The romantic self – The World is not Enough

Here I talk about being pulled in many directions by my desires and the struggle to live a life in such a state.

‘It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight truly is desperate’

Joseph Campbell, Hero of a Thousand Faces

I’m a little bit of a romantic, so I love the stories that follow the Heroes Journey style. You know the standard good vs evil story structure. The call to action, threshold guardian, trials battles etc.

There have been moments when I was younger I imagined myself in a fantasy or Sci-Fi universe. I asked the question of myself. ‘Given a choice where would I rather be?’ The real or the virtual world?

Caspar David Friedrich – Wanderer above the sea of fog

There have been moments where I couldn’t decide. A part of me would choose these virtual worlds over the real I see before me. Stories on TV, literature and film can affect me like this because I feel what the protagonist feels.

It’s not just fantastical stories that inspire me. Stories of survival like Shackleton, discoveries of science like Galileo, or artists like the Impressionists.

True stories of people who went in search of answers or to change the world. These stories cover all the values that matter to me. Courage, meaning, purpose, self-expression. 

It may sound silly, childish, fanciful even to want the fantasy, not the reality. But I have to accept it’s a part of me.

In this universe, we have foolish politicians, environmental damage. Self-serving big businesses, inequality, bigotry, prejudice, racism you name it. The worst aspects of humanity seem to be everywhere. So much it seems there is nothing we can do about it.

There’s a danger here of falling into despondency and pessimism. No longer caring about life, anyone but your gratification. Just enough possessions, wealth and mindless entertainments to keep ourselves distracted from the aching feeling inside that our lives mean nothing.

In recent years I have felt fed up with work in my life. Truly feeling I don’t want to do this job anymore. I have tried going on a holiday, but that only makes me feel better in the short term.

The problem is more fundamental. Not enough change.

It is the same old routine. Which I despise more because I need the money so I have to work. I feel like I am trapped in this job.

How some people can just walk away from a job and go travelling around the world I don’t know. I am not that brave nor that flush with funds. But I feel the longing, the desire to do something similar. To just walk away and go and find my dreams and create them.

I am already doing something to realise them, my art and writing, but I have not had any success.

So I have one foot free, but the other is stuck in the mud. 

It’s the feeling that you are not living a life that follows your values or working to towards a goal you find meaningful.

In a sense, we outgrow our circumstances. Like a plant that needs re-potting.

In the stories, I read the people make a difference. They fight, struggle, fail, and succeed. It’s not as if the battles they fought are easy. But you stand side by side with your friends. Your enemies in front of you. There’s nowhere else you would rather be.

They also love passionately and live the same. It’s so much more interesting, more intense on-screen or in a novel.

I want to be the one that fight the battles, destroys the enemies and wins the girl at the end.

These are the stories I like the most. You know where you stand. You have clarity. You know what you fight for, and why. You know it’s a worthy cause.

I’m not blind to such idealism, romanticism. I do look harder and I see flaws in it. Such stories ignore the messiness of life, the boredom that is part of every story.

But this how I feel sometimes. The world is not a fairy-tale, I get it. But the thing is, a part of me wants it sometimes.

Why do I want it so badly?

‘The World is Not Enough’

Motto of James Bond

What is it that drives me forward?

It’s not enough. This world. Who I am, where I am it’s not enough. Not enough connection, not enough knowledge, not enough success, not enough security, not enough love wealth, power etc.

No wonder I’m running around a lot, relentless, restless. So are many of us. Desperately seeking something that we feel is missing. Or perhaps it’s like an itch you can’t scratch, a wound that does not heal.

Because I need more than this. I need to know and to believe that things can be better than this.

I don’t just want to live, I want to thrive. To simply exist is not enough.

It’s not money, it helps but it’s not the answer. Having possessions isn’t either, though they make a welcome distraction. They are means to an end not an end in itself. No, it’s something else.

Some of us choose organised religion, others dabble philosophy, others seek answers through science. But what unites us all, is that we are all searching for meaning.

This is perhaps the ‘spiritual’ journey we all take. The search for something more than what we can see, touch, taste, and smell.

So both reality and dreams are not enough. It seems we’re in a bit of a pickle.

We have been given the means to ask the question, but not find the answers.

We may never find what we are seeking, but perhaps that does not matter, it’s the journey, that matters.

Because of this perpetual dissatisfaction we feel driven to change. This life is no longer enough.

What we have then is a passionate longing that drives us forward.

That is how to live a genuinely authentic life, as opposed to the fake, fraudulent one we seem to live. Succumbing to vice and distraction instead of doing the work we need to do.

For so long I have feared this passion and kept it bottled up. Fear of the feelings it gave me, fear what others might think of me.

