I have a friend who has a problem. She doesn’t know how to act. A strange syndrome: rationally, she knows what she should do—takes in the facts, processes them, integrates them—but there lies a disconnect between brain and body, between the thinking and the spirit that moves the flesh. Like a form of paralysis, a spinal cord severed such that the muscles and the mind no longer link up. And it leads to a state of constant inaction. All of her theories are perfect. In theory. But there is no application.
So this friend is on a quest to rectify her oddity, to start marrying practice to theory and acting in the world– not reacting, but acting, with first momentum, impetus, and will. And it’s still not coming. So I gave her some very simple advice:
Tattoo that phrase across the inside of your eyelids, girl, so that every time you shut your eyes and see the pretty pictures in your mind, every time the theories begin to swirl and coagulate, you remember that all your plans are for naught without application. Tattoo it inside of your eyelids so that every time you close your eyes to think through the problem—when tired, when wanting to dwell some more, when wanting to avoid the reality that lies in front of your face—you are forced to snap them back open, stare down the world, and move.
Another dear friend sent me the link to an article on another blog the other day. The piece deals with New Year’s resolutions, and the author recommends we all resolve to “stop sucking”. Sage advice, and boiled down to elegant simplicity. But he delves a bit deeper into his meaning:
“The problem with resolutions and even goals is that they’re a whole lot of talk. To actually achieve or accomplish something, you actually have to do the damn work. Nothing happens overnight and there are no secrets to success. Hard work and determination equate to success. In the gym or otherwise.” ~http://becomethebull.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-year.html
Seems that “stop sucking” is another way of saying “Stop stopping”—or the converse, “Start beginning”—move, and act.
And act violently.
We see the warriors approach then retreat. Their weapons are lowered, and introspection begin—eyes close and thought takes center stage. Visualization of movement, planning of strategy, a choreographed ballet of action upon action. It is constructed. It is projected. And it flows from the neurons into the muscles of the combatants.
Then eyes snap open, and no hesitation remains– the actions flow naturally and logically from the theory, no faltering, questioning, second-guessing or stopping. The violence of action takes center stage. And we see the enemy felled with a simple stroke.
Change is a violent reaction to a passive situation—the disrupting of surrounding comfort, the forceful insertion of energy into one’s environment.
The man who can command, who is by nature a ‘master’, who comes forward with violence in his actions and gestures—what has he to do with making contracts! We do not negotiate with such beings. They come like fate, without cause, reason, consideration, or pretext. They are present as lightning is present, too fearsome, too sudden, too convincing, too ‘different’ even to become merely hated. Their work is the instinctive creation of forms, the imposition of forms. They are the most involuntary and most unconscious artists in existence: where they appear, something new is soon present, a power structure which lives, something in which the parts and functions are demarcated and co-ordinated, in which there is, in general, no place for anything which does not first derive its ‘meaning’ from its relationship to the totality. These men, these born organizers, have no idea what guilt, responsibility, and consideration are. In them that fearsome egotism of the artist is in charge, which stares out like bronze and knows how to justify itself for all time in the ‘work’, just as a mother does in her child.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarasthustra
I hope my friend can mend the spinal cord, reconnect nerves to muscles, weld spirit to flesh, and rejoin theory and practice. I hope the armchair theorist in her—the talk of “what could be and ought to be”—can be replaced with the living, breathing embodiment of what is and deserves to be– “present as lightning is present, too fearsome, too sudden, too convincing, too different even to become merely hated”.
I hope this friend acts violently.
-David A. Johnston