that's why I have dogs.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

They'd be lost. Their careers and possessions define them.

I feel exactly as you do about experiencing my life. There is no point in anesthetizing oneself in order to avoid actually being there.

MsLittlePea said...

I just googled sanuk and ended up on the website and it says they are from California. Their market is the surf industry so I imagine that's where they got that word from- Lots of West Coast surfers love Thailand. I was a little disappointed-I thought it might be a Thai company too.

slouching mom said...


First, I keep meaning to tell you that the paintings you use to illustrate your posts are consistently gorgeous.

And I love Dorothy Parker.

Second, I have very little ambition. And I too used to see that as a flaw. Lately I look around and see that I'm happier for it.

And that is more than fine by me.

meno said...

I love your quotes. And so what if i don't?

I lack ambition too. It took me a while to feel okay about it, but i have taken to the concept just fine as i age.

KC said...

I used to have much more ambition than I do now, but I still want to make the world a better place. And without ambition, some dreams like that can't happen. (making major impact in training more humanistic and compassionate physicians and the like).

We are all driven by different things, but I'm glad you found peace with yours.

I think that what matters most is that we find our individual lives fulfilling and meaningful for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I love a long walk to reflect on things!

teeth whitening

jen said...

i would love to go on a long walk with you sometime.

Laurie said...

I love to walk. I've been walking more and more lately. It's a good chance to clear my mind and I feel so invigorated afterward.

I love the Campbell quote. I think I often forget that. Thanks for reminding me.

thailandchani said...

QT, that's what I try to keep in mind, too. As long as we each find what's right for us, what's authentic, the rest of it really shouldn't matter. Sometimes I get stuck in the judgement mode because I've heard it too much over the years.


Deb, LOL re: the dogs.

I love learning new things. Someone much wiser than me once said that education is the only thing that can change the world. I believe it!


Susan, exactly. There's a bit too much Babbit going on ~ and not enough Kerouac. :)


MsPea, that's so funny that they'd choose that name for their shoes.. Most people really don't know what it means. But.. I like it! :)


SM, thanks. Part of the pleasure in posting each day is choosing the picture. Sometimes they're kind of obscure but they catch my eye on some level.

I no longer view my lack of ambition as a flaw. Now if we could just convince other people, too. I honestly believe that everyone would be happier if they'd just slow down a bit.


Meno, I wonder if most people do as they age. Most of the people I know are still struggling in the workforce and I hate watching them die slowly. You know.. I like them... I wish they'd stop it.


KC, I believe in contributing. Don't get me wrong. I don't just live for myself. On the other hand, I've really come to realize over the years that anything to do with commerce is just something I can not be around. The mentality of it, the practices.. other things. It's just off-limits.. so it's within that context that I have to find a way to contribute something of meaning.


Anonymous, so do I. Long walks are good.

And thanks for the tooth whitening reference but I'm afraid my dental problems far exceed anything that will be helped by tooth whitening.

So kind of you to think of me though.



Jen, I think that would be awesome. Thailand. I'll take you to my favorite walking trail in KK.


Laurie, walking is my primary exercise but I really need it for more than just exercising my body. I need it for mental clarity as well.




flutter said...

I just feel like I have so much to learn from you, Chani

slouching mom said...

are comments turned off on your american idol post? cuz i have lots to say about simon and about house.