By Michael Turton
Chip Marks, of Garrison, is the author of A Modest Manual for Living on Earth.
You devote a chapter of the book to the fact that we control our own thoughts. Isn’t that obvious?
Most of the time people’s thoughts are on autopilot, as though some entity has hijacked our brain. But we choose what we think about. We all have self-defeating, nasty thoughts. Imagine if all your thoughts from a day were published in the newspaper. Did you author those thoughts or did they come in on a stream you devoted your mental energy to? You can divert that thinking, say “no” to it. You can choose your own stream of thought. Earlier today, my thinking was negative — an oppressive situation. I decided I’m not going there, it won’t do me any good. It’s gone. I have better things to think about.
The book has two chapters on death. Why?
Because there is so much outside of this life, and because we have such fascination and fear about the end of life. People get so bent out of shape about death and how people die. I try to put it in perspective, so people don’t waste their time worrying about death; it’s going to take care of itself. We say: “He died a terrible death.” Yet death is painless. It’s life that is painful. When you die, you move out of the realm of pain. It’s like drifting through a door. I want to soothe and calm people. We play up death way too much.
What are your thoughts on karma and reincarnation?
Many people interpret karma simplistically; Tom punches Ed in this life and Ed punches Tom in the next. I like the saying that “what goes around comes around.” I don’t need vengeance; the universe has a way of evening things out. Reincarnation is a possibility, not a necessity. Some may want more than one go ‘round. For others, one visit is enough. Some people come back to heal a relationship, or they want success. Almost everyone wants a perfect ride through life but nobody gets a perfect ride — nobody has it made.
What’s the one thing you hope readers take away?
I hope people discover a way to understand and minimize their pain. I want people to see that life it not as horrible as it’s portrayed every day. You’ll survive all of this. You are indestructible. You are eternal. All this is temporary and you’ll come through it unscathed. The essential thing is to keep your eyes open and experience it. You can get physical scrapes and bruises but you are always going to come out on the other side. You’re going to be OK.
In the end, is living on earth simple or complex?
It’s both. Life is a gas. And life is a bitch. Often both in the same moment. A trick to life is learning that it takes both sides in opposition. It’s that yin/yang symbol. We usually think on only one side of that circle, yet we live on both. We get the ups and downs, the good and bad. It’s always combined, always dynamic.