Dave Pollard's chronicle of civilization's collapse, creative works and essays on our culture.
A trail of crumbs, runes and exclamations along my path in search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.



January 16, 2013

Want To Want To

Filed under: Our Culture / Ourselves — Dave Pollard @ 11:35

image: “surreal dimension”, by hartwig kopp-delaney

I really want to spend some time learning to meditate, and practice it faithfully every day. I really want to complement my running program with upper body and flexibility exercises, and integrate them into a whole body/whole mind “presence” practice. I really want to get back to more regular blogging. I really want to compose more music, drawing on a dozen scraps of words and music I’ve been carrying around everywhere I go for months now.

At least that’s what I tell myself. The truth is that when I have free time (which, being retired from paid work, I have often) I use that time doing other things: online reading, playing, daydreaming, sleeping in, hanging out, etc.

The truth is that I want to want to meditate, strengthen my upper body, become present, blog more, and compose more music. When I actually push myself to do these things I enjoy it. But I don’t push myself. Because I don’t really want to do these things. I just want to want to do them. They correspond with my perception of spending time usefully, becoming a more complete, well-rounded person, producing stuff that I can be proud of.

I will accept that I’m lazy (until things get urgent); I think that’s very human. I don’t believe there is anything ‘wrong’ with me (e.g. that this is self-defeating behaviour, that I’m suffering debilitating effects of trauma, etc.), though I think we’re all damaged to some extent by our civilization culture. So why do I do what I do, instead of what I want to want to do?

Part of the reason, I think, is that I’m exhausted. Still, in retirement. I can’t recall the last time I was, for an extended period of time, not exhausted. Another part of the reason, which may be related to exhaustion, is that these things I want to want to do aren’t much fun. They’re “work”, and I’ve done enough work, for now; I want to play. I want the outcomes of these things (presence from meditation, resilience from exercise, outstanding written and musical compositions that bring me a sense of accomplishment), but I’m not that keen on the practices that produce them. They’re not hard work, these practices, but they’re work.

I think this is the reason that the cliche “whatever you want to do, just begin” resonates with me. Once I start, I cease to be aware of these practices as work, and sometimes they’re even fun (it’s mostly the learning component that’s fun). Perhaps that’s the essence, at least for most people, of practice. We don’t want to do it. We want to want to do it. Once we begin, we are happy doing it. Practice is the key to doing just about anything well, and the stock advice of “teachers” of writing, music, art, and just about any other skill of value.

Why do I want to want be present, resilient, and the author of great works of art and imagination? In other words, why do I want to be something a little different from, a little “more” than, everything I am, now? I think this goes back to my feeling that I’ve wasted most of the last 40 years — learned terribly little, terribly slowly, and have terribly little (skill, enduring “output”, evidence of positive effect on others) to show for it. Yes, some work colleagues and clients have told me that they received transformative value from what I did when I worked with them, but, ever the Doubting Thomas, I’m not so sure they really have. Yes, my blog has almost undoubtedly had a greater and more positive impact on more people than all my work life produced. But John Gray (in Straw Dogs) explained more powerfully, eloquently and succinctly than I could ever do how the world really works and where it is headed, and Paul Kingsnorth, in his Manifesto and Orion articles, articulates more effectively how those of us who have moved past the second denial now feel, now that we know why we cannot save the world, and what we might do instead.

So why then, after ridiculing the despicable and opportunistic “self-help” industry and after calling for all of us (by which I mean myself, and perhaps anyone else who might serendipitously be reading) to simply accept ourselves as we really are and always have been, do I want to practice being “better” or “more”? Part of it is self-protective, I think. We’re all traumatized to some extent, and being more present and more resilient would seem a way to cope with and move past the trauma, fears, anger, grief, old absurd fictional stories, and chronic anxiety that dwells in me and be “more fully myself”. That will make me happier, and more useful to others and to the world. If practice can help do that, I think it’s worth pushing myself to practice.

The other part, I think, is the utterly human desire to find my true calling, Sweet Spot, “work I’m meant to do”, passion, gift, purpose, or whatever you want to call it. My distinctive competency. The thing I do (or could do, with practice) better than anyone else, even John Gray or Paul Kingsnorth or TS Eliot or Frederick Barthelme or Neil Young. The song that, if I were a bird (and I wish I were), I would sing. My enduring self-expression.

I appreciate the value of being a competent generalist, a connector, someone who transplants ideas to terrains where no one else could see them taking root. Many have told me that’s what I do, and do well, and I should be content with that, and keep doing it. And I will. But I won’t be content with that. Something in me is still waiting, and struggling, to get out, to escape all the not-me gunk that I have let be attached to me over the years to the point that something important in me has become invisible, even to me. Most of all to me. With practice, I think, I could find it, and set it free.

That’s all. This is just an exhortation to myself to practice what I want to want to do. Even if I think, or know, I don’t really want to do it. An exhortation to just begin. I’m off to do that, now.

7 Comments

  1. Here’s what I think about such things. Maybe this will give you some food for thought.

    Everything in the universe follows the law of entropy and moves from a higher state of order to a lower disordered and more homogeneous state. We put our energy into metals to make a higher ordered steel girder but eventually it will rust and erode away. In order to maintain a machinery we need to put energy into it regularly but if left to the mercy of time everything will turn into dust. The stars will die and the universe will turn into a homogeneous mass of radiation known as heat death.

