Frater Acher has recently written part one of a post On Resilence and Renewal. It’s basic theme is a message many of us in the contemporary Western world need to remember: when our live are bogged down by a surplus of desires and wishes, constantly shifting from one thing to another, it depletes our available energy to put forth towards those things that would truly nurture and renew us. He also gives an exercise for determining what a healthier ‘work-life balance’ might look like and another tool to map the orbit of your desires, and see which ones fall outside the current scope of your actual ability to achieve in three months time.
His essay is timely for me, as ever. I’ve been contemplating what I need to trim away and prune from my life as I move into the dark half of the year -a time I think of in terms of creative hibernation and incubation- so come spring I may be send forth shoots in emergent areas, and strengthen the roots of other areas and interests in my life that I wish to go deeper.
Frater Acher wrote: “Constant accessibility of goods, resources, information and social partners as well as an increasing convenience in lifestyles has empowered our wishes to simply take over. Where our ancestors might have had cravings or desires life taught them in nine out of ten cases that not bothering too much about it and simply getting on with work was what would be a good strategy to survive the next year. This changed dramatically with the Industrial Revolution, when desires and cravings were turned into the most essential commodities of all. Fast forward to the 21st century – and here we are overpowered by technological, economical, social and even cultural services and products, which all feed off our inability to say No to our own wishes, to delay pleasures and to balance cravings and prurience with calm and composure.”
What I see as related to this is experience of being shaped and sculpted by our limitations. Our limitations form us in ways, that being open to the vast sea of potentiality can never do. It is impossible to try and actualize every inherent possibility of who we might be, of what we could do in this life. Such behavior ultimately makes our efforts disparate amid the cognitive dissonance and workload of such a multiplicity of aims. In The Dyslexicon I wrote about this tug as going in eight directions at once. Working at a library I am constantly being exposed to all kinds of interesting ideas, pathways, hobbies to pursue, areas to research. And while I have often felt that weaving together these various threads in a syncretic manner is part of the function of both artist and magus in this 21st century, I must also admit that having the discipline to do so without going out of balance, or as a carpenter might say, out of true, is a truly difficult task. Not only does pursuing eight things at once put a strain on yourself as a person, but also on the supportive web of spouse, family and friends, who at times must pick up the slack when you hit the point of inevitable burn out.
Our character is forged in the fire of limitation. The daily grind of living, with all of its joy, ecstasy, frustration, repetition, sadness and heartbreak chip away at us until our skin becomes weathered. As time goes by we look more and more like sailors who have become as they are from their daily congress with the elements. The cracks in our skin mirror the cracks in our personality. Yet these cracks allow for the hidden substrata and deep ore of the philosophers to emerge from below. For we are also like miners who have to pan and sift through silt and mud looking for those flecks which reflect the light; who only find the vein of gold after taking a pick axe to those which have calcified inside of us.
Orson Welles said the “enemy of art is the absence limitations.” In this culture that constantly proposes that you be all that you can be, it is instructive to take a step back and throw some cold water on your face and gaze unflinchingly in the mirror. What is it that you can’t be? What can’t you have and what can’t you do despite your best efforts? The society around us preaches the gospel of excess. When that is shed, what is left behind, what remains? In our restless sailing from port to port, hunting down exotic wares in strange markets and bazaars do we ever feel the stir to return to home ground?
I think it is important to address such questions to ourselves now and adjust the till of our boats accordingly, as we move deeper into a literal age of limits and scarce resources. Those who continue to cast their nets into the sea of possibility may well starve when they come back to shore without a catch.