Now more than at any time I want to see where it leads me. The screaming desire inside, that unconquerable piece of myself that will not, cannot give up.

Wanting to find out who I am, what I’m capable of, a life I’m proud of. That calling, it does not go away. Why can’t it just be quiet and leave me in peace?

In Heroes Journey terms it’s the Call to Adventure/Action? The part of the story where the hero is thrust out of their comfort zone or called to leave due to some great need. The ordinary world is no longer enough. 

It’s maddening and seductive. Could I become the person I have always wanted to be?

I often don’t notice due to distractions, but there are times I feel so strongly. So intensely I can’t describe it in words easily.

Sometimes I want to run, to run so hard and so fast that I collapse in exhaustion.

Sometimes I want to laugh so much, to feel the giddy, and childlike. So much joy and bliss in brings tears to my eyes. At other times I want to cry so bad to feel that sadness and despair.

Other times its insight, about meaning, purpose, connection, knowledge, a eureka moment. 

Those moments I have are pure bliss when I see things in a new light, the scales fall from my eyes.  This is the agony and ecstasy of existence. A feeling of wanting to fly apart, to be unleashed, to let your desires out without restriction. (‘The dreams in which I’m dying‘ I call it).

It’s not all courage and skill either. Sometimes I don’t want to be strong. I want to feel afraid, vulnerable and doubtful and not be upset by being so. Because that is also part of the human experience.

It means learning to be comfortable with discomfort. If our desires never go away then the only we can do is to accept them.

All this desire and passion scares me. I feel afraid to lose control, to upset others. To make a mistake or make a fool of myself. This feeling is primal, wild. It’s something modern society grinds out of us. 

I want to be free from holding myself back so much, through fear, shame and anxiety of what would happen if I did.

I now want to take the difficult path, I know it will be tough. Full of fear, and doubt, but I have to do this. My greatest fear now is that I don’t have what it takes. Not the courage, determination, patience, focus and all the rest.

Tranquillity and harmony

With all this desire for more feeling, there’s another desire that undercuts is. To be free from that passion, to be at peace.

The desperate desire to not be so desperately desiring.

To be free of all this wanting. How do we find peace in such a state where we are always wanting more or less, never satisfied?

It’s exhausting all that effort and work to try and realise those dreams. I want to be free of desire.

Of course, this is just another form of desire.

To live in this perpetual state of wanting and struggle and still find a way to live with some joy and happiness in life.

Limbo and uncertainty

Where we find ourselves is in a perpetual state of desiring, for more or less, For change or, for the same. Fear to stay, fear to go.

There is a danger here, however. The danger of perpetual dissatisfaction.

A feeling of being torn in different directions. The old ways no longer work, no longer satisfy. This is where a lot of us find ourselves, in those shitty jobs, we want to leave, but we are afraid to do so. In between two places, two worlds. The one here, that we don’t want to be in, and the one we desire, the future.

This is the Limbo place, the place in between. A Liminal place.

That limbo place is the chasm we are afraid to cross. Too afraid to go forwards, but also go back.

This is what it is to be human. We will never be free of desire. It will never be enough. 

It means learning to be comfortable with discomfort. If our desires never go away then the only thing we can do try to find happiness alongside them.

‘This is the job’ as I like to say. This is what life is. Wanting more, but also wanting to be happy with what we have. A life that accepts both passion and peace.

The only thing to do is let go trying to control everything. Accept that you can’t control your desires.

Such letting go is hard for us because it feels like we’re surrendering. It’s difficult because we often seek perfection, efficiency, being right, being good. Anything less feels like we’re a failure, yet to accept what you can’t change is a sign of wisdom, not a defeat.

Allowing mystery, feelings and random chance to play a part in our lives makes them more amazing, more of the adventure we are looking for.

It’s here we need to be kinder to ourselves. For facing such difficulties and not doing so well. Forgive yourself for getting in a rut for not having the life you imagine, it happens to us all and is supposed to happen.

We all want to be successful, and happy to have a life full of meaning. It’s the part of us that dreams big, my desire for glory undiminished, still not letting me rest. The part that still has to hope things can get better.

But always there, lurking in the back, that part that wants to give up. Another desire is the need to find peace and harmony, to stop the struggle.

Our dreams and hopes are a double-edged sword, they lift us with visions of grand adventures and achievements, but that desire also leaves us never satisfied and perpetually unhappy.

To live then is to suffer either way. Wanting more, wanting less, to go, and to stay, to not wanting at all.

It’s hard to live like this, this place in-between.

The only solution I have found to accept it. To be less hard on ourselves for the mistakes of our failures and mistakes, and realise it’s all part of being human. It what makes life more interesting.

The world is not enough, or it’s too much. What’s important is learning how to find happiness amongst all this confusion and uncertainty.

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