Why my reach must exceed my grasp

It has nothing to do with heaven.

I’ve observed that I persistently fill any available time with new adventures and activities. It’s not that I don’t like being alone, or idle, in itself. But sometimes I take on a bit more than I can handle, and something doesn’t get done, and I’m disappointed. So the question is, why do I keep doing this? Why not just sit back with a reasonable status quo and let it tick along?

The answer seems to be that I need to be challenged. It’s not just that I like to be challenged. I need to be pushed. Courses often give you this push, forcing you to spend hours working on homework or preparing for exams. Deadlines at work provide pushes, too. But in the absence of that sort of external force, I cannot resist imposing my own push on myself. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I go further than I thought I could, or achieve more, even when there is risk of failure — perhaps even more so when there is risk of failure. And sometimes I do fail (or at least dissolve into a puddle of stress). But somehow I keep coming back for more.

I sometimes despair at this tendency, since it seems inevitably to ratchet up my stress level. But I think I can at least articulate why I do it, and little self-knowledge goes a long way.

I’m constantly worrying away at my boundaries. How high can I jump? How fast can I run? How many degrees can I get? I like to live right at the edge of my capability, right at my limits. I like to know that there are limits. I like to be pushed to exceed those limits — and maybe even to expand the limits in the process. In taking on more commitments, maybe I’ll be forced to find ways to be more efficient, which will extend my time-reach. Maybe I’ll find more ways to trade money for time. Maybe I’ll learn the tricks needed to run faster, jump higher. Some core part of my being rejects a static existence, a single fixed optimum that solves “enough” of what’s out there. What’s existence for, if not to continually get better?

It’s time for bed. I’m off to slay dragons in my sleep.

1 of 1 people learned something from this entry.

  1. jim said,

    October 26, 2007 at 8:57 am

    > Why do I keep doing this?

    You’re Kirious. :)

    I am reminded of the Kennedy quote: “Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

    Learning energizes you. Deadlines are an objective way to gauge your progress. That you do try, occasionally fail (or become a “stress puddle”), and try again means you are human and more interesting than 99% of the people I know.

  2. Rev Dano said,

    February 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    (Learned something new!)

    I think we have to keep learning– to keep exploring, to keep looking around the corner for something new– because it means we are validating our own existence (I “stumbled” across your blog, and it resonated with me).

    We choose to try difficult or novel things– because we can. And we know– deep in our bones– that one day we will not be able to try new things, we will approach Death– like it or not.

    It is like Emily Dickinson said (I think), “because I could not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me.”

    It can be easy to get frantic– to try and pick up all the beautiful shells on the beach. And it can be easy to become nihilistic– to think “I just want to be sedated” by the Ramones”– but those of us who are awake, alive, curious, ready– we want to use a little fear like a geiger counter.

    Not to track radiation to run away from– but to turn and run headlong toward– a new experience, something that will shake up our old patterns and allow for new insight– something we can then share with others.

    Good luck to you in your travels!


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