With every advance, every step forward, we also walk from something. Technological innovations really have brought us so much that makes our lives measurably better in so many ways. But unless we remain vigilant and active, we also lose something; something essential about being human. When faced the earlier inconveniences and troubles, each generation of every culture across time was called upon to respond. Each would struggle and wrestle and adapt, beautifully and creatively, and offer their own unique answers to what it means to live in the world. We learn something essential when we are faced with things that are difficult and uncomfortable, unreasonable and unfair. So we should seek them out. As things become easier, there is great benefit to looking for ways to push ourselves and to disrupt our comfort and routine. Not for public show. Not so that we have something interesting to add to our resumes. But so that we may shock or disturb our assumptions. In his “Concluding Unscientific Postscript”, Kierkegaard wrote:.
I sat and smoked my cigar until I lapsed into thought … “You are going on,” I said to myself, “to become an old man, without being anything and without really undertaking to do anything. . . . [W]herever you look about you . . . you see the many benefactors of the age who know how to benefit mankind by making life easier and easier, some by railways, others by omnibuses and steamboats, others by the telegraph, others by easily apprehended compendiums and short recitals of everything worth knowing, and finally the true benefactors of the age who make spiritual existence in virtue of thought easier and easier, yet more and more significant. And what are you doing?” . . . [S]uddenly this thought flashed through my mind: “You must do something, but inasmuch as with your limited capacities it will be impossible to make anything easier than it has become, you must . . . undertake to make something harder.” This notion pleased me immensely. . . . I conceived it as my task to create difficulties everywhere.
What do you do to deliberately create difficulties in your own life? To slow things down? To become a beginner again? If you can find ways to make things harder, you will feel yourself more alive, and discover new and fresh answers to that recurring question “what does it mean to be alive?”. (A few ideas here)
©2017 John Albert Doyle, Jr.