I’ve been interested in vir-words for some time now. Virtuoso. Virility. Virtuousness. How to better oneself (and the implied “What is wrong with me”)?
I’ve had a few instances of deep uncertainty – usually following what I expected would be resounding personal successes. My first solo art show at 18 was possibly the loudest. Other scenarios include a season of Don Juanism, an impeccable report card or a stint of hyper-sociability – none of which fit me well. The uncertainty would settle-in once my ego’s will was accomplished and I found that my soul was unfed. That which I thought I wanted proved itself to be empty. Vanity. Qliphoth.
If what I wanted wasn’t what I wanted, what was I to do?
It ultimately led to a scepticism regarding the notion of happiness. The sentiment was crystalized on a beautiful sumer afternoon at my friend’s cottage, turning red from laughing and thinking to myself: “This can never last, my mood will tip as if on a fulcrum. Savour it.” My approach changed; I seek a calm sea now rather than an ever-higher summit.
My internship mentor, the rev’d Donald Boisvert, has a good expression regarding the next step: “What feeds you?” It implies that our psyches are different, and that we are not all moved or excited about the same things. Within it is implied the age-old γνῶθι σεαυτόν, Know Thyself. It shifted my attention from wants to likes.
I remember my best friend in grade 11 telling me how she didn’t have idols, only herself. The thought resonated. Why should I want to be who someone else already is? Want what they want? It’s more interesting watching that which feeds us come to fruition over time. That isn’t to say that admiration or mentors are bad, but rather envy.
Ultimately, self-actualization seems to come most readily when it is not being chased. It takes wu wei, and isn’t defined as clearly in the broadf strokes of your life as the continual small ones.