I’m coming to you from my porch. It’s where I’ve done a lot of my work, a lot of my ruminating, and a lot of my living these past few weeks. With more time to think and reflect, I found myself spending hours out here questioning my own contentment and satisfaction in life. This pandemic has brought lots into question for me, much of it pertaining to the ways in which I seek happiness.
Up until now, I’ve been tethered to the idea that joy is a product of achievement. Attainment of promotions, straight A’s, new shoes, more likes, less fat. And while I don’t fully discount the validity of those goals, I think that what we achieve ultimately separates fulfillment from lack thereof.
It’s easy to feel unproductive, lazy, and under fulfilled in times like these. I feel it and I’m sure you feel it. And while I agree that it’s okay to feel that way, and that we should lean into it at times, I do question why those feelings persist. The deeper I get into that inquisition, the more I wonder if the reason we are no longer fulfilled or content, is because we are so far removed from desire. True desire. In fact, a better word would be need.
My theory is that much of our current unfulfillment, hopelessness, and lack of drive can be attributed to the fact that we no longer need to do anything.
As it stands, the dirt-under-our-fingernails, asleep-by-sunset, gloriously-sore survival tasks that were the cornerstone of life and fulfillment not long ago are obsolete in the face of technology and advancement. Given everything on a silver platter, we seldom put in the type of work that makes us feel truly fulfilled and responsible for ourselves. Most of the actions we do are wholly unnecessary, or purely for pleasure, and we seem to think that’s the way it ought to be. With jobs far removed from the physical product of labour and pastimes achieving little but momentary satisfaction, I understand why I often lack feeling a true sense of accomplishment. I think what I crave, what I need, is stake in my days. The glory that comes from purposeful living. The fire that comes from survival.
Perhaps I’m idealizing a simpler time. Perhaps I’m overlooking some fundamental human condition, or discounting the benefit of living such a progressive life. But I will say, that although we have so much to be grateful for, these feelings of disconnection and unfulfillment have been running rampant since long before the pandemic, and I’m not too sure that’s okay.
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, however I’m not sure how we are to find that deep-inside-our-bones fulfillment when we have all we need. But I’m willing to take suggestions.