Why are we still?
Pushing through the early September wind, I can feel my legs starting to cramp. Out of breath. I will need to take a break soon. I slow down my pace until I reach a comfortable walking speed and the pain in my chest subsides. I have reached the top of a barren hill, which provides a good view of my surroundings. This place proves nice for silent reflection.
Two minutes ago I was in pain, out of breath and angry at myself for being out of shape. Now I'm calm, focused and angry at myself for not pushing myself further. Why did I stop running?
In every human there lies an almost infinite potential for transformation. We look around and see people who have done a lot, but never someone who have done everything they were capable of. Marathon runners continually surpass their limits to reach a time 2:01:39. That is an inhumanly good time. But even at this peak of human psychical condition, are we to think there is no place left for growth? No place where we can push a bit harder? Look up above, the limit is right there. Let’s try to surpass it again today.
No water too cold, no road too long, no muscle to sore. If the bible says that every man and woman have a spark of divinity whiten them, then that is that spark. We cannot create the world, but we can create ourselves. We are drawn to people like David Goggins because, in him, we see it. The spark of creation, the eternal battle against our limitations.
Here stands a man with no talent or extraordinary gifts. Just a vision of whom he wanted to be, and how he would get there. Goggins pushed himself so hard that his legs fractured and his bladder started pumping blood. It turned out that will was stronger than his body. But in his most defeated state, he achieved his greatest victory. The price of possession. Finally, he was able to expropriate his whimsical nature and be the master of his own destiny. We look at Goggins and get drawn to him because here the spark is obvious. It has crystallized itself into a man who has started grasping his own potential.
Hamsun's, nameless protagonist in “Hunger” posses the same quality of extreme self-ownership. To his surroundings, he appears to be mad, but his madness is, in fact, the emergence of the most sublime form of nobility. For the heights that one scales, when one is able to face the most extreme forms of nihilism, and still be able to emerge from such depths and affirm life in its totality, is arguably the highest state a human being can attain. At every step of the way, Hamsun's hero fights furiously against the universal antagonist of limitations. He does want to survive, but only at his own terms. He wants to die standing, living according to his own ideals. As a result he breaks physically, mentally, but not in spirit. He is has become the vessel of his self-imposed directives, the force of which is much stronger than his biological limits. He wants to be an artist and becomes one after a struggle with reality itself.
Tying my shoes and I start to sprint. Catch up, overtake. Catch up, overtake. I'm racing against the very nature of my being. All those drives that make me act in ways I shouldn’t. Who impose on my requirements I never asked for. Impulses that corrupt, twist and bend any moral effort. My body has become a battleground for the will of my soul and the whims of my body. Fight. Fight. Fight. Resist the urge to stop. All battles are linked. If I defeat the enemy in one area, I can do it in another. Fight. Fight. Fight.
We are not all equally gifted, but we all have the gift of ultimate self-sovereignty. With enough will, no pain is too great and no bad habit is unbreakable. Yet lately the darker side of human nature has gained a faithful alley in the vice of luxury. We encourage each other to do everything in babysteps because we are accustomed to pleasantness. We change slowly if ever, disregarding the fact that no law of psychics inhibits us from having what we want from day one. Want to stop smoking? That can be done today. Want to exercise more? start now. All that stands between us and our ideal mode of being is our perverse proclivity to incremental change.
As a result of consumer culture, the fight for liberation must now be fought on two fronts. Forces work externally and internally to makes dull and motionless. We grow hedonism as if it was a garden. Civilization has done a lot to improve our houses but neglected the people who are to inhabit them. We consider people who shower in cold water extreme, despite the fact that even the existence of running water is a manifestation of the greatest prosperity. The only true ideology in the 21’st century is solutionism; how to best address problems that do not exist. There is professors in philosophy but no philosophers. Ethics has become something we think about, rather than act upon.
During the French revolution, Marie Antoinette famously proclaimed: ‘Let them eat cake’. It seems no misreading of the present ever proved more prophetic for the future. Today the divide between rich and poor is still sugary treats, expect the roles are now reversed. The rich banquet on quinoa salat, while the poor feast on off-brand soda with Twinkies. The difference is no longer access but self-determination.
The first level of human evolution was biological, the next will be in spirit. We are trapped on the bridge between beast and man, having both urges we control and urges we don’t. It seems to me it is time to cross over. To face adversity again, this time voluntarily and affirm it as the catalyst of change of where our sovereignty is claimed.
In a time where we are more concerned about the holes in our clothes than in those of our conscience, what is required is a strength of which most are incapable. To choose to act upon one's to own belief of right and wrong. To fight against urges, and become more than the sum total of beastly drives - that is what it means to cross over, so why are we still?