What motivates people? A common reply may include purpose, or autonomy or self-mastery. Or maybe status, prestige, money and other tangibles. As far as what motivates me, the first idea that comes to mind is self-discovery. But I have to ask myself, what does that mean? what does that entail? and how does that motivate me?
Motivation originates either intrinsically or extrinsically, from inside or outside. Intrinsic motivation is internally generated, emanating from within the individual, where the amorphous material of mind combine pathos and logos to meld imagination and assert new worlds. This motivation is proactive, self-sustaining and independent, it actively creates something from what is otherwise nothing, just the ephemeral fabric of mind. It requires inhabiting and overcoming the self.
Extrinsic motivation is externally imposed from sources represented outside the individual, often appearing as objective value. This form of motivation appeals to values collectively decided and mutually agreed upon by others, by society and culture, giving them a universal and absolute appearance, almost a typological and quantifiable value (think materialism or monetism ). This type of motivation is reactive, accepting the values presented at face value, prima facie, without thought of any greater personal relevance or meaning. It requires inhabiting and competing with the “herd”.
The problem I observe with extrinsically rooted motivation involves its function to divert the gazing consciousness away from itself. This diminishes our ability to assert an internal world, depleting our reflective consciousness the capacity to imagine ourselves for ourselves, and effectively starving the self of attention. Most characteristically, extrinsic motivation fosters the development of an ego which is over inflated with external valuations. This ego stands in constant relation to others as a shallow, inauthentic reflection, a massive mirror serving no subjective relevance, requiring of itself no more than a mechanical reaction to the presence of objective externalities. This type of motivation is unsustainable when there is no other, when there is no more competition with which to compare and contrast, to evaluate self-worth. This extrinsic motivation possesses strength in its ability to measure up with others in competitive judgement and valuation. Its weakness consequently lies in its neglect to measure up and overcome the one competitor of any value, the self.
Why is self-discovery motivational? Like curiosity, discovery is not concerned with pleasure or pain, riches or ruin. It embodies a naivety of knowledge that drives it toward the unknown in hopes of accumulating insight, specifically illuminating and expanding the former limits of human understanding, of possibility and potential for thought or feeling. In this way self-discovery explores and collects novel experience for the sake of feeling, for the sake of stretching prior, yawning conceptions of the human condition to surpass what was previously thought, beyond what was ever dreamed. I like to think that self-discovery, revelation of mind, of mousa, requires being maniacally mad, insanely crazed, totally possessed by imagination, by the divine powers of mind, kissed by the daimons of antiquity who breathe life into dreams.
I find myself averse to people who consistently seek happiness, contentment, enjoyment, comfort, compromise, and the like. These people are asking for enslavement, asking to be doped up with delusion. They see humanity from such a narrow view, such a myopic perspective, on such a slim spectrum, with such finite feeling. Man is not all pleasure. Man is not all pain. There is a spectrum to be experienced. We must embrace suffering, embrace pain, embrace the dark unknown recesses and uncharted waters and new territories. The human condition is vast and infinite, with innumerable thoughts and endless prismatic feeling.
But why on earth would we knowingly venture towards pain and suffering? Why would you actively want to hurt? Or desire to encounter a situation that you know nothing about, that leaves you totally unprepared?
In reply, I would ask why someone would sail the uncharted seas, dive to unexplored depths, or blaze unmapped territories? Why does anyone venture into the dark, into the unknown? To know! To discover! In order to render the unfamiliar familiar; so that once blind, now we see.
Is this motivated by sheer curiosity? Isn’t there something at the bottom of it all that moves us because of pleasure, because it is gratifying and enjoyable? Doesn’t this ruin my argument? I would say, not at all. Then what drives someone toward risk, to take such leaps of faith in themselves into the unknown? I believe it is not a specific drive toward or away anything good or bad. I believe it is a power, a dynamo that needs to consume, be it the experience of new feeling or novel thought.
These people, these explorers and adventurers, they are the mad ones, the geniuses, possessed by daimon, inspired by muse, who exist as an empty shell, a hallow machine, in the absence of novelty, the fuel of revelation. They are numb, incapable of feeling otherwise. What drives them toward such torment isn’t the sadist tendency towards pain, but the sovereign salvation of feeling, any feeling, be it suffering or pleasure. To feel something is better than to feel nothing. That is the only way you know you are truly alive, to feel alive.
There is no artificial progression– all is the natural corollary of what nature intended it to be! Are we not natural?
To follow your heart is such an over-used cliche. But I suppose I’m not sure what substitute would be preferable. Your mind? What say we yield to the call of our ancient Manichean brethren and accept the duality of our condition. We exist as dichotomies, in time and space, present in innumerable moments. Are we not paradoxical? Mind and matter?
I am full of polarities, complexities, multitudes of people, no one in me, but me in all. I believe in the static and fluid, the traditional and revolutionary, the intelligent and naive, the real and imaginative, the masculine and feminine, the playful and disciplined, inside and outside, with humility and pride, with enjoyment and suffering, openness and sensitivity, with passion and objection.
This is what distinguishes greatness and meanness: to exist in paradox, to live for the sake of life, fearless of pain, of death.
People always want to glorify their pain, their ability to suffer, to endure, like this is admirable. Anyone can suffer. Anyone can be unfortunate. The great people are those that, in the midst of their suffering, have the courage to create themselves anew, adopt new eyes, a new attitude, and adapt their mind, their ability to overcome, and evolve as something greater, something stronger.
Most would unanimously agree that without challenge there is no opportunity for growth; or as they say, no pain, no gain. But people don’t take the time to fully appreciate what this entails, what this asks of them. It is not simply the act of challenging yourself, singly or many times. It is the act of adapting– evolving– a perspective that transforms an initially unfavorable situation and circumstance into a favorable one, an imperfect perception into a perfect one. That is the key. That is the wisdom. I like to think that this works both ways, that a genius can take a good thing and make it bad just as easily as taking a bad thing and making it good. It’s the ability to decipher the pieces and internal relationships of an object or society, pull them apart, and reassemble them to suit your ends, your perspective.
Nothing gets easier in life; you only get better. Nothing changes until you change. Our perspective, our mind and heart, these pools of liquid light, need to remain fluid, need to be stirred and churned if they are to retain their maleability, their adaptability.
This is why we seek out experience for the sake of experience, understanding for its own sake, the orderly and beautiful, as well as confusion, the chaotic and appalling.