LIBERTY AT A CROSSROADS
To me, liberty is a crossroads. It lies in the balance of avoiding death and increasing passion and pleasure, not for ourselves, but, for the collective. Collectivity is not the absence of individuality. Collectivity gives the individual its valuation. How I see myself is greatly influenced by how society has told me to see myself. When my liberty is not balanced, I will feel it deeply. But if I look around, I will likely find that the imbalance does not start and stop with me. Liberty is a sum total of yours and mine; ours.
When I create, I feel a one-ness with the world around me. I feel I am fulfilling my life’s purpose. I feel stimulated physically and mentally, to the point where I need little else to survive. When I create, I open myself up to the substance from which I came with all of its unpredictability. Yet, in this world where consumption has become the activity and creation has become the privilege, it feels frivolous to create. It feels selfish to create. Yet I still seek to create.
I love sculpting pieces with my hands (especially clothing) but creating new things, in a world full of unwanted things, feels wasteful. When I produce more stuff, contributing to a capitalist society, I feel that I am going against my values in life. But I’m not sure if there is another way to live when capitalism has monopolized our world’s collectivity.
In “Beyond the pleasure principle” Freud theorizes that human behaviour is not as simple as a drive towards life and removal of tension. He thought that we all exist in our psychology in a constant, irreconcilable conflict between two drives: Eros and Thanatos. Eros was the god of love and sex. Thanatos was the god of gentle death. Escaping death was satisfied by eating, and shelter. But enjoying life was satisfied through love and sex. Freud believed that these two drives were innate, and that they would always be in a conflict with one another.
Then Marcuse came along and suggested that yes, these drives might both be innate in all of us, but it is not a conflict. Whether it is seen as a conflict is the result of the culture you grew up in. Surviving versus thriving is a balance, not a conflict. The need for survival should not outweigh the need for creation and vice versa. The balance can be a lifestyle- and one of acceptance and expectance. The balance to me, is what it means to live the wholesome human experience. Marcuse would say that the drive towards our “Eros” goes beyond sexual desires, as Freud had solely thought, but extends to our desire to create anything. We are all born with a passion for creation.
In a way, I see our Thanatos [our drive for survival] as the curriculum,
and I see our Eros [our drive for passion] as the extracurricular.
DRIVE FOR SURVIVAL IS OUR CURRICULUM
DRIVE FOR PASSION IS OUR EXTRACURRICULAR
If we truly focus on the balance of these drives, I feel it is easy to see when one is being overperformed while the other is being neglected.
Let's relate this theory to the modern model of Kate Raworth's Doughnut. The shortfalls of our survival needs, and the overshot of our passions lie in a delicate (and delicious) balance. In this model, death surrounds us. It can come from within the centre of our social foundation, and it can come from overshooting our environmental ceiling. What remains in the centre is the doughnut or "the safe and just space for humanity".
I see the doughnut as both the curriculum and the extracurricular. As stated before, the need for survival should not outweigh the need for creation. So even while our extracurriculars are outside of our basic survival, they are still extremely important in having a wholesome human experience, safe within the doughnut. When the human experience is solely driven by creation, we reach beyond the doughnut. When the human experience is solely driven by survival, we succumb to an unbalanced social foundation.
When our curriculum is co-opted by humans longing to profit individually, the humans that they are oppressing can no longer perform their extracurriculars. Their culture pushes them into a conflict between two innate drives fundamental to the wholesome human experience. What can be seen as an innocent and innate human crossroads is transformed into an inhumane, and destructive collision.
I am not meant to be useful
in achieving your aim.
I am meant to be valued, myself, and to be encouraged to achieve my own aim.
That autonomy over the decision between survival and passion is what we are looking for once again in this world. The crossroads of sustaining our Eros, and distracting our Thanatos is what it is to be human. When you turn me into a means to your end, you are taking away my Eros. I am not meant to be useful in achieving your aim. I am meant to be valued, myself, and to be encouraged to achieve my own aim.
The world is all one thing to me. All-natural substance is my god. To destroy the thing that provides my inspiration, and my physical material seems counterproductive. If I feel the need to create, I want it to be useful, to be emotional, to be respectful of the thing from which it came, the thing from which I came.
I feel the emotions of a creation before I know what the creation will turn into. It is an uncontrolled force. You can call it your God, colours of the wind, something in the air, or your gut. I think this is a symptom many creators feel; the depth of the summoning unknown, and uncontrolled. But if we are all creators, it is a symptom of humanity.
Everyone can be a creator, but those who pursue it open their mind to a universe of uncontrollable forces. This is both terrifying and titillating. The anxiousness of freeing yourself to a force that enslaves you is paradoxical. And that’s where the creator lives, in the universe of the paradox. A crossroads, if you will.
You must distance yourself from Thanatos to survive, but you must open yourself up to the unpredictable Eros if you want to live. Humans need both to feel balanced. They need the controlled elements needed for survival, but they also need the uncontrolled elements needed for creation. When one human’s crossroad is co-opted by another’s, there is an injustice of one’s humanity, and of their liberty. Finding wholesomeness in one’s humanity comes from finding one’s liberty at a crossroads.