New Year's


By Eric Francis

Gee, it's 1999 already. This seems like a good time to stop farting around in life.

While I sometimes do my best to make this column a place to experience practical spirituality, and occasionally succeed, the lateness of the hour has prompted me to assert myself somewhat more directly in the general vicinity of getting people off their freaking butts. Back in 1989, most of us were probably assuming that we would be nuked, kooked and rebuked out of existence by this time the next decade, but, my fellow citizens of the Milky Way, we successfully have arrived at the Cusp of Whatever Comes Next.

We are at the Junction of Forever. The Hyperlink to Eternity. One foot on the Cosmic Banana Peel, one foot in the future. This is what it feels like.

Now that all of our lame excuses for not doing what we wanted in all times previous have proven to be dismally ridiculous, including the supposition that we would be dead, that we would all be dead, that the fascists would have taken over and stopped us from having fun, as well as our stubbornly refusing to deal with paralysis instilled by blatant guilt inflicted upon us by the oppressor, we must now approach the New Millennium with bold new philosophies for living.

I propose revolution. There are about seven people calling for revolution at the moment, mostly in Canada, probably because it's illegal in the United States (though Thomas Jefferson personally said it was a healthy idea every now and again). Though the type of rev I am revving requires neither bombs nor the voting lever; both are against my religion.

On the off-hand chance you are interested in making real changes in your life, I propose you experiment with one or more of these patented techniques.

Tell only the truth for one day. It may seem that so many of us are so cut off from ourselves that we have a difficult time knowing what our truth is. However, I don't buy this one. The truth is the original thing you were going to say right before you said something else. It is that elusive "original thing" we are after ­ how you actually feel, what you actually think, what you secretly want. Clue: It is the thing that you don't say because you're afraid it will "hurt someone," or because people will "think you're selfish" or "think" in general. Verily: a lie is what you say when you don't trust people to think for themselves. Here's another clue: Your personal truth changes. Life changes. If you have a new feeling, a new idea or a new response to something or someone, call that your truth and try telling it. Speak your mind spontaneously in the moment and see what happens.

Refuse to be bored. This was actually going to be a different article, but I decided it was boring, so I wrote this instead. Defeating boredom is a moment-to-moment process of experimentation. It takes guts. Say you're supposed to be counting the paper clips at work. You may decide it's more interesting to rearrange the supply closet. Try doing it. See what happens. If you do your work the same way week after week and day after day, try doing something different, or differently. Drive to work a different way. Eat different foods. The rule for this revolution is, "I will be anything but bored." Be bold. Be radical. The ends will justify the means.

Ask questions. More than we hole up our sexual urges, more than we attempt to contain laughter at the blatantly stupid things said in our presence, we fail to ask questions. If someone (particularly in a position of authority) is explaining something like it just makes perfect sense, but you're sitting there thinking, "This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever," or even, "What a godforsaken freaking idiot," here is what you do: Ask a question. This takes a brave heart, my young spiritual warrior. This requires the willingness to embark on a path of extraordinary risk, my aspiring Jedi Knight. Your question may be dumb, after all. Ask it anyway. See what happens.

Try doing one thing you've been saying you were going to do for years. We all have those things we're going to do one day. Announcement: It is now 1999. "One Day" has arrived. I am not talking about cleaning closets, losing weight or vacuuming out the car. I am talking about something like making a sculpture, writing a book, visiting Alaska, starting a garden, or playing the harp. I, for example, in case you're interested, am going to scuba dive, and swim around underwater like a fish. You may think this is ordinary behavior. Guess again; not for me. It will represent an actual revolt. Important note: The year goes quickly. Start whatever it is in January.

Refuse to do something you know is wrong. We're all expected to commit petty crimes, moral offenses, perpetuate deception and kiss ass. Stand up in the face of some moral outrage, large or small. For the purpose of this exercise, it does not matter what size. The way this works is simple. You are asked to do something you know is morally incorrect; say so. Or, an equivalent experience would be if you are witnessing something that is obviously a problem that can be corrected, if only someone actually would speak up. You get to be the one who does.

Don't wear makeup for a week. See what it's like to be genuinely naturally you. Of everything I've proposed so far, this is the most outrageous, I know. Other experiments along these lines could include: Wear what you feel like. My Aunt Joan, for example, had to go to a family funeral the other day, which was a stretch for her. She decided it would be easier if she wore sweat pants, sneakers and tie-dye shirts instead of the traditional Sicilian black wool outfit. (Sounds like my aunt, right?) You may try dressing down for work, or wearing what you would normally wear anyway if you didn't have to go to work. Speaking of which

Quit your job. This is exciting. At first it may seem like you will have no money, or worse, nothing to do, but you'll figure out both. You will need to exercise certain psychic organs in the process: choice, creativity, etc. This one is worth it.

Work for something besides money. We live in an economy where the only value ascribed to anything is its cash worth ­ you included. This makes you a slave. There are other reasons to work ­ for example, because you want to do or create something; you recognize a need in the world, or want to help someone; you are interested in something, and think it might be fun. If you took half the time you spend watching television and instead something fun, interesting and productive, you would have a lot of fun, generate great interest and be very productive.

Do whatever you want for an entire day. For maximum effect, make it an entire day upon which you were supposed to be doing something horrendous you absolutely did not want to do. This will involve discovering something you want to do, and then breaking a commitment to misery (that's the hard part).

Tell someone you want to have sex with them. Just like that. Forget true love for five minutes, and get down to the actual business of life.++

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