The Universal Restlessness

How much of our strivings are aimed at procuring some point of satiation and safety; how bored we become when we find it…

Messiness and chaos that which we say we hate, yet we nevertheless continue to create in our own lives. It may manifest in peculiar forms, like scrutinizing the true orderliness of things, as if to secretly be searching out chaos. But, why seek this out? Boredom.

If there exists chaos, then there exists an opportunity for work, and, if there exists work, then there exists an opportunity to feel productive. But what if we don’t believe it, or our standards are too high and nothing is ever enough? What then? Then, I suppose is where cultural influences and macroeconomics comes into play, and I am not up for expounding upon those matters today.

Decisions of Motion

Why is it that whenever something comes to an end we tend to, or inevitably succumb to the urge, reflect back upon how it all began?

There is a part of me that wants to refuse the tug of the past and instead continue steadfastly moving forward, with my gaze fixed upon the potentialities held within the unknown mystery of the future. Thus, I’m also pulled forward by my anticipation of what lies hidden and awaits being actualized, while simultaneously being tugged on by the past’s allure to be reflected upon and mined for gems of wisdom and treasures of meaning. The result is a state of tension and disequilibrium; my inner world stirs with the restlessness of indecisiveness of where to place my focus – which direction should I place my attention and, subsequently, galvanize my energetic resource to pursue.

Life is held in this dialectical tension, if by nothing else, by the law of entropy, which is solely responsible for the arrow of time. Consequently, we fill our time with busyness working tirelessly against disorder while also hoping to arrange our lives in some order that we find a sense of safety or security in – at the very least, a sense of familiarity. We crave normalcy and, to some degree, we cling to the delusional notion that someday our lives will be suspended in some abstract fixed state of continual satisfaction; we desire a state of being where all of our needs are met, so we conjure goals from our hopes, dreams, and role models to develop some plan of action for setting out on this quest.

However, the undertaking is tricky for two main reasons: first, future goals have a way of branching off into additional goals and/or dividing themselves into numerous subgoals that serve to continually postpone our attainment of the initial goal we set as our target; second, even when we have attained a particular goal, inevitability dissatisfaction and tension finds us once more, and we are left feeling as if we’ve drifted back to the shore from which we’d initially set sail. The cycle repeats once more.  

Many people convince themselves of their eventual conquer of this journey and spend their lives committed to this belief, even until their last day. Others, also convince themselves of thoughts more comforting than the truth and pretend that all their needs are already met, so there is no need for them to strive.

It is challenging to confront these distorted beliefs held within ourselves because to do so requires some degree of both acceptance and humility. Both of which are praised as virtues, when viewed from a distance, such as abstractly, but seldom do we genuinely wish to adopt and embody these virtues in the experiential realm. Rather, we decide that an intellectual appreciation of these virtues will suffice and, once more,  dodge the actual challenge presented to us by life.  

We spend most of our lives trying to avoid the realities of life by either convincing ourselves or allowing ourselves to be convinced by others’ fictions about life. This cognitive maneuvering allows us to sidestep the discomfort experienced when life’s challenges are indeed acknowledged as an obstacle. We prefer to become like Sisyphus destined to exert effort toward a task that never ceases in the rest of completeness but provides the illusion of progress by conflating motion with progress. Unlike Sisyphus who the repetition of his task to be his punishment, we harness our creative powers of meaning-making and allow our imaginations to construct grand narratives of how our work and task-pursuit are in fact of the utmost significance.  

There is real meaning to be found in the tasks we choose to undertake in our lives. However, issues tend to arise when we choose to deny the reality that we will never arrive at the fixed permanent state of satisfaction, which we so crave.

This issue resides within ourselves. We lack the sufficient self-knowledge necessary for us to properly identify what tasks, goals, and pursuits provide us with the meaning, purpose, and satisfaction we seek.

Consequently,  if we haven’t allowed ourselves to succumb to the illusion of pursuing tasks like Sisyphus, then we may find ourselves aimlessly wandering from place to place searching for others to tell us about where we should look within to discover answers to what propels our internal restlessness. This movement of outsourcing may even be taken so far as to alter how we perceive our inner world as to align ourselves more fully with the direction we’ve allowed others to corral towards. 

Yet, this too is fruitless and leads to feeling stifled or as if one were an imposter. Nevertheless, many choose this path because it supplies more comfort and security than embracing the alternative; that is, the recognition of what an incredibly challenging, ambiguous, and arduous task it is to become an individual.

A word of caution feels warranted here because of our proclivity to gravitate toward extremes. To be an individual is to understand, appreciate, and embrace the inherent uniqueness of oneself and others; it does not necessarily entail that one must become solely an individual concerned only for oneself and own self-interests.

