A slow Sunday. Sunny. I find myself in a contemplative mood. Listening to Miles Davis and sipping espresso in a local hangout. It feels as though my mind has been in a continuous idle hum since yesterday, having spent the greater part of the day delving into Rogers and Maslow. A great deal to consider. I anticipate that much of what I’m about to say here is a remix of ideas introduced in previous posts (some dating back almost to the inception of this project). Sometimes, we all need to hear ourselves say things differently.
My mind turns to what it means to have a true zest for life. An unshakeable desire to live.
…even if I knew the world was coming to an end anyway, I’d still keep fighting. I think if I were dropped out of a plane into the ocean and told the nearest land was a thousand miles away, I’d still swim. And I’d despise anyone who gave up. – A. H. Maslow
I realize that, at some point (I don’t exactly know when.), I cultivated within myself a similar unwavering desire to live. I ask myself if this is solely a matter of values–of a pursuit of beauty, truth, the wisdom of the senses, freedom of intellect and expression, etc. Yes and no. Equally important to me is the certitude that I am, in Maslow’s words, “cause and creator.” That the ability to experience the fullness of life comes from within. That I am enough. Upon further reflection, I am still certain that the simple joy of experiencing myself is at the root of this zest for life. The pursuit of all the little pots of gold. The little rewards of being alive. The treasures embedded in the everyday.
The self-perceived roots of my humanness, the awareness and awe of self, are at the center of my will to live. My gratitude for being alive, my personal desire to flourish, and my acceptance of and affection for other human beings. My creatureliness. Bare bones. The most profound aesthetic experience I know. This brings me back to Octavio Paz and the notion that aesthetic pleasure need not be an isolated experience, but one that can and should be an integral part of the day-to-day. Perhaps the most emotionally charged point of connection I’ve found with the humanists, Maslow in particular.
I imagine myself in the kitchen. In those moments in which I need no further proof that life is beautiful, miraculous, and complete. And worth fighting for right up until the moment it snuffs itself out. And, I am grounded in the knowledge that I create, or co-create, those moments with my own hands. Contentment. Expansion. Wholeness. Maslow says “high peakers” have experiences like this. (Although, he also says most folks who have peak experiences are in their 50s and 60s–or older. Not sure about that.) These practical applications of creativity have a religious quality. They’re not just pleasant. They matter. They’re filling.
I think this is the reason I find scientific and/or clinical language increasingly irksome (as I’ve mentioned previously). Too detached. Not humanizing. No regard for beauty. Nothing of experience. The more I read, the more it upsets me. Maslow wanted to humanize the language. (He should have hired a poet or other literary type to aid him in that endeavor.) I am coming to understand that I’m more of a humanist (in a formal sense) than even I realized. Go figure. I am also beginning to believe those things that happen in laboratories are only useful insofar as I can make them beautiful; and, I can only make them beautiful if I can make them mine. If I can live them. Call them what I choose, take responsibility for them as they pertain to me, and embed them in my actions. I am, then, cause and creator. I am artful. More than that, I am responsible. A fusion of beauty and utility. Otherwise, too detached. And, I remain as an object. And, what of the potential self Rogers speaks of–the person I sense I can be, the person I am becoming? Must be beautiful. No room for paltry language. No miracles in this kind of thinking. No magic. No celebration of life. No fullness. No pots of gold. People who think this way only operate in only one dimension, and I have a hard time taking them seriously, even if their brains are big.
A thought: zest for life comes from a fusion of values and experience, from opening the doors to both dimensions of reality. Another thought: does it matter if most of these ideas aren’t entirely original? Not as long as I’ve succeeded in making them mine.