I think often. Maybe too much. I ponder the polarities of life and death, purpose and meaninglessness, love and apathy, intimacy and loneliness, pleasure and pain, responsibility and laziness. Too often, (at least from my perspective) we fail to personally grapple with the difficult questions raised by these life provocations.
Instead we defy the negative provocation itself. We fight back. We don’t want to think about the sting of death. The emptiness and boredom of living a meaningless and apathetic life. How lonely and painful things can be. Especially relational pain. And for good reason–it hurts! But we can’t walk blindly through life pretending such things don’t exist. We can’t medicate it with our drug of choice. Work. Alcohol. Shopping. Illegal drugs. Sex. Legalism. Social Media. Food. Drugs. Our idols can’t make these life questions go away for too long. They will return. I promise. If each of us fails to answer these questions on our own we’ll wake up one day and find ourselves emptier than we were before. Depressed. Lonely. And wondering who we are. Where we fit in the world. And if our lives really matter.
It’s time to start answering these questions for ourselves. To stop following merely what others are doing and to start leading. I want to march to the beat of a different drummer. No, I want to be the drummer.
But to be the drummer I need to answer these polarities. I need to find my true self. And I have been on this journey–with the help of writings by one of my favorite writers and philosophers, Soren Kierkegaard. By first placing value and belief in God above all else, Kierkegaard regarded the true self as being totally absorbed in God. For Kierkegaard, true self is achieved by way of grappling with the incongruent issues of infinitude and finitude, possibility and necessity, and eternity and temporality. For instance, the infinite possibilities of life are never-ending. One can do an endless number of things with his life as he exists. On the other hand, he is also limited and has to deal with his failures and his mortality, all wretched necessities that are a part of one’s existence.
Unfortunately, many people lose the audacity to effectively cope and work through the anxiety, choosing to live at one of two polarities. Either they choose to live a life of dreaming about the possibilities or they enslave themselves to the necessities by giving up their dreams. In both cases, the individual has lost his sense of self because he chose to give up his choice and give in to the tension.
I challenge you not to give into the tension. But to instead live differently. Are you the drummer? Or marching with everyone else?