Posted in advice, artist life, egos, goals, inspiration, living life, reading list, reality, self help, writing help, zen

cannot see the trees because of the forest

Hey hello!

In the spirit of me running late this morning, let’s get straight into this, shall we?

  • What I’ve been Reading: I’ve been loving the local library here in Iqaluit (it does not charge late fees!) and have recently checked out Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro (who I just now realized lived and writes about the place where I was born and raised) as well as a few more “greatest ever”, “hall of fame”, “best of” anthologies of science fiction and fantasy (I enjoy reading short stories generally, but it seems more efficient in helping me sample a variety of different authors).
  • What I’ve been Listening: a favourite website is Wayback Machine Archive (basically an Internet Time Machine in how it archives so so so much content that would have long ago disappeared from search engines). One way I use it is to find and download old audio recordings of things, like book readings and the like, which is how I am currently listening to The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien – yes, too geeky even for the average geek, I know. But I’ve always been fascinated by mythologies and history, from ancient and medieval recordings of important human events to the more fantastical theological stories of Hinduism, the Abrahamic faiths and so forth.
  • What I’ve been Writing: as I said earlier, I’m still pushing on with revising notes for the different stories I have incubating inside my head – ranging from very short stories to medium length novellas to the longer novel-sized works and the multi-book series too. I vary which I will work on depending upon my mood and energy levels, as some are written for kids, some are more magical fantasy, some are more hard science fiction and some are just unsettling weird surrealism. Currently, I’m focusing on my young adult novel series, “Warriors”.

So that’s a quickie on what I, archie the writer, have been doing.
Now I want to speak a bit to the title of this post, and this phenomenon of how we humans tend to lose perspective, or just become mildly disoriented, in what exactly the fuck we are trying to do – right now, this moment, as you inhale your next breath.

Okay, let me elaborate…

I remember two different times in my life when I was younger when I learned that
1) you lose muscle when you stop using said muscle (yes duh of course, but I’m gifted in other ways, okay, so be nice), and
2) you forget most of what you know through time as we age (again, duh, but at the time, it felt like memorizing dates and factoids in school was especially pointless).

BOTH these lessons, as obvious as they are now, illustrate how just because you know something (I.E., the point of life; the key to happiness; if there is a god; if you love someone) or possess something (I.E., money; security; status; control; health), that does not mean you cannot also forget it, lose it, neglect it, take it for granted, misremember it, or whatever.

It occurred to me that this truth is why people enjoy returning to the same thing again and again – rereading books, rewatching movies, reliving past memories, repeating religious rituals and spiritual teachings.
We repeat and return to certain things because some of the most beautiful things in life are not a destination or an event but really, in fact, a practice – some things in life are done for its own sake, not as a means to an end or anything else.

Enter the expression that one cannot see the forest for the trees…
As in, one cannot see the wider picture because they are too involved with the details. Or, one cannot see the long-term fragility of life because they spent today worrying about their ageing body or traffic commute home or strangers on social media.

That expression is all well and good.

But I switched two words around: one cannot see the trees for the forest
As in, one cannot see the details because they are too involved in the wider picture.
Or, one forgets to see the small beauties right now, at this very moment, because they are too busy talking about a desire to improve themselves, too fixated on a long-term goal of climbing a ladder to success or saving up money for something to buy, too hung up on leaving a legacy when they are forgetting to live their life altogether.

Think about that, when especially now, in the era of instant-everything, when productivity is king, we are so inclined to lose perspective regarding not only “what is important” in life but also “how it is important”.
And I think that is where this “happiness is in the journey, not the destination” insight comes from – because you, reader, who is living and breathing right now is precisely only ever what we can really truly embrace at this moment. And yet, all the time we confuse things, blaming ourselves for getting in the way of our potential better life, as though YOU are a detour or obstacle to be overcome in the broader quest of living a life.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Take me as an example: I could describe my days as frustrating ones spent struggling to write, fighting creative blocks and insecurities that prevent me from achieving goals, which cause me to waste yet more time seeking ways to improve and change myself so that I can hopefully become who I should already be by now…
To me, that is the forest’s perspective – me fixating on the big picture.

Note – there is nothing inherently wrong about this wide lens point of view (and rebuking yourself for looking at it this way only perpetuates the original problem!), but viewing reality only in this lens will detract from a more holistic perspective of life.

The tree’s perspective, on the other hand: I could describe my days as a series of moments of balance, flowing from high ideals and noble ambition to bitter failures and unfortunate shortcomings then back again to self-forgiveness and beginning again.
It’s like meditation, where so many people get confused and guilt themselves whenever their thoughts wander off from concentration as if their own mind is a problem needing to be cured. No, that is not the point of meditation – the point is to keep coming back.
Keep coming back to the now, to this breath, this very inhalation.

See the difference?
I am not blaming my living for getting in the way of my life.
And even when I slip up and do blame myself, guilt myself, I am best helped by shrugging and continuing onwards, flowing back to the middle, and trying again.
So stop blaming yourself.
Stop cursing the trees for blocking the view of the forest.

  • What’s my point? As a great Zen teacher said, “Maybe the very reason you want to attain it [success, love, happiness, etc.] is the only thing preventing you from getting there in the first place”.
    How so?
    Because you already have “it”, and you always did.
    The sooner you give up trying to find… acceptance, let’s say, then all the sooner you can accept yourself.
    So suspiciously simple, isn’t it?
  • What’s your homework? Try to pick a big goal in your life (career something, romantic something, social something, spiritual something, physical something, self-care something), and actively apply the above paragraphs to your goal to see whether you are actually subconsciously sabotaging yourself by forgetting what you are really trying to accomplish here, why you are really doing this and how you want to do this.

Success is liking yourself,
liking what you do,
and liking how you do it.

Maya Angelou

sound good?
thanks for reading!


hi my name is archie! i like to write stories, take long naps and play with animals. nice to meet you :)

One thought on “cannot see the trees because of the forest

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