Drives Within the Life Force: Striving vs. Resting

Previous posts in this blog have portrayed life as a restless, aggressive force that is forever striving to grow and become more powerful. Alongside that orientation, however, there is the reality that nothing has as much strength or control over its environment as it might desire. There are times when living things are growing, and there are also times when they choose, or find themselves compelled, to rest and regroup.

Indeed, that understates the case. If the drive to grow is a clear-eyed focus on not resting until the job is done, the drive to relax is an intoxicating compulsion to take a break and enjoy life. Some forms of entertainment do function as extensions of the workplace. Even there, however, there tends to be a real difference between genuine enjoyment and the mere use of recreational activities in a disciplined manner for preconceived ends.

Hence, when previous posts evoke the relentless striving of the life force, they might be refined to acknowledge that the striving actually does relent sometimes. Beyond the essentials of sleep, food, and other rest and refreshment to which virtually everyone must submit periodically, there is an endless smorgasbord of diversions. People vary greatly in their choices and indulgences among those offerings, ranging from solo reflections and private physical pleasures to highly social engagements. But everyone indulges at least some of them, at least some of the time, and their indulgence can take place even while they are working.

This refinement clarifies the role of death as life’s antagonist. Death terminates life, not only by confronting and defeating the drive to grow, but also by capitalizing on openings provided by the drive to rest. The strong can be killed while they sleep; the healthy can be undone by indulgence of unhealthy entertainment; the hardworking can be defeated by losing sight of the big picture. Vigilance may be key to survival; but as with many other virtues, vigilance is a word easier to say than to practice consistently.

Previous posts have talked about life and death, and also about the social force. Like death, the social force interacts with both of life’s core drives. This interaction is complex. Different social groups (e.g., religions, corporations, families) variously favor and oppose different kinds of striving and resting behaviors, disagreeing with and contradicting one another and sometimes themselves. Acts of working or avoiding work, eating or not eating, enjoying oneself or not, and so forth are approved or rejected in assorted ways, according to rules that can be very convoluted, precise, and even petty.

Unlike life, we do not know much about death. From life’s perspective, death is simply the absence of life, and life’s perspective is essentially all we have. It is thus not feasible to speak meaningfully about divergent drives within death. Things are different with the social force: to the extent that it reflects the life force, it incorporates its own combinations of striving and resting.

The gist of these remarks is simply that, as noted in prior posts, life can be summarized as a striving and restless force, and in the aggregate it is indeed that: there is always someone or something, somewhere, that is interested in eating your lunch. At the same time, life’s striving has the potential to undermine itself, insofar as the most aggressive striving often comes closest to triggering potentially self-destructive physical and social errors and countermeasures. Experience with life often teaches people to leaven the striving compulsion with personal and social relaxation, achieving some measure of reconciliation between one’s personal objectives and one’s personal and social limits.

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