A lot of life is like trying to break a code. We’re all trying to make things fit, trying to make things add up, trying to unhook what works and what doesn’t and assemble our own little theories and philosophies according to personal experience. Sometimes we come across people who blast us with pointed opinions, or people who offer deep truths, and you can bet that something in their story taught them that. Something about it fits into their code and offers an explanation or clarity to them.
I’m not good at math, but some days I’d like a solid formula or two for life. Relationships, for instance: they are tricky, sometimes, with few concrete, overarching rules because relationships deal with two different people coming from two different stories with two different codes of life. If there were pre-set formulas to use in particular situations, there would be a lot less music in this world, fewer books, less art in general. Art helps us work through the code. It offers a sense of: “hey- I feel that too!” or “I understand” and it is all a journey of connecting pieces and lessons learned the hard way into a mosaic of healing and direction.
I think that community is sometimes a gathering of people who have certain matching aspects of their life codes. Some people, for example, cook or bake for therapy and this is why we have cooking clubs and cooking blogs and cookbooks and Pinterest boards dedicated to food. It is a way of gathering people who know that this is something that offers meaning and expression and a way to connect. It adds value to their life, and therefore it is part of their personal formula. Their code includes cooking because, for them, it has to. It is an essential, soul-filling practice that colours in one of those empty spots in life. When something fits into your code in that way, it means that it is important on a deep level. It means that this makes you a better person and that this gives you a sense of your purpose. This happens with book clubs and farmers and Engineering professors. We all operate according to our different codes. We’re all attempting to understand the world with the interests and talents and spaces and relationships that have been given to us.
This is the best thing that I have learned in University so far: my way is not the only way and that isn’t a bad thing. University is a garden of people, a zoo of ideas and opinions and my own have opened and shaken here. University is, in a sense, a really expensive way of becoming yourself through encounters with other people and their codes of life. Sometime you stumble upon a gem in someone else’s code and it helps you understand something in your own code that didn’t work before. This can happen in a lecture or late-night chats over pizza or overhearing a stranger’s conversation. I don’t think that University is the only way or the best way to grow into yourself, necessarily, but it is one way and, since I’ve been here, I appreciate how it has shaped me.
Although I discovered this whole code metaphor in University, I really think that this can be applied anywhere in life. We learn as much as we allow ourselves to learn. Some of us are more diligent or creative in solving our codes than others. I think that ignoring the code, or pieces of it, can lead to dissatisfaction and restlessness. It can happen when you get stuck on a formula that makes sense for other people, but just doesn’t work for you. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by all of those blank spaces in your code, and it can seem too hard to draw meaning from it all. Your code can be daunting, possibly because of the potential for you to make a mistake, or maybe you just don’t know where to start. Instead of exploring potential answers, we can sometimes latch onto certain things that offer escape or the illusion of meaning for us. These things can eventually look like addiction or chasing approval or constructing a false identity because figuring out the real one is scary.
We assemble our codes through art and community and science and personal experience. Sometimes we have to find it through a risk or a move or just by stopping and noticing. We solve the code by asking questions of ourselves and of others or maybe opening ourselves to new experiences and new ideas. Some mornings we wake up and just know that something is wrong on a fundamental level; something in our code needs to change and that is allowed to happen. You are allowed to make a mistake, to do a little guess and check, to admit that you were wrong about something important. You are allowed to acknowledge that your perspective is shifting or that you are growing up and it is time to change something that used to work but just can’t anymore.
To work on the code, you have to take all the aspects of yourself into account: personality, abilities, interests, beliefs, relationships, talents, health, and fill in those blanks with truth and what lines up best with who you are. Solving the code is a journey of discovering what makes you whole and purposeful and then living as close to that version of yourself as you possibly can. The important part is the journey, the growth. The adventure of solving the code is what teaches you. It offers clues and metaphors and stories to collect and examine. Assembling it all is like a scavenger hunt of discovering your potential and purpose and how you aren’t the most important thing that ever happened to the world, but maybe you can add a little colour or hope to your corner of it.
Call the code your life philosophy or mission statement or value system, but we all have one. It is the individual vision and unique combination of practices and priorities and principles that construct our “self” and, in turn, how that “self” interacts with others and engages with life. This code is dynamic and flexible through different seasons, but it is grounding and important to think about. I know that part of my code right now includes writing, stretching myself, talking to people even when I don’t always feel like it, praying, drawing healthy boundaries, and staying present.
What are the practices, priorities and principles that are important to the code for your season right now? What is on your list of things that you need to remember to focus on, fill with, grow in, or learn from? What is the mantra or theme or pattern growing out of the place that you are living in at this time? What is your personal code?