Trying hard ain’t everything.
When it comes to answering life’s call, there’s only one response: I will do it. I will be better, I will try harder. The immediacy of the call warrants this response. There is palpable tension that resides in the solar plexus. It radiates continuously into the rest of the body. Based on our actions this tension either decreases or increases, is expressed or repressed. This is our power source: the base drive. By virtue of being alive, it has been built into us, and it will generate energy until the day we die. The anxiety of influence. The mating drive.
Jesus said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
We carry the yoke of mortality in our mouths. We are shackled. I have felt the drive beating eternally within my chest; here is the burden. Achieve. We must come to terms with this demand. We must seek to understand the things we resist and the way our impulses manifest themselves. Our generation has yet to see a holy man, so this is a modern interpretation. I think it fits us well. The man who is in touch with his own mortality—his yoke is easy. Thriving in reality relies on accepting our innate drive and being able to laugh at it, too.
There’s only one correct response to the call of life: I will get this. I will try harder. The only obvious response to failure is a redoubling of efforts. Did you try something important and fall off the horse? Did you miss the mark? Get back up with that fire in your eyes. Refuse to accept defeat. Steel yourself and try again—try and try again, until you achieve.
I think this response is evolutionary, and is correct in nearly every instance. It always works. In matters of the soul, there is no instance where failure won’t make you want to try harder. You know that your first experience has only made you better. You are smarter, stronger, wiser. You are closer to that thing.
And you sure as fuck won’t take no for an answer. Taking permanent failure as the outcome means that your whole world is off kilter. Your dreams are false, impossible to achieve. You had no business with them in the first place! Your drive, that fundamental life force, has pointed you in the wrong direction. It has betrayed you. You might as well be dead!
If you have anything to live for at all, it’s your fantasies, your goals, your ideals. So the knee jerk reaction is to burn, burn brighter and brighter. Set yourself aflame and be consumed in the process. Burn until there’s no fuel left and you’re a shaking mess, then go home and sleep and come back the next day to do it all over again. This is called dedication. It’s easy to see in others, and it is beautiful. The truly dedicated will suffer. They will hurt themselves, walk headlong into bad situations, and keep going anyway. It is a self-destructive reaction. It is irrational, self-sacrificing, even stupid, but it always works. Here is an individual’s power plant. It is nuclear fusion.
Eventually, we learn to control this response. As we live with ourselves and continue in the pursuit of our inner goals, we figure out when to amp up and when to power down. The initial burning love matures into a steady commitment, a measured give-and-take. And even as time takes certain passions out of the spotlight, and we grow in and out of certain personalities as the seasons change, the core of the passion remains, maybe dormant but ready for reignition—the reaction at the core of the red giant, slowly burning out but retaining always its explosive potential, maybe one day at the end of its life to go supernova, maybe to be born again.
“Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.”
Walt Whitman had it right. The drive to create and achieve is borne in us all. The human mechanism to try hard and to sacrifice one’s self at the altar of desire is well in place, exactly as it should be. An awareness of this mechanism and acceptance of its place in life can help protect you from obsession, self-harm, or explosions of repressed passion. For me it helps contextualize desire, grounds me and keeps me sane. This understanding is the furthest I’ve gotten in knowing what it means to be human on a strictly individual level. I can see no way around the burden of consciousness, but in the meantime it helps me deal with the pressure of being alive.
My yoke is easing up.