My name is Michael, and I am an addict.
I’m not addicted to drugs, or alcohol, or sex (although there might be some debate about that one), food, or even to watching corny TV shows like American Idol or Glee. Okay, maybe Glee. No, I am not addicted to Glee! Okay, maybe I am.
No, no…my addiction is much more insidious, much more devastating.
See, I am addicted to experience.
I love experiences. Love ‘em. I love the experience of the warmth of this cup of coffee I’m having right now, the explosion of flavor as I take a drink. I love the experience of the sunshine on my arms and the wind against my skin as I ride my bike south on 56th street; right where the pavement turns to dirt, with the Mcdowells standing guard over the Eastern horizon and Ben Harper’s magnificent Weissenborn tickling my ears. I love the energy of movement as 10 beautiful people dive headfirst into their own experience at the insistence of my voice, their breath mingling with my breath, their bodies a wave of integrated Shakti illuminating the room. I love the sweetness of the mornings, listening to Mozart’s symphony #1 in E-flat on my way to work, and even the way this keyboard is responding to my fingers right now, how the photographs on my screensaver remind me of other past experiences. I love how my body opens when my muscles are warm, when there is perfection in form, my being lovingly held by sinuous fingers and bursting forth with boundless expression. I love the sound of a drum, and the openness of my friends. I love the warmth of my wife’s touch, the music of her voice, and especially the tinkling wonder of her laughter, even when it is directed at me, as it usually is.
I even love the “bad” experiences. I love when I am sick and I think it is the end of the world simply because I have an overabundance of mucus and Emma won’t give me a kiss because I have cooties and my voice sounds like a Peanut’s cartoon teacher in my own ears. I love when I have a shitty yoga class, and my body won’t respond the way that I want it to, and my back hurts, and there are sudden elaborate fantasies in my mind of beating people over the head with pieces of prosthetic equipment. I love thinking of my grandfather, his brutal honesty, his meeting and leaving life with the same conviction and dedication. I love when my wife is angry at me, and the blinding spotlight of attention is turned inward, toward my every beautiful failing, my every wondrous fault. I love the tremble of her lip and the lash of her tongue.
I love standing at the side of the road with a flat tire on my bike, alone in the world, with no one to call and no one to help, the traffic whizzing by, faces in the car windows blank with memories, the sun a bright white hot scar, the sky open and inviting but offering nothing. Alone at the bottom of West Clear Creek Canyon, with the monsoon thundering, swimming naked in the rushing creek, the last man on earth:
I won't be the last
I won't be the first
Find a way to where the sky meets the earth
It's all right and all wrong
For me it begins at the end of the road
We come and go...
My name is Michael, and I am an addict
What is it about experience then that I am so addicted to?
Feel this. Do that.
Perhaps, just perhaps, experience provides me with a sense of something…like…say...relief?
Relief from what?
I want the experience of love; because I feel…I don’t have love. So then I seek the experience of love- in family, in relationship, even within myself.
I want the experience of security, because I feel...insecure. Vulnerable. So I seek the experience of security, in money, in work, in a good 401K, shore up my health, take precautions against the surety of my eventual and inevitable demise.
I want the experience of virtue; because I feel...I am not virtuous. So I try to live according to tenets, be a good person, whether that entails being kind, being selfless, helping grandmas across the street, not hurting animals, or saving the whales. Or saving you, because I want the experience of showing you virtue. Because I feel…that you are also not virtuous.
I want the experience of happiness, because I feel...I am not happy. So I look for happiness in every experience.
I want the experience of Freedom. Because I feel…I am not free. And that is when it hits me!
There is no experience of freedom. Freedom is the absence of the addiction to experience.
Feel this. Do that.
And the questioning now leads me, not to the answer, but to the purpose of the question: All questioning, all spirituality, all religion, all seeking, all experience itself has only one essential purpose. Everything I do, everything I am has only one quintessential purpose:
Experience is so fickle, so fleeting. Experience comes and goes, leaving no real lasting impression, save perhaps memories, which are really nothing more than bundles of emotionally charged thoughts.
Experience doesn’t last.
My addiction to experience leads me to only to death. All the experiences, from the blazing awakenings and tear jerkingly beautiful to the devastatingly tragic – come and go. The only constant is Me, yet I’m banking on what is Other than me, to provide relief, comfort, peace, fulfillment, happiness. My addiction to experience leads me only to the death of the addiction to experience.
I am addicted to experience so that I can exhaust myself of experience; wear myself out, give up, finally stop running, towards experience, or away from experience. Always seeking something that continually changes and is never permanent.
I am so in love with the experience of being addicted to experience.
When running, desperately looking for rest, you have a choice:
My name is Michael, and I am an addict.
Yes, this is hard to watch, but watch it all. Watch it move from tragic to heart wrenchingly beautiful. But most of all, listen. Listen to Rocky’s poem at the very end, where he sums up the finality of experience in one final, illuminating breath.