What I love about Untemplater is sharing stories, inspirations, and different perspectives of discovering and living an untemplate life. Untemplater reader Sam Thinks put together his thoughts on breaking free and how to get enlightened with some great philosophical quotes. Now in his own words:
I’ve been stuck in a rut. I work (but not for long!) in a typical zoo-like, office space with monotonous grey partitioned areas dedicated to expressionless, number-punchers like myself. My life was grey. I woke up alone, in endless grey suburbia, traveled via bus surrounded by faces mirroring my own to spend the majority of my time (life) performing meaningless, mind-numbing tasks that I hated and certainly which offered nothing to the world.
I returned home to spend my evenings alone, interrupted only with my nightly phone call with my father. My only solace was to take my mind to another time and place and read the words of great philosophical minds. Perhaps the yearning for deeper thinking was always in me as the words of Plato, Nietzsche and the like did provide enough nourishment each night to impel me to go another day.
What Is The Meaning Of Life?
That was about four weeks ago. Then, a shaft of golden sunlight reached through the clouds and made me question what it was that I personally (and in fact all humans) are doing. Tucked in the seat of the bus one morning was an essay [which at the time seemed absurdly] titled “What is the Meaning of Life.” This was present day philosophy, in fact biology that somehow made me present to the idea of change.
The great thinkers that accompanied me to dinner each night were so ethereal and surreal but this was here and now, for me and for all humans. It got me. My grey world was about to see color. It discussed the human condition, why we are the way we are, our fears, our insecurities and how we really can understand ourselves, with a biological explanation and be whole beings “Carl Jung was forever saying that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’ because he recognized that only finding understanding of our dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’ and restore our humanity, the cooperative, harmonious integrated state.” Wow!
A Starting Point
That was the starting point and then about a week later a friend of mine, seeing a change and openness had come about in me, told me about the Untemplater website. I read the Untemplater Manifesto which gave Sydney’s bio as well as those of Jun, Adam and Cody. These bios fleshed-out how they all overcame their particular challenges, and started living life on their own terms.
The biological explanation that I’d read on the bus had jutted me into seeing the world differently for the first time and then here were other people as living examples of how to make a change. I could really relate to them and I quickly latched onto the whole Untemplate ethos. Even though I’m no spring-chicken (I turned 34 recently) and currently I’m just another ‘corporate drone’ on the template treadmill, I now have heaps of enthusiasm, some decent savings tucked away, as well as a bunch of cool ideas for some potential start-ups. Let’s just say:- ‘The penny has dropped and the ball is rolling!’ After reading The Best Place For An Online Entrepreneur To Live And Work, Hawaii sounds like a fantastic place to set up shop!
Wisdom Of The Ages
My father is a traditionalist. He’s a college professor and really loves teaching and inspiring young people. He has really inspired me by his example and his great attitude. Whilst we don’t have a whole lot in common (he totally loves his White Sox, but I can’t stand baseball!) we do share a love of philosophy.
Some of our favorite philosophers were those in Europe in the 18th century who were a key part of the Enlightenment – a cultural movement intended to advance knowledge and revolutionize society. Now hang in here with me ok? I believe there is a mountain of solid-gold wisdom from these great thinkers back then that can help all Untemplaters today – even if, like me, they are just waking up to the rut they are in! Here’s what I mean…
Let’s boil down the whole Untemplate ethos… it’s all about breaking free! Breaking free of the template lifestyle… or whatever ‘system’ or mindset is keeping us confined! The Enlightenment was all about people wanting to break free of old entrenched worn-out ideas and institutions. They were the ultimate Untemplaters! Being such great clear thinkers (as well as so awesomely enlightened, haha!), look at what these guys wrote. First, Jean-Jacques Rousseau:
“Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.”
How often do we hear people today complain that they feel chained to a desk? (I certainly know that feeling! It sucks!) On the same topic are these two quotes from Voltaire, who happened to be a bit of a rival of Rousseau:
“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”
“Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.”
That last one for me speaks about the power of making the decision to change! Just like the decision Jun made after he realized just how deeply dissatisfied he was with his job. (This is the stage that I am at right now. I have made the decision that ‘enough is enough!’ I need to change, and it all starts with my thinking.) Another key philosopher of the Enlightenment, Denis Diderot explained this concept more fully:
“There are things I can’t force. I must adjust. There are times when the greatest change needed is a change of my viewpoint.”
So, what’s next? Where do we go from here? Well maybe this directive from Rousseau provides an answer?
“Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well.”
Now that is certainly in-sync with a break-the-template mindset! Do I hear the words: “road less traveled” anyone?
As Adam found out when starting out on his new life path, you need to be brutally honest with yourself, and take stock of where you are currently at. For Adam and his partner it was about fully confronting and accepting their financial situation. Here is Voltaire again:
“Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”
Passion and boldness
I’m sure we’ve all heard the various motivation gurus extolling the power of having passion for what we do in our lives, and for being bold. And rightly so! Certainly, without heaps of enthusiasm we have lost before we have even started, no matter what task it is that we’re undertaking. So what did Voltaire have to say about boldness?
“Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare the truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.”
I love this one from Diderot:
“Only passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things.”
Challenges and Setbacks
Of course we are going to go through some hardships. I had been very fortunate all my life until I had a very bad motorcycle accident when I was 21. Despite being hospitalized for nearly five months, I was able to get back to university and finish my degree. I owe a lot to the support of family and friends, but I really feel that ultimately it was my resolve to put the past behind me that made the difference. Voltaire sums it up beautifully:
“Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”
Ultimately it’s happiness that we’re all after, right? Of course there are many ways to find happiness that have nothing to do with financial success. For me, a big part of what makes up happiness is the simple contentment of knowing that I’m giving life the best shot I can. Diderot says this about happiness:-
“There is only one passion, the passion for happiness.”
I strongly believe that if we find our own personal version of ‘the meaning of life’ and live in accordance with it, that we are certain to find fulfillment and happiness in the process. Better yet, once we’ve ‘found ourselves’, found what we can really be we are then in a position to look outwardly. Look around us and see what it is that the world needs.
That was the beauty of my find on the bus that morning – here was an idea that discussed what it means to be a human. How understanding ourselves can alleviate our insecurities and guilt so we no longer have to live trying to succeed, perform tasks and buy material things to make us feel good or feel loved. If we’re not preoccupied with those insecurities we are free to just be and in the process freed up to help others.
So that’s my plan. I’m going to sort myself out. I’m using the Untemplaters as living examples of encouragement, courage and inspiration to make the day to day changes that I need to make. I’m using this new-found knowledge about the human condition as my impetus to be the man I can and should be so that I might be able to make a contribution to this world. In the last two weeks alone (imagine what I’ll achieve in a year!), I’ve bought a bike and started riding to work. I’ve asked some colleagues for a drink. I’ve told my beloved father I won’t be home every night. I’ve bought magazines on traveling, gardens and Science Now! A new job and a change of location are all on the table but I’m focused initially in just changing my outlook.
Although he lived before the Enlightenment, John Locke was a great influencer of both Rousseau and Voltaire. Here is his take on happiness:
“A sound mind in a sound body, is a short, but full description of a happy state in this World: he that has these two, has little more to wish for; and he that wants either of them, will be little the better for anything else.”
So what is happiness to you? What constitutes a life of meaning for you?
I hope this article may have inspired you in some way, or maybe even enlightened you? Good luck to all who choose to break free and follow the path of the Untemplater!