what, exactly, is ticking away?

The USR Library, Best Buy, then Barnes & Noble.  It’s been a while since I went on that familiar circuit, and I think I made the best discoveries at the library and B&N.   Not to leave Best Buy completely out of the equation, but on the rare occasions I go to any Best Buy nowadays, I find myself less than impressed with the prices of certain items, many of which could be found online for less money.  Of course, being in the store itself is an experience, and nothing to my knowledge yet replaces the way one could test out certain pieces of hardware (in my case playing around delightedly with a Canon PowerShot G12).

At the library, I followed the usual routine of browsing the new book displays, as well as searching for a few books I’d meant to read, and I left the library fairly pleased with the acquisitions of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Karen Berger’s Backpacking & Hiking (part of the Eyewitness Companions series, I think), and Alejandro Junger, M.D.’s Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself.  At Best Buy, I browsed and spent most of my time looking at the above-mentioned G12 and glancing at the small (and either highly-priced or in need of updated labeling–possibly both) computer game display.  Most of my time was spent at B&N, where I played around with a Nook Color and then spent the next few hours reading and browsing.  All in all, a fairly calm day.

I’ve heard about The Five People You Meet In Heaven (hereafter abbreviated as Five People) before, but it wasn’t until yesterday night, reading the first few chapters on the small screen of an iPod Touch, that I really felt moved to get the book and finish it.  I don’t usually seek out books like this–historically, I’ve preferred fantasy or self-improvement/psychology-style non-fiction–but this one in particular seems to have its fair share of lessons that sound comforting to me.  I found that after finishing the book and setting it down, a few minutes ago, that my mind kept drawing back to the five people the book’s protagonist Eddie met in heaven (don’t worry, no spoilers, I dislike them too), and the lessons he was to learn from each of them.  Five People reminds me in some ways of Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture, maybe in the way that both of them resonate with me, and one of the ways in which they both do that is because they present in their own ways the idea of living life as fully as possible, and that in doing so is its own kind of fulfillment.

For a young boy/man/fill-in-the-blank barely out of college and with little idea of where he should be headed–basically, me–Five People presents ideas that I’ve come across and grown to accept or at least appreciate, especially the idea of the interrelatedness of life, of how all of our stories intersect, overlap at points.  The idea of a heaven where we find solace through understanding is a fascinating one to me and no doubt to many others because I, at least, can recall many minutes spent wondering about the purpose of life, my own or in the general sense.  If I find anything like the events of Five People waiting for me after I die, I imagine I’d be pleasantly surprised, though naturally I wouldn’t be able to share the revelation of Mitch Albom’s then-possibly-divinely-inspired-genius with anyone aside from possible companions in the “afterlife.”  But let me veer away from thoughts of death, which I suppose are interesting enough in their own way but don’t seem to help much in the search for meaning and inspiration.

Speaking of the search for meaning and inspiration, I wonder at how the many hours I’ve spent playing various games might impact my life, aside from conveniently keeping me from too much thought.  I suspect, though, that I already know that the kinds of answers I want won’t be found while I’m dungeon-crawling or blasting away some monster or other.  I won’t deny that I’ve had some degrees of fun while conjuring elements in Magicka, or while uncovering events of dire importance in Neverwinter Nights 2, but somewhere in my mind, lurking but not quite covered by the desire for instant gratification, is the truth of the matter–that I want more to life than these games.  I think it little coincidence that my screensaver is one that shows pictures of some of my favorite moments, because so far in my life, living in, working toward, chasing, and creating moments have been some of the high points.  It’s not chance that most of the best experiences in my life–and in the lives of plenty others, I’d assume–are ones spent in the company of friends, ones who are comfortable to be around.  That’s really why Verse|One of the past two semesters has been so enjoyable–more than just our dancing, more than just our late night outings, most of us became in many ways the family that our captain has titled us.

Ah, Verse|One.  You were the family I wanted so much to find in my college years, the one I sought but couldn’t exactly find and wasn’t sure how to make in badminton.  Groups of people of varying loyalties come and go through each organization, to be sure, but I like to think that the new members of the Fall 2009 group, having survived to the next semester, played no small part in the group’s re-imagining and subsequent bonding–like our dances, maintaining the group was and is a team effort.  Those who prefer more visual stimulation, see the Fall 2010 montage, my Christmas and parting gift to the people who’re one of the best parts of my college years.  Despite having to watch and re-watch the video so many times while putting it together, I haven’t tired of watching it.  I suppose it’s because those memories don’t get old.  Much respect for the true dancers of our group, because I think I understand, or at least can see, the difference between the people who love to dance and the people who are “just” well-coordinated (which always brings to mind this quotation: “Technique is what you fall back on when you run out of inspiration”  -Rudolf Nureyev).  Alas, I don’t think I found my inspiration for dance, though I had a handle on the technique, and life inspiration?  I do not know.

I appreciate the idea that all actions and occurrences happen for certain reasons.  Such a belief, true or not, gives every situation significance, if not in immediately apparent reasons, then in the belief that gains can always be found in the shadow of losses, that opportunities not only follow in the wake of trouble, but merely wait to be tried.  It is in certain lessons of how to deal with aspects of life, then, that I think are the most important ones I take away from the years at college.  If I were to think back now, I cannot remember every important lesson I’ve been given in classes.  The lessons that stood out the most no doubt blended themselves into the basic framework of my mind, and I would hope that I can only put those lessons to use when I need them.

In the end–maybe it would be more appropriate to say, “in the middle”, or just “at this point”–I’m still unsure of what I ought to do.  I don’t fear that my actions won’t have their impacts.  Perhaps that’s just the problem–that action and inaction both have consequences, and that knowing the consequences of inaction ought to spur me to take action.

But–and I welcome serious suggestions–where to start, where to aim for, and why?

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