10 November 2020, Denver, Colorado
The brain is always in constant motion – it never turns off. It is either going forward when strategizing or predicting, or it is going backward when it is reminiscing or memorializing. It is an extraordinarily complex, efficient, and organic, navigation system. It is because of this literally incomparable navigation system, humanity (and the rest of the natural world with a nervous system) has survived – “moving” around so as not to be caught standing still and “vulnerable”. I believe so many of us feel vulnerable right now to a tiny microorganism called Covid-19. And what that smallest of parasites has had the power to do is to force many of us to train ourselves to live in the moment.
To fix on the present – to resist movement backward or forward, past or future – places the brain and its possessor in the still point of an otherwise mobile inner world of dreams and memories, regrets and hopes. This can be considered to be the apex of vulnerability. Yet within that vulnerability lies our freedom and growth as a human being and as a species. From the tension created by suspending the brain between past and future, between rumination and speculation, there arises an opportunity of enormous proportion and magnitude. We find ourselves neither from nor toward but within the heart of the moment. We find our brain becomes the fulcrum suspending our awareness between two seemingly opposing perspectives or “realities.” Certainly we can swing one way or the other. But we also have a third option now… to be mediator – a curator of contradictory energies. In other words, an arbitrator for a collaborative, even transcendent, perspective.
I have been thinking about what I Will do when the pandemic has passed. I also have been playing with the idea of who I Will be when this pause in the routine and sameness of everyday in quarantine is no longer the life I am living. I believe who I will be is who I Will myself to be. It is interesting that Will in English is both a noun and a verb. It is peculiarly ironic that “will” as a verb means to defer to the future. It is potential or probability only. But “will” as noun is a force, an agency of effect, of efficacy that works its magic, its potency in the present. Will is the one thing that has driven my life from a long time back in my past. I was always going to do something, change something, be someone else…I was always talking about change – “I will change that habit, I will change that job, I will change my life”. Yet I lacked the will to actually, presently at the time, to realize the change. When I think of the successful world changers, one common element to all of them, one dominant trait, characteristic, quality is that they all had the will to overcome adversity, to come to terms with a flaw, to welcome unwelcome change with a life changing bear hug, rather than pushing the beast off with their left hand while swearing with their right hand on a stack of bibles or some other holy book of choice that they “will” tackle the beast tomorrow.
Will – it has made humanity what it is today – both good will and evil will. There are men who, through their twisted sense of self importance or grave insecurities, have imposed – and it is nothing less than an imposition – their wills on countless innocents. The Mussolinis, Hitlers, Stalins, Milosavics, Ceaucescus of the world accomplished frighteningly long term atrocities on millions of our brothers and sisters from days gone by through the sheer force of their will. When a man or woman fixes – finds that perfect leverage point in their soul and heart, that “punto fermo” under which they can place the fulcrum of their will – the world moves for them. Sometimes in horrible ways, sometimes in glorious achievements, but it moves, nonetheless. Will, the noun, works in presence; presence of mind activates will. A sense of presence in one’s life, situation, or experience activates will to act, not to defer, not to postpone, not to be passive but active, actual, absolute focus. Will is determination, purposefulness, intention, volition, aim, design, commitment, resolution, and on it goes. There is nothing tentative about will. It doesn’t pause to prevaricate, to indulge in ambivalence, to equivocate.
Will ACTS with a forward motion into the future always functioning in the present. When we commit to something with unprecedented passion in our lives, it is will that drives it to completion or, if it is not a finite pursuit, maintains the energy, stokes the fires of determination ever hotter… as we press onward in hot pursuit, so to speak. Through indomitable will, we refuse to be belittled by littler men and women whose own wills are driven inward like a cancer raging to devour all that is in its path – since cancer may be the will turned renegade – free will – free radicles – loose to proliferate and survive under any circumstances. It is very clear to me that what drives the perpetual abundance of nature, has driven, and will drive is that elemental force of nature – as Dylan Thomas wrote : “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower…”. This, force – impetus- momentum – vigor – potency is what has astounded humans for hundreds of thousands of years. It is to the god of will that men or women have scrawled moments in time upon timeless walls of caves in Lascaux, Altamira, Ponte Neuf, Crux de Gardand, Chauvet…30,00…50,000…120,000…270,000…years back and will was willing the future to be what it is today…and what it will be tomorrow.
The irony of the noun and the verb coexisting, working hand in hand, to create, re-create, and procreate the present into the future is the will of a universe wise and potent and forward looking. I hesitate to call it god because that would distract me from this compact, condensed concentrated energy that transforms my meager, half-hearted efforts (that often end in disappointment) into transformational, whole-hearted effort that, whether for good or ill, has a willful impact on some and many. It is that power of will, willpower, effortful self-control, that has moved mountains. It is a muscle that can be exercised. There is both nature and nurture involved. It is not only something I may learn, it can also can be strengthened through practice. Doing things that one resists or that is distasteful can increase willpower. Just what will I do with my willpower when the door to the post pandemic world opens wide again – and who will I be? My choices are infinite, really…