The struggle with struggling

An interesting point I find floating around in Eckhart Tolle and others’ writing has to do with the notion of striving. We seem to live in a world that places great value on striving and struggle. For example, if you ask two people what their plan is for the day and one answers, “Well, I might go the beach and read a book. Maybe watch some old horror movies. But first I’m going to take a nap.” and the other says, “Well, I woke up early for my jog – I’m in marathon training – and then I studied for my pre-law class. Now I’m running off to work and later tonight I’m going to stop off at the orphanage and nourish the orphans back to life,” we are programmed to believe that the second person is a better, more valuable person. Because they are “doing something with their lives.”

This attitude is built into our modern culture, particularly – and I hate statements like this but it’s clearly true – American culture. We are a nation of strivers or at least a nation that reveres strivers. We value struggle. We worship people who tackle adversity. George Washington. Lincoln. The greatest generation fighting the Nazis. Martin Luthor King. Rosa Parks. (This attitude probably goes back to the Puritans and their life-is-only-to-be-endured ethos.)

This seems so built into our DNA that it’s hard to imagine people who aren’t addicted to struggle the way we are. But I’m reminded of my visit to Morocco several years ago. Like a lot of Mediterranean cultures, people there seem comfortable chilling out in the afternoons. Grabbing coffee, chatting with friends, taking what the Spanish would call a siesta. I remember walking into a restaurant one burning hot afternoon and having to wake the waiter up to order a much needed Coke. (Man, that Coke was awesome too – I can still taste it.) Here was a guy who was comfortable not striving.*

* A caveat here: Morocco is a Muslim nation and struggle does seems to be a big part of the Muslim ethos so I’m probably oversimplifying things, but in the public sphere of Moroccan life I did not see the kind of struggle and striving you see in America and similar nations.

The first world’s comeback to this would be “But that’s why Morocco hasn’t accomplished anything whereas the first world, particularly America, has been to the moon, teased apart the mysteries of science, given the world movies, Computers, music etc.” And, yeah, that’s all true. But I’m not sure that really matters in the long run. And I think we may have driven ourselves crazy in the process.

My main point here isn’t that struggling is bad, but that struggling simply to struggle, struggling because struggle is revered and honored, is bad, or at least takes a toll on the individual. And I can’t help but suspect that if everyone stopped struggling and chilled out then we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems everyone seem to be struggling with.

5 Responses to “The struggle with struggling”

  1. John Saleeby

    Have you paid any attention to people in America lately? Nobody is doing shit. More and more people can’t be bothered to get a job and most of the people that do have a job don’t do anything but “Show Up”, fuck around all day, and take off as soon as possible. American Life in the 21st Century is all about sitting on the couch, feeding your face, getting high, and watching cable TV. Compared to most people in America you and I are a couple of hyperactive Workaholics. America can kiss my dick.

  2. John Saleeby

    “You live for the fight when it’s all that you’ve got!!!”

    That’s from a Clash song, right? Right?

  3. wil

    You nut!

  4. John Saleeby

    I’m going to sleep!

  5. Wil

    Listen to this nut! He’s going to sleep! Who does that?