I’ve always had a lot of serious issues with motivation. I had a good thing going for a while before several traumatic events knocked me back down — I’ve covered those elsewhere and I don’t feel like rehashing them. The more I contemplate my issues, though, the more I can trace them back to feeling like I don’t have a place in this world — not that I believe that with my head, but I can’t get the head and heart to agree on this.
There is a long list of probable influences: the intellectual disconnect between me and my peers growing up, social awkwardness throughout grade school, the lack of meaningful challenges in school compared to the intellectual challenges of video games (no, seriously), and perhaps most importantly the deeply-engrained feeling that desire is bad. I am just realizing this last point, but I realize it’s so terribly true when I examine myself. And if I had to point a finger, I point it at the corrupted sense of self I garnered from my life growing up in conservative Christian circles.
No matter what I did, I was told that it was “filthy rags” before God. At the same time, my parents constantly told me how smart I was. And I was smart — not every kid figures out algebra at 5 or the sum of an arithmetic series at 10. In fact, the other guy who figured out the same thing at the same time, Carl Friedrich Gauss, actually invented the formula. Incidentally, we both figured it out when our teachers, presumably wanting a break, told us to add up the numbers of the days of the year, 1 to 365. This is not to brag; I just mean to illustrate the point that I am not the usual case. My performance since then has held this pattern.
But when you tell a smart kid like me that his works are filthy rags, you do a tremendous amount of damage. I had perhaps better than many of my peers a profound sense of the immensity and perfection of what I called God, and to compare myself against that enormously high standard was soul-crushing. When you told me that my works were filthy rags, it wasn’t just a “church answer” that I didn’t really believe. I internalized that and made it a part of me. Worse, I managed to get my hands on the book of Ecclesiastes, and suddenly life really did seem pointless. What can a man do even with my talents? “Everything is vanity.”
By the time I grew to adulthood, ambition arrived stillborn. I was on the path I was supposed to take, going through the motions and trying to care, but I couldn’t do it. I simply couldn’t. I failed out of my first attempt at college to the tune of “Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity.” These words haunted me like a wraith hovering over my every endeavor. “Your works are filthy rags!” “You are nothing without God.” “You are totally depraved.” These ideas cut my legs out from underneath me before I could even begin the race.
It was a false savior who killed me. It was a death-god who revels in the destruction of his children, who tells them they are nothing and that their endeavors are nothing and that their dreams and desires are nothing. To want is depraved. Empty yourself of emotion and embrace the death-god’s will. Where some who embrace this only ended up conflating their own will with God’s will — and thus being able to function in society, albeit in a deranged manner — I had no will at all. I emptied myself of desire, and nothing came flooding back to take its place.
It was Nietzsche who saved me and who is saving me. He opened my eyes to the dead god and its sepulchers. He challenged me to desire power and to create a new world which sees desire as a good thing. Unintentionally, he dispelled the old myths and reintroduced me to Jesus. And this Jesus subverted man’s attempts at playing favorites by declaring that humanity itself, not just this or that culture or tribe, had value.
I’m making a decision to change my life. To want. To want and to realize that it’s okay to want. I want to be an influential writer. I want to make the world a better place. I want to dispel unhealthy beliefs and replace them with ideas that promote human flourishing and virtue. I want to be an excellent husband. I want to be a good man. I want friends. I want a fulfilling career. I want to stop sedating myself with temporary pleasures and do something worthwhile. I want to be me at my best.
I want to move my blog to my own website. I want to start a MineCraft YouTube series about philosophy. I want to write for journals and news sites. I want to write a book. I want to write another book after that. I want to start an inter-belief foundation where the Christian, the atheist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, and whomever can come together over common values.
Even now, writing this, I feel the dead hands trying to clasp around ankles and pull me back down into deadness. My heart groans under the weight of my ambition. But I will be damned if I let a thing like the guilt of a dead god weigh me down! I desire strength! Wisdom! Power! I desire to do good and to see others rise up beside me!
I cast off the lies which chain me and begin my life anew.