It’s been challenging trying to deal with what Burning Man participants typically call “reentry”, especially after so many days away from what passes for the normal pattern of life. Returning to the seemingly endless expanse of lit concrete-and-steel boxes, the noise, the confusion, and the heat that comes from compression of human life and energy into spaces not meant for it all–the time away gave me space to gain perspective on things.
I encountered people both familiar and not, places that I’d never visited in ways that I hadn’t considered previously. I interacted with real people, held real conversations. Language was utilized and my brain processed real-world information–and now this; a return to screens, text, shrouds, and obfuscation. Having to hide and find refuge behind headphones and unplanned work, all in an effort to preserve a certain level of comfort and life circumstance.
To be fair, it’s not as if I don’t enjoy the life that I currently have. I love my friends, I very much enjoy what I’m able to do outside of work and all of those other adult-type commitments. It’s just that I see so many other people, friends included, who are out there “winging it” and living life a lot more fully than I am. I’m not sure that dropping everything and living out of a duffel bag is really the way to go for me, but the very notion is intoxicating in the way that the phrase “being a fly on the wall for when Hunter S. Thompson meets Henry David Thoreau in the afterlife” sounds.
There’s a general feeling that I’ve been wrestling with more now than at any point previously in my life, and that’s the feeling that I haven’t yet found what makes me happiest. I’ve been counseled in the past from friends, coworkers, and well-meaning “adults” that this relatively recent obsession with “finding your passion” flies directly in the face of a reality that I’m not sure I fully accept. Supposedly one that operates under the base assumption that life is mostly toil in the pursuit of (and ultimately in utter subservience to) capital, with “private life” relegated to the frayed edges of the aforementioned compulsory indentured servitude–and somewhere in the intervening periods between the peaks of wealth accumulation and the intermittent soul-crushing realizations that a privileged class lives completely separated from this paradigm, you’re supposed to get laid? That’s supposedly a “respectable life”?
I’m not sure that any of what I’ve been counseled to believe is true is actually true, given the evidence right in front of me. While there is merit to the notion that “finding your passion” has become a kitschy shibboleth for an entire sub-section of a society that has become disillusioned with identity of any variety (social, political, economic, national, etc.), I’d like to think there would be a common understanding that finding a passion isn’t about running off to an Elysian field or utopia. On the contrary, I would instead posit that such a state or place does not and cannot exist, as Jeremy Rifkin similarly posits in this informative (albeit abridged) talk on empathic civilizations:
“Empathy is the opposite of utopia. There is no empathy in heaven–I guarantee you, I’ll tell you before you get there. There isn’t any empathy in heaven because there’s no mortality. There’s no empathy in utopia because there is no suffering. Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgement of death and the celebration of life, and rooting for each other to flourish and be.” – Jeremy Rifkin, author and political advisor
There’s something to be said for living a life where at the very least income is not a genuine problem. But when that life is all that you know and that a persistent feeling exists in the back of your mind that you are not yet really “living life”, it becomes difficult to ignore. I suppose the benefits of having the time and energy to consider it for what it is and process why it remains so prominent in my mind is a privilege; one that I intend to take full advantage of.