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Compulsion

by Richard Hartwell


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When hate is in the seeds, you can only harvest weeds. Ernst Jünger, The Glass Bees
Injoined hands there is hope; in a clenched fist, none. Victor Hugo, Toilers of the Sea
An eye for an eye only ends up making the world blind. Mohandas Gandhi, The Mahatma

What is this compelling need I have to structure my life in minute detail? Why do I insist on establishing goals and hurdles and thresholds to surpass? When will I ever think that it is time to go gently with the flow of the day, enjoying each moment for just its own value?

I like the push and pull of pressure against myself, the external demand to excel placed upon me, rather that which I demand and place upon myself. So very much of my life has been driven, not so much by a need to succeed as by a need to strive. It is certainly not in the attainment that I find satisfaction, for I merely establish another goal immediately thereafter, but in the journey itself. It is almost like the enjoyment received from rowing a boat; the journey serves as the purpose of the trip, but each lap of oar and every spreading vee of progress buoys up the boat and traveler, both.

I set personal goals for publication, not so much to achieve such publication as to force myself into the writing process. Perhaps much of all else I do is structured in this same way. I take and teach classes and courses in order to make myself stretch. It's not the far shore towards which I am striving. It’s not the safe haven of landfall to which I row the boat of my life. Rather, it's the exertion of the external exercise that provides a rhumb line for my existence.

I will continue to shove off. I will continue to maintain the cadence of my stroke. I will continue to endure the strain of the effort I impose upon myself. I will continue to nurture the calluses of strong effort. I will continue to go fishing; as Thoreau noted, not so much to fish, but to go, to travel, however near or far; to enjoy the journey, to enjoy the day; and, to enjoy myself at the process of work.

 


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