We, moderns, are so obsessed with achieving that even leisure is required to have a purpose. To serve as “recharging”, so that one can do even more achieving! Yet, this is a form of recharging just to drain yourself again.
Living in order to work
It is as if modernity has flipped matters on its head. Rather than doing some dreary activity (e.g. working) in order to do more fun things, we do the opposite. Many engage in the fun and more interesting only in order that they may achieve more. All the while forgetting that the very thing they call ‘achievement’, is a dull and elusive idea. An elusive idea based on the postponement of fulfilment to a future date that never really comes.
It is true that we may need to work so that we may live. But, we are now in danger of living in order to work. The former, born of necessity, is quite understandable, but the latter is most peculiar — even disturbing! I sense this attitude even when I see people running in our (very gentrified) park. It is as if they are running to save their souls — desperately trying to tick yet another box on the list of things that the success-worthy modern must do.
How you relate
Don’t get more wrong, exercise is great and we must remind ourselves to do more since were aren’t hunter-gatherers that benefit from organic physical activity, particularly during a pandemic. That’s not the point here.
The point is about your relationship to the exercise or the leisure activity — running, yoga, whatever! Is it an enjoyable thing that you do with full immersion for its own sake? Or, are you running in order to get somewhere? In order to recharge, so that you can continue draining yourself chasing status achievement? Achievement that you hope will one day allow you to feel good about yourself, all the while missing that you are robbing yourself of the present.
What lies behind recharging just to drain yourself
All this only betrays an existential self-doubt — doubt in the fundamental sufficiency of your being, just as you are. So, we run after all manner of things to prove it.
Status achievement to the modern adult is what grades are to the school child. Neither has any intrinsic value, but are accomplishments that we cling to, in order to confirm our own self-worth. Self-worth that we doubt so much. Many accomplishments are often fake indicators that we elevate above the actual things of value themselves. For example, grades above true scholarship and status achievements above inner fulfilment. Yet, when everyone does it, everyone follows. So, you see, the conditioning is very deep.
Breaking free of recharging just to drain yourself
Breaking free begins with noticing the absurdity of such living. The absurdity of re-charging just to drain yourself. Of running and running, but never reaching. Once this absurdity is glimpsed, liberation comes from allowing yourself to really feel the wonder of every moment, no matter what you do. To feel the freedom that comes from really letting go of the need to prove yourself through achievement.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.