That’s a fancy term for the feeling in your head when you lie to yourself. We think two things at once, two things that can’t properly be thought at once, and it makes us feel… Icky. It makes us feel this little anxious pain in the back of our mind, all the time, like a nail slowly piercing the flesh, twisted in ever deeper by an unseen hand. Our own hand, yet not by intent. This pain, this dissonance, is not by design.
Here’s an example.
I want to be great. I want to be a great writer, a great man, a leader and an inspiration. I want to be strong, to help people, the build something important.
But, at the same time,
I want an easy life. I want to relax. I want freedom to do what I want, when I want. I want to be the kind of man who is always at ease, always relaxed. True freedom from worldly concern.
These two things are diametrically opposed. One cannot be great without work. Easy lives do not produce great men. Relaxation and enjoyment do not build monuments. Blood, sweat and tears built the world, and so it shall be until the end of days.
Yet, here I am. Here I am, wanting two things that cannot exist in the same place. I truly desire to live an easy life of relaxation, yet somehow, I cannot shake the urge to build something, to be someone. I cannot abandon my ambition, even if I desired to do so. Yet my desire for peace, for freedom… This is not some fleeting desire for indolence.
Perhaps there is a middle ground. Perhaps these two things are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps I can be the greatest relaxer of all time. Perhaps I can be great by virtue of peace, of freedom, of ease. Even if that’s the case, I don’t see a way around that core conflict.
Easy living and greatness generally do not mix.
Maybe this doesn’t apply to you, but I’d wager you too have a little nail in the back of your brain. A sweet, twisting pain that’s telling you something’s not quite right. Something you believe, something you want, something you dream of. And something else, something true. Something that can’t be in the room with your other dream, your other self.
Everyone has to discard their dreams, I suppose. Everyone has to make due with what’s possible. Everyone has to give up on the ideal world and try to create something good enough for the moment. But everyone remembers the dreams they had, before. Everyone remembers the fantasy of the perfect world inside their head. Everyone remembers the dreams they threw away. In an ocean of forgotten days, the discarded dreams ring true. They stick. They refuse to disappear despite our best efforts to forget.
The dissonance, the pain lurking in the back of our mind, is perhaps a clue. It’s trying to lead us to truth, to our purpose.
If you ever find yourself thinking, “What do I really want?”… Look around for the little pain in your mind, and perhaps you’ll find your beliefs and your truth are not aligned.
We’re all walking contradictions. All this potential, but our own minds turn against themselves. In a crisis of indecision, we choose a third option we never wanted. We do the easy, but not too easy thing. We do the good thing, but not the great thing. We live in the devil’s middle-ground where nothing is only one thing and everything is different from how we feel it should be.
People are beautiful, in that way. We don’t know the answers, and we blunder through our lives just trying to do the right thing. We consider our families, our friends, ourselves… We inevitably choose to put one thing ahead of the rest, and we plan our lives accordingly. Yet, deep down, we know we would rather do something else. Something important. Something great. Maybe we believe we could do it. We could, but we don’t, because life in the middle is simpler than choosing a side.
One day, I hope I’ll find a true middleground, where two things become one thing, and the little pain in the back of my head will disappear. I’ll be a strong, capable leader. I’ll take care of the ones I love. And somehow, I’ll be at peace. It’ll all be easy, and free, and full of joy. It’ll be an easy hard life, a relaxed intense life. A life of powerful peace, of soothing conflict. A life where everything is simple and also important.
Until then, here I am, lost in the world with everybody else, just trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. There’s a beauty in that, too. There’s beauty in the struggle, the pain, the desire. There’s beauty in the dreams left unrealized, in the truth left unfound, in the loves left unloved.
This is a love letter to your unrealized hopes and your buried truths. This is an ode to the feelings in your heart when you wonder what could have been. This is the requiem for the dreams that died too young.