I Am Not Your Lorem Ipsum.

IMG_1853 A year ago and a week ago, I passed under this bridge in a traffic jam, stuck again on Interstate 65. This piece of highway is a constant in my life as I travel between places and people I know.

I was stuck metaphorically too, stuck in a dream of a dream. The bridge is just a symbol, a lot of water has passed under this bridge since then. 372 days that see me further from one dream but closer to another. I don’t know what that dream is, but it must be a dream because it’s not yet real.

I think I must have grown up some but there’s a post-it note stuck to my computer screen that says “Everything I ever let go of had claw marks in it”, and it’s certainly true for me. I can feel the tingling in my fingertips. How much I want to hold to something, for something to be as permanent or certain as this bridge. I want to held on to; to be permanent and certain myself.

I’ve been learning you can’t hold on to what’s not real or permanent. You can’t hold on to what’s not holding you. Lorem Ipsum has no permanent home, just like a pipiwhararoa it flies from nest to nest looking for a place to call its own. No one holds on to Lorem Ipsum either.

Lorem Ipsum.

You probably recognize the phrase. If you’ve ever worked in design, printing, had to produce marketing materials or a website there’s a good chance you’ve seen this text. It’s ancient Latin from “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum” (The Extremes of Good and Evil) by Cicero, written in 45 BC. This book on the theory of ethics was popular with emerging humanist thinkers during the Renaissance so as printing technology emerged during this era, it’s no surprise that a collection of paragraphs from this text was used as dummy text to review typefaces.

Placeholder text is designed to look close enough to the real thing that it becomes invisible to the viewer. Originally so that a printer and publisher might agree the layout of the text or the choice of typeface on a page. Now, Lorem Ipsum is often used to fill out the design frames and suggest where text is required in marketing collateral and digital publishing.

A placeholder is used to fill space but leave no lasting impression. It looks and feels real but carries no meaning. It is yet it does not endure. Lorem Ipsum has survived for 5 centuries now only ever being useful for a moment, to fill the space before it is replaced.

I am not Lorem Ipsum, neither are you.

It’s a shame that some things you only learn after the fact. You learn the rock is slippery as soon as your foot starts sliding. You realise you’ve been Lorem Ipsum when someone starts seeing straight past you. You realise you’ve had all the good intentions in the world, but your friendship has carried no meaning, your words have floated off like feathers in the sky. When Lorem Ipsum is replaced with words you attribute meaning to – you no longer need the Lorem Ipsum.

I love words. And these words meant something to Cicero, to the great Renaissance philosophers and ethicists. Sentences constructed with intention just like I have been made with a meaning greater than the sum of my syllables – Lorem Ipsum is the real thing, not a dream. You have forgotten that I once, had meaning too.

Lorem Ipsum in the Debris.

I do believe some relationships are seasonal. And especially friendship can be deceptive, appearing mutual when both parties have different expectations and agendas. My shared stories and experiences create a narrative that we all own, my stories shared become your own and vice versa. We give meaning to each other but only if we mean it.

But no person should ever be Lorem Ipsum for another. We must be able to look each other in the eye and keep our promises – I see you, you can see me. If we treat each other like placeholders til something better comes along – we strip meaning from beauty and destroy our shared narratives. We destroy each other and ourselves.

Yes, we do this from time to time – we fill our world with those who are available to us although they do not always fulfil us. We allow ourselves to feel useful and meaningful. Of course, we do this because loneliness is a hungry wolf at the door. But once we start to feed the wolf on hollow bread, we cannot keep him from the door. Resist. Resist. Commit yourself to the meaning of those you share your stories with. And therefore choose carefully whom you love.

There is a shallow darkness in anyone that can live in such a way, to not know the ancient, wise, tenacious gift they hold in the palm of their hand. It implies an unknowing of themselves, because authenticity demands authenticity.

The storm change comes along and swept up in the river swell you become the debris on the bank. The difference between a seasonal transition in relationships and being Lorem Ipsum, is acknowledgement of the season change, thank you and goodbye. Without it, gasping for air and wondering how you missed the signs, you shirk off your sinking expectations and swim for shore.

Of course, you can choose not to become the debris. We all get caught out from time to time; not realising that while we laid out our words in perfect syntax, our Latin went unrecognised by the other. For being fooled into thinking my narrative was true, I have learned even more what authenticity looks like. I’ve realised even though people can hurt you by treating you like a spacefiller – I can free myself in a minute by letting go.

Choose not to hold on to people who don’t want to hold you back. Workplace comraderie, friendship on any scale, lovers, distant family – choose not to hold on to anything but the present moment and those who are willing to hold you. Even then, choose wisely from those who would hold your precious meaning in their hands. Letting go can feel like losing something until you remember the best thing you had in that friendship was what you made it, with your heart, your compassion, your love and soul. Even your hopes and expectations of the other were a good kind of dream. So you walk away losing nothing, because you still have yourself. You are the carrier of your meaning.

You have your purpose, becoming clearer in the days and by dream at night, a new old kind of dream. Instead of fighting the current below the bridge, you are now given the chance to cross it; a change in every direction – first up, then East instead of South and with a much larger view to the world. Remember your meaning.

You are a gift to the world, often unopened by many who drift by you but still valuable. An ancient treasure hidden in a field, a pearl inside a gnarly shell, a fragment of beauty that does not fade, an eternal force more precious than rubies. Your meaning is not taken from you by those who do not comprehend you. Perhaps they have not imagined you yet but still you are. 

Cicero’s Lorem Ipsum (a fragment).

“But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”

“On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.”

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