Being alive comes with a list of symptoms. Like the persistence of our breath for a time that seems simultaneously short and much too long. Or that feeling of being in your own body that can be both magnificent and terrifying all at once. Facing the question of what we are, what we have and what we want to become can be overwhelming. It’s always easier to go do something else than to confront the power of your own actions.
It is a lot to deal with, all the time. And as a result, we have simplified our daily experience and become numb to so many things that happen to us.
"Most men and women lead lives at the worst so painful, at the best so monotonous, poor and limited that the urge to escape, the longing to transcend themselves if only for a few moments, is and has always been one of the principal appetites of the soul." – There is a need for chemical vacations from intolerable self-hood." – Aldous Huxley
This quote highlights the universal human desire to transcend our limitations and experience something greater than ourselves. We pursue this in a variety of ways: meditation, catharsis through art, exercise, spending time in nature, religion, psychedelics, etc.
But it also speaks to the human spirit and our capacity for growth and transformation. We always want more, we can see more, but we can’t quite reach it. This is the central paradox of our humanity. And our lives are defined by how much we give in to the madness of pursuing the unattainable.
Sources and Further Reading
Arendt, Hannah, et al. The Human Condition: Second Edition. 2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, 2018.
Huxley, Aldous. Doors of Perception; Heaven and Hell. HarperCollins, 2009.