06 July, 2013

Let's have some will. Shall we?

"I shall be a writer," said the lazy posh git.

Will and shall are often confused, but it breaks down like this:

Things that shall happen are going to happen. It is outside anyone's control. It simply shall occur.

Things that will happen are things that one will affect (in the sense of the word, "to act upon").

So saying you"will" become a writer means you're striving for it. Saying you "shall" means it's happening without any work. Posh gits used it in olden times to sound composed and indifferent ("nonchalant", if you like French) not because it was just a fancier word. They used it, in essence, because they were gits.

But what separates the people whose wills become reality?

See the difference? No, not just the handsomeness, but the difference in the metaphors.

The Ancient Greek word "Arete" is commonly poorly translated into English as "excellence", but Arete wasn't seen as something to become, or to have others gift you with the perception of. It isn't something to do or to wait for. Arete has much more of a Fight Club ideal behind it: to achieve Arete is to let go of all things holding you back, because Arete is something to BE.

I could get into the sociology of the Ancient Greeks here and use fancy words like "eschatological", but let's suffice to say that the Greeks didn't see time as linear, with beginning and end. Their conceptions were much more focused on the present and on individualism. Life had no purpose except in and of itself. They had mythology, but their gods were largely metaphorical (to break another common misconception). To say Achilles was blessed by Ares was to say he had superhuman skill with the blade, not to say that some sword-slinging sky-man flicked him on the ear when he was a baby and told him he was going to kick ass. Their conception of what destiny meant was very different from ours. They did not see it with finality. They saw not inevitability, but potential. They did not think in eschatological terms.

I think most modern people agree that we don't have destinies. But in the Ancient Greek sense, we do. Everyone does. I bloody well do. There's a goal I make every possible effort to achieve. If I fail, it's going to be because I'm not good enough. Simple. It won't be because I'm lazy.

So what's your destiny, in the Greek sense? If you're on this blog, I'd imagine your destiny is not to play solitaire, watch television or surf the internet. Not that I'm saying you should leave. I don't want you to leave. But if you want to be writing instead of reading this, then I say good for you.

Every second you waste letting yourself think you'd be better off after a good rest, watching television, talking to yourself in the mirror or shooting kittens with water pistols is another moment that you are closer to death. Do you really just want to be another "normal" person?  Then you don't want to be an artist.  Artists are weirdos. If you really do want to be an artist you need to not have, but give yourself Arete.

Arete doesn't mean "self-creation" anymore than it means "self destruction". It's something to be. It means waking up every day and being the best father, mother, son, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, daughter, friend, mentor, cat owner and writer and whatever else that you care to be, every day.

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