The 4 Pillars of Extraordinary Bliss
An action-oriented foundation for living better.
It’s a beautiful day in April here in Austin, Texas. The sun is shining. It’s about the same temperature outside as it is inside. I walked around in headphones, learning Portuguese on Duolingo. I drifted over to a coffee-shop and made a particularly satisfying block of work for my day job. I wrecked a plate of Saag Paneer. Later, I’m going to go play some music at a brewpub that for some reason thinks letting me croon behind a mic twice a month’s a good idea. (Narrator: It’s not.) And it occurred to me that I was happy, and when I’m happy, I inevitably get the urge to write, so here we are.
The Most High Poet Laureate Android Revolution Queen Janelle Monáe dropped a new album today; a textured, clever, unrelentingly radiant supernova of a record that will no doubt end the year on music critic top-ten lists around the world, send her already-ascendant career shooting into the stratosphere, and lay to waste all arguments that there’s a more multi-talented woman working in entertainment today. Yes, even Beyoncé. Do not @ me. If you do nothing else and stop reading right here, at least listen to this shimmering, staggering, singular work of art.
Whew. Now that we got that Dirty Computer out of our system and we’re all vibing on the same wavelength, let’s meet the four verbs worth doing as often as possible, to make you feel as happy, fulfilled and “successful” (myth-ish word, covered elsewhere) as possible. I call these the “Bliss Pillars,” but that’s a working title still in beta-testing.
It’s PSA-fodder at this point, but the old cliche “never stop learning” is cliche for a reason: It’s how you open your mind, increase your capacity for doing things, and become the best version of yourself. It’s the path to intellectual growth. Learning starts with a beginner’s mind, and begets both curiosity and caring. Learning leads to happiness and a longer life, meaning although they claim you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, perhaps learning new tricks as an old dog keeps you younger. It also helps you achieve more of the second bliss pillar on this list.
Why do we revere people like artists, musicians, designers, chefs, architects and (*bats eyes*) writers? Because they make things. They solve problems, enrich people’s lives and make the cold decay of dystopia and aging more bearable and less lonely. Now, you don’t need to build the Cathedral of Notre Dame or write a New York Times Bestseller to scratch this itch. Coloring in a book, building a swingset for your kid or grilling a pizza for your friends is fine. The more you make, the more of a lasting mark you’ll leave, the more satisfaction you’ll feel, and the more connection you’ll feel with the world around you. If you’re down, make something, even if it feels hard at first:
People say “variety is the spice of life.” If you’re one of those people, stop. You’re a vapid, derivative prick and that aphorism was beaten to death generations ago. That said, the way you fill yourself with joy is to fill yourself with things that could fill yourself with joy. Is there a band you like playing in your hood tonight? Go. Do you like parks? Hike. Run along the beach. Explore your city. Wrap yourself up in campfires, Ethiopian food (sup Kris Gage), good books, tea with THC in it, or whatever sounds interesting to you. It’ll make you sound more interesting to other people. Experiences bring their own baked-in opportunities to learn and make, and they give you stories. Stories you can …
So, “learn,” “make,” and “experience” are all somewhat self-indulgent and self-directed. They’re inward-focused actions. “Share” is outward-focused and altruistic. It’s the thing that connects you not just with knowledge (learn), not just with your soul (make), not just with your surroundings (experience), but with the people closest to you. If there’s something that can be done with someone who enjoys doing that thing about as much as you do, or something you want to introduce someone to, or something of yourself you wish to give to the world, then do those things. Teach. Give. Love. Show up. This is how you build relationships, connect with your community, and leave a legacy. Someone once said “sharing is cari-” … (trap door opens up underneath desk)
Remember what I talked to you about at the top of the essay? I walked around in headphones, learning Portuguese on Duolingo. I drifted over to a coffee-shop and made a particularly satisfying block of work for my day job. I wrecked a plate of Saag Paneer. It was an experience for me. Later, I’m going to go play some music at a brewpub (this is make, experience and share, for those of you keeping track) that for some reason thinks letting me croon behind a mic twice a month’s a good idea. (Narrator: It’s not.) And it occurred to me that I was happy, and when I’m happy, I inevitably get the urge to write, so here we are. Now it’s time to share what I wrote.
Learn. Make. Experience. Share.
A full life consists of doing these four things as often as possible.Learn voraciously. Create obsessively. Experience fully. Then, share what you learn, create and experience with your whole heart. These are the bliss pillars. These are the ways you breathe life into your life, breathe life into the souls of others, and keep breathing longer, fuller breaths into the moments that will leave you breathless.
You’ll be one step closer to becoming Janelle Monáe, who learned music, made it, and shared it with all of us today. (Now, go experience it.)