    There is only one thing that doesn’t follow this law of entropy and that is life. I’m not talking about individual plants and animals but life as a whole. Life as one organism. Life has evolved from simple low ordered state to very high ordered state and it will continue to do this. I call this the law of life or the force of evolution.

    The force of evolution is opposite to the force of entropy and both forces make the universe work. The eventual end of the universe won’t be either entirely with the force of entropy or with the force of evolution but all this is metaphysical speculation. I wanted to talk about the use of this theory in our lives.

    Laziness is the main manifestation of law of entropy in us. When we are lazy, in a way we stop living and are just dying very very slowly. The manifestation of force of evolution is discipline. When we make ourselves do what we want to do in spite of feeling lazy, we are truly living because we are with life and with evolution. Anything that makes us grow is with life. And growth comes from working and work is done by discipline.

    When you feel happy while growing its because you are in sync with the life force. When you are lazy you feel comfortable because on the level of matter you are in your element by being with the force of entropy but you feel anxiety because you are not with the force of evolution which is your real element. We are life not just matter.

    The best thing to do is to find a balance between the two forces. I personally always try to be with the force of evolution and make myself work hard. I enjoy working hard because when eventually I rest a bit I don’t feel anxiety about it. I enjoy when I’m being lazy because I do it not more than one day a week.

    You want to create things and grow and I think you should do it as much as you can. It will be easy to do such things if you’ll consciously choose to be with the force of evolution and not with the force of entropy.

    Comment by Aditya Thakur — January 16, 2013 @ 21:24

  2. This guy has a good one. Better than meditation, called the techniques of self knowledge. But the stuff he says can help- Worth a look. http://www.wopg.org/en/about/prem-rawat/glimpses

    Comment by Huppe Smith — January 17, 2013 @ 01:02

  3. […] I’ve been thinking about Dave Pollard’s blog post titled, “Want To Want To” in which he describes the tension between activities we actually want to do and activities that we […]

    Pingback by The Mindful Process of Growing — January 18, 2013 @ 11:03

  4. Yup, I have the same problem. I started a yoga regime recently which lasted for a couple of weeks. Every time I commenced the postures I kept asking myself “why am I doing this?” My answers were abstract and without urgency and so unsatisfactory.

    So I gave them up and thought little more about them. Then during a gardening session – I grow some of my own vegetables organically in my back garden – I stretched to reach a weed. As I did so, it reminded me of one of the yoga postures that I used to practise. “There’s my answer” I thought. The postures by themselves are ‘work’ because they are unconnected with any purposeful act (ignoring any meditative intention). Because I want to grow organic vegetables the physical activity that is considered the work part in achieving that end is actually not seen as such, it is a necessary journey to reach my desired destination.

    This is the problem we have today, this disconnectedness of activities. In truth, nobody wants to work hard, they want to PLAY hard – an entirely different concept.

    Comment by Ivor Tymchak — January 20, 2013 @ 06:53

  5. oh,What is missing here is an understanding that there is a “sweet spot” in all of us and everything but it is achieved only when we stop seeking it consciously. It is there inside of us but thinking is not the way to get there. Only by seeing the world with your heart alone and accepting that the only power we have is choosing how we react. Is the world not perfect just as it is? What do you (we) need to save? Are you not wonderful just as you are? Who are you trying to satisfy?
    Seeking your own dynamic harmony where you are in a state of balance between a vibrant sense of motivation and urgency and the state of exhaustion you reference is always the goal of enlightened individuals. I feel like you may be talking about ennui, a term not often used, but one which covers that state of mind or being where the pure joy of living is blunted by other preoccupations or exhaustions. You may enjoy a masterpiece of dealing with this state of mind by looking at, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlighenment” by Thaddeus Golas, 1972. He was a Polish survivor of the age of psychedelia and I think he got it right. It is a very short book and may have been the only thing he wrote that many people continue to read.Ch.4,Lifesavers(http://freespace.virgin.net/sarah.peter.nelson/lazyman/lazyman4.html) gives you a way to avoid becoming trapped in any mental loop you may find yourself in if you start having a “bad trip”.
    Another good one is Viktor Frankel, who wrote “The Will to Meaning”. Frankel survived the Nazi concentration camps and explains very well how we provision ourselves against giving up hope.
    If you live only in your mind, and you possess a relentless work ethic, then you exhaust your emotional and spiritual capital (to mix my metaphors), and unless you accept that there is already a state of perfect dynamic harmony at work in the universe, you will bump up against the wall of the sense that there is no rest, no repose, and no perfection.
    As Garrison Keillor says, “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use your manifold talents to your best ability, while you have the opportunity to do so. Don’t let the bastards grind you down. Or your own sense of obligation to save humanity from itself.
    We are all pilgrims on the path,and until folks use their hearts and minds to choose the good, we will deceive ourselves in the vain attempt to gratify only our egos. Until we rediscover that there is a dynamic harmony which underlies how the natural world actually works, we will be locked in our anthropomorphic view of seeing everything only by our own limited I-sight.

    Comment by bart raguso — January 20, 2013 @ 07:13

  6. Try HoloSync and aikido.

    Comment by sophia scholar — January 20, 2013 @ 22:17

  7. If it helps…The only way I made my meditation practice regular was when I made it uncompromisable and near top priority. I could not ask myself if I was going to do it today, but when. I suppose it comes from seeing the value of it, how much it has changed others and applying that to how much it could change oneself.

    Comment by Michelle — January 21, 2013 @ 19:29

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