Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The idea that you can do anything is absolutely terrifying. – Austin Kleon
Like many people I know, I first heard the phrase ‘living spree’ in The Good Life, a 2007 hit song by Kanye West. In it, he raps, “The good life, let’s go on a living spree; shit, they say the best things in life are free.” On the surface, these lines are merely a clever rhyme combined with a cliché catchphrase. And the song’s complete lyrics, when simply read verbatim, sound like the ramblings of someone with more money than brains—which could, in fact, be the case with Yeezy. Regardless if that’s true, I have to say that, personally, I believe there’s some hidden insight to be derived from Mr. West’s choice words. In a happy meal of lyricism, I think I’ve found a nugget of wisdom—and I would like to share it with you.
Obviously, you have heard the phrase, ‘the best things in life are free.’ A song title, 1956 film and old adage, it is generally taken to mean that you cannot put a dollar value on the most important things in your life. These may include love, friendship and other intangibles—‘the most important things in life aren’t things’ goes another saying. These notions are simple, yet profound, and that’s why they’re so enduring, so sticky.
‘The good life, let’s go on a living spree,’ is not so easily deciphered. We all have our own unique idea of what a good life is. For some people, it’s wealth and extravagance. For others, it’s the complete opposite. For parents, it’s watching your kids grow up to be great people. For toddlers, it’s an infinite supply of toys—and so on. So what then, you may ask, is a living spree? And how (and why) does one go on one?
In this miniature inquiry, let’s start by exploring the simpler of two concepts. We’ll define spree in advance of our consideration of life. Dictionary.com, perhaps the most popular online portal for word discovery and learning, defines the word ‘spree,’ simply, as “a period or outburst of extreme activity.” Similarly, the online edition of the venerable Oxford Dictionary states “a spell or sustained period of unrestrained activity of a particular kind.” In my opinion, it can be stated as this: a boundless and unreserved period of activity.
You know what a shopping spree is, right? I remember when I was young kid, the Foodland in the small town I grew up in would run these large contests where people would have the opportunity to win shopping sprees and spend up to $1500 or so on foodstuffs. I would imagine the winner tearing around corners of the grocery store with a shopping cart and dashing around aisles trying to snatch all of their favourite snacks and dinner items. They could take anything they wanted. They would take anything they wanted. They felt no hesitation and they didn’t fear judgment. After all, they had been given permission to go all out. At 24, and a young adult by all measures, I am forced to wonder why people don’t approach life in this way—boundless and unreserved.
Life, or living, is an unbearable topic of discussion. While it has formal definitions, its meaning is extraordinarily subjective. And for this reason, I won’t attempt giving it a solid characterization. Decide whatever you think living is, and ask yourself this: Are you free? We say the best things in life are free. And I think that what we should be striving for is a free life. Not free in the monetary sense. Free, as in, uninhibited and unrepressed. Free of fears of failure. Free of fears of judgment.
We must take on life in the same way that we approach a shopping spee: ready to rip around corners; ready to try new things that don’t cost us anything (e.g. talking to strangers); understanding that we have permission to do as we please; full speed ahead; and most importantly, with no limits and under no one else’s control. If we want to live a truly good life, we must, for all intents and crucial purposes, go on a living spree.
I think that’s what Kanye was trying to say to us. And really, whether you like him or not, he is one of the best examples of someone who has done and is doing what he loves—unafraid, uninhibited and unrelenting. He’s on a living spree.