Calvin: ‘My elbows are grass-stained I've got sticks in my hair I'm covered with bug bites and cuts and scratches...
I've got sand in my socks and leaves in my shirt my hands are sticky with sap and my shoes are soaked!
I’m hot dirty sweaty itchy and tired.
I say consider this day seized!
Tomorrow we'll seize the day and throttle it!’ - Calvin and Hobbes
In an article on Tough Mudders it explains how office workers are subjecting themselves to assault courses involving cold water, electric shocks and more.
Are these people masochists? Do they desire to suffer? Or is there something more going on here?
You might wonder what could draw people to such experiences.
But, it struck a chord with me because I understand why. Many times I’ve felt empty inside. With a desire to feel something, passion, pleasure, pain, power.
But why is it that so many of us feel so bereft of vitality, intensity?
There are times when I just don’t feel connected to the world or even my own body.
This feeling of isolation, disconnection happens to all of us.
The economics of the modern age leaves the individual as just a cog in a giant machine. Society in so many ways leaves us feeling worthless, powerless and alienated.
Our information-saturated world compels us to live inside our heads a lot. Decision, choices, evaluating, assessing. It’s like we no longer inhabit our bodies anymore, we’re just a brain that thinks.
If it’s not thinking then our emotions are the problem. Wild, out of control and often unpleasant. We avoid them when possible, so we become unable to face even minor forms of suffering. Or we bottle them up in a desperate need to feel in control.
Our bodies hurt, and pulse, ache, throb, butterflies in the stomach, racing heart, sweaty palms, such sensations are hard to accept.
Science plays a part too. It tries to explain the universe in a dispassionate, objective way. Therefore, it comes across as somewhat removed from the reality we have to face.
Through distraction such as TV internet, we can also ignore reality.
It’s no wonder in many ways feel detached from the visceral reality of life, a pale shadow of the pulsing, beating reality of existence.
We feel cut off from life so much that we end up feeling numb and empty.
It explains then why some people seek out the thrill of living through sports, exercise, and tough mudders. Such intensity of pain, cold, heat, wind, rain, water and mud reminds us we’re alive.
It doesn’t always have to be extreme sports but the point is the numbness is overcome by diving into life. To feel the low highs and lows that make life ….. life.
This is what I call Passionate Entanglement.
You don’t have to look deeply or too far to see that PA is because it’s about connection. It’s how nature works.
The interconnected interpenetrating, woven reality, in constant flux.Nature, ecosystems, the water cycle, the evolutionary struggle, society, even ourselves etc. Life is an immersive experience.
So it’s not so much about individual objects but relationships with each other.
It’s why we are fond of stories, they tell us the same.Stories are about Passionate Entanglement. They all involve passionate people. The protagonist is immersed in the world, they make, waves set things in motions, fix problems. They live and breath, love, and hate. Try, fail and try again.
This is what the Greek called Thumos, the ‘spiritedness’, a desire that’s part of our lives.
It’s their struggle, the hopes, dreams, triumphs and failures that make stories so compelling.
We recognise that we need to live life to the full as our heroes and role models do.
How to live Passionately Entangled?
‘Eat drink an be merry for tomorrow we die’
In part a sensual delight of foods, and drink, of dance, sex, music, the natural world, all to be enjoyed.
But it’s not just about the indulging of the senses like a hedonist.
It’s also about meaning and purpose. It’s what gets us out of bed, to learn, grow, to reach out. The source of our motivation and desire.
PA is not just about how we live life, but why we live at all.
Meaning is not to be found outside of ourselves an objective set of ideas handed to us. It’s something we create. It’s to remember that the living of life is not is some book or theory.
It is often our failure and catastrophes that mean the most.
This place is evocative for us, it’s the place of transformation and destruction, but also the promise of creation.
What we seek, growth, power success, wisdom, they all require Passionate Entanglement.
‘We must Go where angels fear to tread’
To be brave and push out of comfort zones. Terra Incognita, the uncharted, unknown lands.. Facing the world and ourselves, a Reckoning. To be a Player, not a Spectator.
It’s why we are often drawn to danger, the wilderness, artistic pursuits, extreme sports. To live life and really feel it and try to capture something of that experience.
It’s like Albert Camus says. ‘Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears’.
This is where Tough Mudders come back into the picture. It’s a way for individuals to reconnect with life. A way to feel emotion, feel alive, and powerful.
It’s one example of a backlash against the forces of this world that leave us feeling less than human.
To me its a lesson. We must live viscerally engaged with life. To live fully is to live in with agony and ecstasy, not the bland, rational, unfeeling numbness.
Life is a participatory exercise, heart pound, your pulse quicken, your hands tremble. The agony, and the ecstasy.
Nietzsche had the same idea. In his book the Birth of Tragedy, he lays out the importance of the god Dionysus. Whose existence is suffering and passion is a lesson for us. It’s here he opposes the practice of Socrates who only seek to deflate, destroy and neglect human life.
Dionysus is a life-affirming idea, of the pleasure, pain, joy, sadness that make life what it is.
It’s a ‘yes-saying’ attitude. Like a Yes Man.
The key to a happy life is to love it, with all its brokenness, it’s highs and lows. It’s about accepting life in its entirety. Nietzsche’s idea of Amor Fati. ‘Love your fate’.
It’s reaffirming this life as important.
This is what Passionate Entanglement is about. If this sounds a lot like sex, it’s deliberate. Your purpose is to f*ck life. Libido then is far more than the desire for sex, it’s a desire for life a ‘lust for life’.
Think of it as the passionate desire to feel a part of this life, as opposed to a feeling that’s alienated, separate. A life fully engaged, entwined. i.e. sex.
We shy away from the passion because it feels so unsettling like we’re losing control of ourselves. We want to avoid getting ourselves dirty in the muddy chaos of the world.
But suffering and pain can be amazing sources of growth provided you know how to harness it.
Our suffering can give us amazing insight, and help us empathise with others. So we can offer compassion and advice to those who also suffer.
The Need For Balance
‘Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.’Soren Kierkegaard
All this talk of passion and desire could be seen as suggesting we leave behind rationality. But I don’t see it that way.
I’m not advocating we abandon logic and reason, but see it as balancing with our passions. It’s the extremes that are dangerous and we are often pushed towards them.
We can’t live half an existence so we must accept that rationality has its place too.
Therefore the middle way is the aim.
I write this post because society in many ways drives us to disconnect from our desires. It’s a recognition that in some ways go too far towards facts and figures.
Life can be about plans, knowledge, thinking, and reason. But this is only a part of the path of life.
We need to feel the naked and raw feelings that course through us. But we also to take a step back every so often and analyse, contemplate, ponder, and plan.
Our isolation and detachment seems more of a problem than ever before as we’re disconnected from nature, each other, and our bodies.
Passionate Entanglement is the re-connection to all that’s has been lost and a strategy to get it back.
It’s a desire to penetrate and merge yourself with something. It’s a life of novelty, adventure, new horizons and challenges.
This is the stuff of life.
The whole process can be, stressful, tantalising, seductive, terrifying, unsettling. Such intensity can’t be sustained for long, but it’s without doubt a part of it.
Why all this intense connection? Because it’s how can gain our highest potential. (When balanced with reason and detachment).
It’s a celebration of being human, and life.
Think of this as a ‘rational case for irrational’. Passionate Entanglement is the answer for those people think too much, hold themselves back, don’t take any risks.
It’s about diving into life and living it to the full. Seeing life not just as a science, but an art.
The purpose is to die with a song in your heart and a roar of triumph on your lips. Knowing that you want to do it all again.
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