This is an example of how often we take a particular point about a specific matter and then run ahead with it, applying it to a whole host of other ideas. Quickly, and often subtly, the result of this type of hasty generalization is a product that has lost its connection to, or hardly even resembles, the initial point from which it was derived. Consequently, this too leads back to another method of deceiving ourselves.

How significant must this force be that we try everything within our powers to wriggle our way out of having an encounter with it by means of avoidance, suppression, denial, and the list could continue ad infinium. Nevertheless, despite any of our attempts, like Sisyphus, we are not capable of such a maneuver, as to sidestep or bypass this force that imposes upon us, since, to succeed in such an endeavor would be to contradict our essential quality of being. For what confronts us is the task of becoming something with the being that is inherent to our existence. 

While the temptation to delegate the contemplation of the topic of being to the domain of the philosopher is an enticing way to, once again, duck our responsibility, we are nonetheless incapable of escaping the task placed upon us by life itself to discover what it is that we are, both as an individual and within the context of society.  

We know that we are something; we know that we exist and can quickly provide a list of identifiers to prove our existence within a societal context; that is, by utilizing the tool of language to articulate the ways by which we identify, or distinguish, ourselves from that of others. However, does this articulation of an inventory of individual identifiers truly resolve the task placed upon us by life? Is there not more to our existence and to who we uniquely are than merely that which can be articulated in a manner as to communicate it to others?

However, since these aspects to which I refer are definitionally ineffable, their existence becomes easy to merely dismiss as sophistry and continue navigating through life operating purely from what can be explicitly stated or objectively shown. Moreover, science and empiricism offer further validation that it is only the manifest, the quantifiable and the qualitative, that our existence is justified. Consequently, that which is unable to be spoken nor seen must then not actually exist. Yet, how much of our life is undermined and/or dismissed if our sole criterion for evaluating existence requires some sort of external or externalizable proof before being eligible to be deemed as being something “real”?

Flows and Fragments

Celebrate with a drink! Cheers to good health with the consumption of a known toxin.
Mustn’t let yourself fret over such trivialities – let’s return to building our own reality.
Where to begin? Are you a friend or foe? Wait – regardless of what you say, how can I trust you?
The response would naturally then be: how can I trust anyone?

We are pressed often by pain; often driven or propelled by an internal pressure that combusts to sustain our inner flame.
The heat motivates, or rather, stirs us into motion. Fueled by an emotion at any given time sets our actions into motions.
Each presumably, and hopefully, preceded by a deliberation followed by a conscious decision. If we know the act was driven instinctually, in most cases, this being synonymous with the term unconscious, then we can conclude or redirect our initial inquiry.

If we know the actor of an action didn’t do so intentionally, i.e., remember not having thought prior to their action, then we can eliminate this channel of inquiry. This speaks nothing of the tenability of other channels. Particularly, we move to the group that can at least acknowledge the presence, even in retrospect, that the effect of their action emerged from some choice on some level of emotive (including somatic) and/or cognitive (e.g., linguistic) grounding.
To acknowledge a phenomena’s existence must precede the stage of naming such a thing – order of events is an important rule of thumb to help remember the principle of reversibility.

Still waters – why do we believe we strive for stillness? Because we’re so busy we are dying to rest? True. But this merely means that we need rest and not that we want to stay there. Sure. We may want to now, as we think of this as a future potentiality, but our minds would likely change upon the actualization of this desire. However, this speaks to reduction of tension not to an elimination of it altogether. Rather, this speaks to a wish for a temporary tensive reprieve.

As actors, we enjoy getting to act upon others. This of course requires there exists others upon whom we might be able to act. But their existence can be conjured in the imagination, if necessary, so we’ll make the assumption and conclude in the affirmative of this statement’s validity.

Next, to move as an actor onto another, there must exist some dimensional gradient; that is, an imbalance that functions like a slope allowing for flow to occur. This is juxtaposed to stagnation. That is to say that the actor and the acted upon must have some degree of difference (> 0). This needn’t be a categorical difference. It merely must be enough of a difference to allow for the bifurcation of identity, i.e., each receives its own identity. Some degree of sovereignty over our own machine; how’s that working out?

We spend time worrying about the various things that are going to or have the potential to kill us while overlooking the stronger likelihood that the culmination of stress, pain, fatigue, apathy, and chronic pain will somehow not ultimately be our killer. I believe we secretly wish this to be true because then we wager with the death toll collector about when, or at what age is our toll due, evading these types of contemplations through the inner games we play with ourselves to manipulate time.