Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Will To Live

I'm a qualifier. I qualify virtually everything, see? For me there are no absolutes, or very few. I seldom make absolute statements except ones that are the same old toss-off lines that nearly everyone makes, like, "That was the worst meal I ever had," or some such drastic judgment like that.

But I'm going out on a limb here, having given the matter thought for about five minutes, to say that everything we do manifests the will to live. Let's get suicide out of the way at the top. Does suicide show the will to live? Yes, but it shows a drastic unhappiness with the way life is going at this time. Escape seems better, with the will to live (a happier life) behind it.

Knowing I have the will to live in everything really helps me, because I never have to consider giving up. It's what I'm saying now, at least, but I believe I'll keep right on saying it. For my purposes, in certain circumstances giving up on "heroic measures" isn't really giving up, but is the will to live a quality life, so that you can have an awareness of death's approach. You're going to be dead a long time, you may as well be there when it happens!

Going down the road, I see the will to live all the time. The traffic gets thicker and tighter, my palms are sweaty on the steering wheel, but the mental computer is keeping track of all the lanes, the relative speeds and reliability of the drivers nearby, etc. If you could bring all your natural skills with angles and the movements of all the coordinates around you to math class, practically all of us would be geniuses. Except in actual math classes they're not teaching the will to live, they're teaching formulas without any stated purpose; they should be teaching the will to live.

Let's think of something from the movies we've all seen, guys in rockets or spaceships. They're ramping up to the moment of ignition, they're going through the final checklists, the soundtrack is building in intensity, then the camera lingers on the intensity of the guy's face. It makes you proud to be a human being, proud, in fact, because you're imagining yourself in his seat. Then there's a tougher situation in space. The soundtrack has a kind of whine to it, telling us that all systems are working in the most concentrated harmony, it's overpowering, and we see his face again, and we know, that's the center. If you overdubbed a shout of "THE WILL TO LIVE" over the whine, you wouldn't be too far off. He can handle the challenge or die trying.

Now let's think of one of those intense scenes, like where the G forces are working on him. He's strapped in and his face is jiggling back and forth like crazy. He's Crazy Guggenheim when he's not singing. He's thinking two things, "I hope my face doesn't freeze like this" and "The will to live." Even if the machine is too damned big, or too uncontrollable, he's going to do everything in his power for that will to prevail. "Main thrusters off," "Cool your jets," "Roger, Houston," they're saying everything but "The will to live," but it's there.

Whatever it is, school, sports, sex, you've got the will to live at the center of it. It drives us relentlessly. It gives significance to our actions. Sex is one of the weirdest drives we have -- you may be firing blanks, or falling way short of the mark because you're the only one there. No matter, the drive is squarely rooted in the will to live, even when it doesn't make the least bit of difference. It's hard to keep your eyes off the relevant parts of other people's bodies because the will is always there. You can't tell yourself "I'm a brick" and just be attracted to bricks, because you always know better.

With school, it seems to me if everyone was completely on top of this truth -- the will to live -- there'd be no end to our excellence. And sports as well, even though it shows up more often there because it's more intense than school as school is presently done. Kids are yawning when they go through the door. If their little faces were jiggling like in the spaceship, something concentrated like that, there'd be no stopping them.

I can imagine myself being invited to a big convention center, to the central banquet of the event, to give the keynote address on "The Will to Live." Of course by then I would have thought of the subject more than five minutes. I would have brought in some killer illustrations, some good icebreaker lines, the works. But still, sitting there waiting to be introduced, I wouldn't be wolfing down my food, because I'd be a little bit queasy, hoping I was going to get it right. I'm always that way, because that's the will to live ... always there.

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