The human condition: an everyday challenge

There is an everyday challenge.

The screenwriter and novelist Steven Pressfield, in his guide for a creative life,  The War of Art, calls it Resistance, with a capital ‘R’, and Resistance rises every day.

Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.

Robert Browning, the 19th century English poet, has several thought-provoking line in his long-ish poem “Andrea del Sarto”, a dramatic monologue inspired by the Renaissance painter.

For one:

I do what many dream of, all their lives,
—Dream? strive to do, and agonize to do,
And fail in doing.

And another (my italics):

Somebody remarks
Morello’s outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

We might call it the human condition.

An endless striving, pressing forward, fear of idleness or nothingness or oblivion, moving, moving, doing, doing, doing.

All endless, until one day, shockingly, it ends, with all the unfinished business piling up unless you or I find a way to settle things satisfactorily before we go (and that is always hard to do so, because it means actively thinking about removing oneself from the world, even in our imagination).

It is a daily occurrence, for all of us.

Only a few of us, perhaps, are aware of it. (Awareness makes it no easier at the start; it may well make it harder in the early days before we build up the mental muscle to deal with it effectively, and that can take years or decades or a lifetime.)

The rest of us, those of us who are unaware and unawakened, go through each day applying whatever balm we can find for the pain that rises just below our consciousness: shopping, gambling, eating, drinking, pornography, extramarital affairs, scrolling scrolling scrolling down social media feeds — anything to feel even a fleeting moment of pleasure or distraction or an intense momentary feeling that covers over the pain for a little while.

Awakening — whether it’s into a new morning, or into the fullness of being human — often brings with it a dull throb of pain, but there is glory in the pain too, for you are here for one more day, and today you can do some good for someone, and that is maybe the best we can hope to do.