Last night I had a dream set in The Structure. The Structure is an all indoor world, with shopping districts, living districts, manufacturing districts, etc. It’s very antiseptic and manufactured, like living inside a huge mall, except there are no windows. For all intents and purposes, there is no outside.
In these dreams I am generally on a quest. This time I was part of a team looking for parts to repair the failing systems of The Structure. There was a problem. I had no idea what was broken, nor even if I had, how to fix any of it. The others in my group knew I was useless and were trying to distance themselves from me. Somehow, even if they were able to find the piece to fix the problem, having me in the group would bring us all down.
Not only was my world literally falling apart around me, but even if it were to be fixed, I was getting ostracized. Being on one’s own in The Structure is as much a death sentence as all the systems failing.
Thankfully my bladder woke me up before anything happened.
I think that dream bubbled up from all the external sources of soul searching I’ve been ingesting.
Over the past couple days I’ve been listening to the most recent episode of the Art of Manliness podcast (ep. 518 “The Quest for a Moral Life”). The quest, David Brooks, discusses his book Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, in which he proposes that there are two stages—mountains—in life. The first is the one in which we build up ourselves, get an education, a career, a family, etc., and the second is the one in which we switch to a more outward focus, serving others, community, religion/philosophy, etc. He believes a lot of the ennui and existential angst comes from focusing too much on the first mountain and not the second.
This spoke to me. I, like many people, feel more and more isolated and unmoored. I know that there is more to life, there was a time when I woke up looking forward to the day ahead, but somehow that’s gone. Yet, I haven’t a clue what to do about it.
Like with any other question, I’ve Googled the problem and received millions of answers, each one as plausible as the last. Books, magazines, blogs, YouTube videos, podcasts, I try the ones that speak to me, and many seem to say my very life, but none of them work, not for long.
It’s too much. It’s overwhelming.
(enough with what “they” think. it’s time to learn what we think. no more classes. no more workshops. no more self-help.)
Yeah, that sounds all fine and good, and I’m sure I read/heard it in one of the many things I’ve tried. Thing is, going away to the cave to be alone and meditate isn’t the answer either. I need my alone time, but too much of that is just as bad as too much information pouring in from all over.
There has to be some middle ground. The Greeks probably have some term for it, a middle way, a moderation between the internal and external guidance in the quest for the good life.
(but isn’t that looking for an answer outside?)
Yeah, but whatever “answer” I get will come from both without and within. I put the word answer in quotes because I don’t believe there is any one answer. Possibly an answer that works right now, but not necessarily in a week, month, year, etc. Or, who knows, maybe there is. Maybe the problem is I haven’t asked the right question to understand the answer.
(or maybe the pendulum is just too far to one side at the moment.)
Perhaps. And if that’s the case, is there even a way to get the pendulum to stay closer to the middle? That is, work towards a type of Stoic or Buddhist state. Or is that the human condition—my human condition—and I need to accept the arc, because it is what defines me.
(but aren’t both of those kinda the same thing?)
Hmmm. Probably. I’m quite confused now. I think I’m going to stop while I’m ahead.