My mind has been triangulating onto upon a simple idea over time: A lot of life is about the artful, appropriate application of force.
After all, we’re all really just temporary self-perpetuating patterns of energy. We consume food, which gets digested and broken down into energy and building blocks– ATP, proteins, etc. We use these building blocks to rebuild our bodies and we use the energy to quite literally take action– to contract our muscles. The glucose fuels our brain, firing our neurons and so forth. Everything is resource management. We consume energy supplies and we expend that energy through outward expression of force (and for maintenance.)
I’m interested about the expression of all that energy. Children in particular have a lot of it, and I’m always thinking about this when I see them making a lot of noise on public transportation. A part of the weary adult in me gets frustrated and annoyed, naturally. But a large part of me also empathizes. I was a rambunctious child once. One of the noisiest. And I’m trying to get back into that mental state if I can. What was happening? Why was I the way I was? How was I, actually? I don’t seem to remember all the details, or whatever I do remember feels like it’s been subject to the procrustean bed of memory recreation. I don’t think I was intensely active the way sports-playing kids were. I played quite a bit, and I was probably quite loud and noisy while I did. I definitely had a basketball phase where I’d go to the basketball court regularly to shoot hoops, and I’d even practice my dribbling in the area outside my parent’s house– which I’m sure annoyed a bunch of people.
I find myself thinking about what we do to young people who are unruly, messy, and so on. These people are quite literally “leaking energy”– they’re forces of nature, but Mr. Force Of Nature is also a pain in the ass to clean up after. So the parent and teacher would both really appreciate it if he’d just sit his ass down and shut the hell up for a minute.
Here I’m starting to see the value or virtue of the archetypical “Coach”. It could be a football coach, it could be a choir or orchestra conductor… whatever it is, it’s an adult figure who teaches the young person to manage their energies and powers in a constructive, productive manner. Sometimes I feel a little bitter because I feel like I never really had that sort of person in my life. I can’t really point you to a single person I’d call “coach” from my younger days. I got tiny bits and pieces of it from a few older people that I respected, but I probably would’ve benefited tremendously from a more established figure. As I write this, I find myself thinking about a friend who spoke very highly of her softball coach.
And now I’m thinking about how, outside of such coaching, which is really quite precious and rare, we don’t really teach people to express themselves violently. We tell them what they cannot do instead. Don’t talk too much. Don’t be difficult. Don’t be annoying. Don’t be noisy. Don’t mess things up. Don’t break anything. Don’t spoil anything. Don’t be a nuisance.
This is usually less to do with what is best for the child and more to do with what is least troublesome for the adult. Which is understandable. I’m an adult now and I do think that the sensitivities of adults should be considered. Adults have been through a lot more shit than kids, and they have a right to insist on some peace and quiet. But I think kids are particularly easy targets because we tend to think that “they’re not quite people yet”. They can’t drink, they can’t drive, they can’t vote. They’re not quite human. They’re cute little animals. On probation, not fully alive.
When do you learn to fully live? Where do you go? I think, once you’re asking that question, the answer is inside yourself, and everywhere. I’m 25 years old now. I’m ready to be an adult. Part of that means parenting myself, regulating myself. Giving myself the energy and raw materials I need to reconstitute myself and to express myself. And self-expression is always an act of force. It might be a quiet, soft sort of force, but it IS a force. An act of creation is always a sort of violence– it’s violence on the status quo. Creation is always destruction. And in this case it can be necessary to be difficult, to mess things up, to break things, but the point is that you have to break the RIGHT things in pursuit of something that’s better.
If we are to live happy, healthy, fulfilled lives, we need to manage our energy effectively. We are to apply force artfully. If we haven’t been taught, we must learn. Life is short and precious and it shouldn’t be spent anxiously fidgeting. We’re going to have to eat and sleep no matter what just to persist, just to sleepwalk and lumber over to our graves. Why not eat a little healthier, sleep a little tighter, and dance instead? Why not move with a spring in the step? Why not leap, soar, fly?
We can and should let go of all the shackles that we inherited. They weren’t meant to hold us down, they were meant to make life less difficult for the tired people who were entrusted with the responsibility of our survival. Once we recognize this, we can see that we’re wearing some really outdated shackles. Some of them come off just with a little shaking. Others require elaborate lockpicking, which can be really frustrating. But no matter how frustrating it gets, surely it is worse to remain shackled. I know this in my bones– denial of this tends to be a sort of resigned sense of failure. But I get back up again. And I might as well keep doing so until the day comes when I truly cannot.
“Above all, a living thing wants to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power.”