The other night I was watching BBC America (ah, Supernatural Saturdays!) when Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a guest on “The Nerdist”. Although I’m not enamored with the show, I kept watching because I admire Gordon-Levitt, not only for his acting skill, but also for his creation of and continuing involvement in hitRECord, a collaborative artistic production company which has developed short films, music, and books (such as the well reviewed The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Volumes 1 and 2).
During the interview with host Chris Hardwick, Gordon-Levitt was discussing the how hitRECord had very slowly grown from a platform to showcase his own videos to the vibrant, collaborative community it is today. At one point, he said:
Over time, I think if you just sort of keep your eyes open and not get too fixated on what you think the feature is going to be, that’s when the coolest features sort of arrive.
Zing! Something in my head jumped and said “Yes!” when I heard this. Not only do I agree with Gordon-Levitt’s statement, but if you substitute “feature” with “future”, you get the core of how I feel about life – my life, your life, our reason for our staying in the game.
I tend to say it a bit differently, even though the insight is the same. As my kids will attest, one of my favorite bits of wisdom (of the few I have), and the one I will repeat constantly (to others, and to myself, like a mantra) is that you just never, ever know what’ s around the corner. Literally. You never know what tomorrow may bring. And that this is a very, very good thing.
I firmly believe this – you never know where life will lead you. What happens next could be dull and mundane (or comfortable and familiar). It could be devastating. But it might be, it just might be, the most Wonderful. Thing. Ever.
That doesn’t mean that you have to let life dissolve into chaos, nor that you should reject the rock steady anchors in your life. You never know what tomorrow might bring, no, but you can be pretty darned sure that the sun is going to rise in the East in the morning (even if the day is overcast). You may not know completely what is going to be around the corner, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the convenience store, the restaurant, the tattoo parlor and the bus stop that were there yesterday will all be there this time around, as well. (Ok, well, establishments sometimes do go out of business overnight and buses are re-routed due to construction, and yeah, sometimes buildings fall down for various reasons, but you get my drift….)
That flyer tacked to the light pole that catches your fancy, whether it be for a self-help class, a concert, a political rally, or just a chuckle, may lead you to something new and fantastic. The book you decide to read on the bus on the way to work may lend itself to a conversation with a stranger that may lead you to a new friend or a new opportunity, or simply make you smile to yourself, and that smile gives you a better perspective on the day that leaks out to the others around you and adds to the smiles they tuck into their own days. The decision you may make to take your shoes off and feel the summer grass between your toes leads you to lingering on a public lawn instead of heading back to your apartment, and in those delightful moments a passing acquaintance might decide to say hello, and then instead of continuing on he might take his heart in his hand and decide to join you… and that momentary decision on your part and the spontaneous bravery on his part may lead after many years down the road to marriage and just might bring two delightful new lives into the world. (Yeah, well, that’s what happened to me!)
But you have to let it happen. You have to open yourself up to the possibility, to the potential for something totally unexpected and wonderful to happen. Too many people, I think, try so hard to orchestrate every moment of their lives, or the lives of their children. They fear not only the unknown, but the unscripted. They equate daydreaming with wasted time, or fear that a lack of productivity will breed sloth, they may label it laziness. They then strive to fill every minute of their lives with a specific purpose, or fret over what may be lacking in those empty spaces so instead they fill every leisure moment with drivel and prattle, of their own or delivered by various media outlets (that are more than willing to tell them how and when and what to think). Either that, or they are so focused on the goals they have set for themselves that they put blinders on to all the other opportunities and possible wonders that may exist just outside of their well established pathways.
It’s not that the purpose is wrong, or that driving – even single-mindedly – towards a goal is misdirected. Nor is it that aimlessly flitting from project to project or allowing yourself to be completely lost to the flow of someone else’s river is an advantage. But when you feel that your efforts are all for naught, or that nothing is going right and you may very possibly never amount to anything, or you get the overwhelming sense that you’re stuck in a rut or just grinding your gears and not getting anywhere, or that you can’t see the forest for the trees no matter how hard you look… sometimes you have to stop looking and let life happen.
Because you just never know. You never really know what’s around the next corner. Sometimes if you keep your eyes open and not get too fixated on what you think the future is going to be, that’s when the coolest future may arrive.