When I was a young boy, one of my most beloved caretakers (more like an Uncle to me) who I affectionately called Keithy, committed suicide. I didn’t understand it. All that I remembered of him were moments I was sitting on his shoulders hiking to the beach. Or the time we were eating Raisinettes together and he explained, “why eat grapes when you can eat a Raisinette?!” If Keithy’s dietary preferences weren’t obvious from that vignette, Keithy loved pizza—so for a funeral ritual, my mom had me draw a pizza on a piece of paper, write him a note, then rip the pieces up, and scatter them to the wind. I’m glad she had the intuition to do that with me.
My parents explained to me that Keithy was really really hurting inside, and he couldn’t escape this pain, no matter how hard he tried. And so from an early age, I learned that the combination of pain + hopelessness was too much for a human to bear.
Many of us are in pain, and many of us are hopeless. We can handle one of the two, but not both for too long. Eventually something will break. Globally, around one million people commit suicide every year, and many of us have been personally affected by someone who has made this decision. While there are obviously some very good pain mitigation strategies, what I want to discuss today is the sense of hopelessness that makes the pain intolerable. For as Nietzsche says, “He who has a WHY to live for, can bear almost any HOW.”
So what is your WHY? Why are you HERE?
This is an important question to ask ourselves often even though it typically only arises when the pain starts to ramp up. Because if it is all fun and games, then the reason to stay here is self-evident—for the fun and games, of course!
The great men I have known can always sum up their WHY in a single sentence. For Don Howard it was, “for the good of all.” For Charles Eisenstein it is, “so I may be put to good use.”
What is the common thread here? Service.
Life becomes insufferable when you feel you are not needed. Service doesn't have to be hours donated to a food shelter or a humanitarian mission to impoverished nations. While it can be, the greatest act of service is to do what only you can do—be who only you can be. So the better question then is: What is the unique gift you can offer the world, while being your unique self?
There is an ecstasy that comes from knowing you are doing something unique to who you are… and that it matters. It is a tangible feeling that answers the question of WHY beyond the words.
I feel this ecstasy when I am podcasting, writing, leading Fit For Service, or even making love to my wife. Because no one else but me can do those things exactly like I do them.
“But what if I don’t know what these things are for me, Aubrey?” The question is not about what the ‘things’ are. The things are not important. What is important is the recognition that you, YOU, are the only one that can be you. And the entirety of the Universe is incomplete without you. And that is what Keithy didn’t realize. I needed him, and the world needs you.
This week’s podcast is with two of the legends of our time, Dr. Zach Bush and Charles Eisenstein. It is a once in a lifetime conversation that explores the power of living rather than merely surviving and the birth pains of creating a new humanity.
I love you all,