“I Want to Be Thoroughly Used up When I Die.” — George Bernard Shaw on Taking Creative Action.
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It ia a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
I woke up today as if by accident with a thin, tired, wrinkled heart shaped as a question mark that not even the most positive, eloquent affirmations could resize. I shivered at the thought of needing surgery. I thought I’d try a wisdom transfusion instead.
It’s interesting how we can go from being our greatest heroes and saviors to even down below villain — some sort of unrecognizable new race of wet rat humanoids in a post-postmodern corner watching the acid rain fall down.
Among other timely reminders to “stop the emotional propaganda of feeling manipulation” and “become your own existential detective,” while on my way to be hanged, George Bernard Shaw tapped me gently on the shoulder. I thought I was seeing a ghost.
Irish playwright, music and literary critic, and co-founder of the London School of Economics, he was also a novelist and short-story writer with a socialist ardent passion for the working class and a sharp comedic taste imbued in most of his writing.
An advocate of equal rights and a healthy lifestyle, he is the only person to have been awarded both the Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938) for his work on the film Pygmalion, a screen adaptation of one his plays.
His words are swords that cut through all excuses:
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
He became the embodiment of his own tenacity, rising against the scarcity of his circumstances (only too familiar a scenario to most artists) through diligence and persistence, diligence and persistence, diligence and persistence…
It is estimated that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day. Approximately 95% of our thoughts are the same as the day before and (this is where it gets ugly)… 85% of these thoughts are negative!
Believe me, I don’t run on smileys, but I didn’t sign up for all these demons either.
The design of our lives, the carving of our raw potential begins in our head. Redirecting our ship in the direction we actually want to go is the simplest, most difficult thing in the world. Because it requires moving muscles we didn’t even know we had.
But without unprecedented action there can be no change, and every such action is born out of a prevailing thought.
What has taken me two painful decades to understand and still requires high daily doses of affirmation and practice, is that there is no Reality. There are realities. There are thoughts. And above everything there is You — Your Will.
You are not your thoughts. You are the master of your thoughts — the boss of all the processes that amount to the temporary, dynamic and unique human experience named You.
The ultimate You consists in your will — your freedom is reduced to a decision (or thousands of decisions you make every day). And this Will that is You has the final say over the rest of your life, which you are creating day after day. As long as you live, You’ll always have the last word.
2000 years ago, in a battlefield, Marcus Aurelius — one of the earliest champions for self-mastery and wholeness — wrote in his journal:
“Take me and cast me where you will; I shall still be possessor of the divinity within me, serene and content so long as it can feel and act as it becomes your constitution.”
Echoing Henley’s Invictus, You truly are the master of your fate, the captain of your soul.
Nobody else will save you because nobody else can. You are the only one whose voice your demons recognize — and as such, the only one who has the authority to summon them.
And we can’t worry so much about losing. What gain doesn’t come with its corresponding loss? What day — without its night? Life, nature, love is just another give and take. A death and resurrection, inhale and exhale.
Your life will certainly continue without your signature, or your intentional design, but will it really be yours? And the worst part is that this so-called life will go on, the rain will fall on you, on me, on everyone, either way: whether we’re walking our own path or somebody else’s.
And if you choose to, sadly, you can make your debut in the history of mankind on autopilot, without ever getting whyor what for, who or how. Life doesn’t wait on you… or anyone.
In the end, there is no movie waiting to be seen, but one to be created with every breath you have left. So if life demands that we make our own indie production, it’s not really a choice to make it beautiful, it is our highest order.
According to Mr. Shaw, it starts like this:
“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will.”
Back to our shivering, tired wet-rat hearts, should we continue to remind ourselves daily about the kind of world we demand to live in — and once we have decided what’s it gonna’ be, stop whining and start making it?