To strive
July 2, 2011

‘…I walked on aimlessly. I had no motives, no incentives to exert myself, no duties. Life tasted horribly bitter.’

Steppenwolf

In his deepest of miseries Harry Haller doesn’t mourn the loss of love or money. He doesn’t talk about sadness or futility. Harry complains of losing his motivation and the misery of life with no purpose or duty.¬† If you never had to strive for anything, ever again, what would life be like?

Ask someone who has achieved their dream, it’s not likely they have put their feet up in contentedness. Ask an heir or a lotto winner, what it’s like to have instant gratification for every desire. Ask someone who got somewhere by default, how it feels to receive a status not earned. Religion and philosophy doesn’t guide you to a place not where you can achieve pure and constant happiness, but to a place where you can be your best you, so that you can keep on achieving.

Maslow’s Hierarchy talks about life in a set of stages describing the ultimate stage as a state of self-actualisation. Beyond that, it becomes about the self-actualised individual achieving their fullest potential. Maslow’s pyramid was not about achieving happiness. It was not about achievement as an end, or any end point. Rather it was about defining forward movement. Striving for things, power, relationships, experiences, status, enlightenment or knowledge is where happiness, satisfaction or even success lies.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said ‘Life is a journey, not a destination‘. You succeed or you fail, you try again, try something else. The point is you don’t stop trying. Pure and constant bliss is not what appears on the top of Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Happiness¬† is not the point at which at we stop, it’s the by-product of forward movement.

‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’

Tennyson