By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 23, 2014
In many ways this blog is me talking to myself. What makes the thing work, if indeed it does, is that there are a lot of people like me and they are dealing with the same issues I’m dealing with. So talking to myself in this public forum is, in its way, a meditation for those individuals as well.
So I don’t ask myself, “What do I imagine others want to read in this space?” I ask, “What do I want? What issues are bothering me? What questions am I exploring?”
Why write a book?
Why make a movie?
For myself, I set aside such answers as “To make money,” “to achieve success,” “to deliver a message,” “to change the world.”
I don’t believe in any of those. In my view they’re either unattainable or, if attained, do not produce happiness or peace of mind.
How about “to have fun?” “To produce beauty?” “To tell the truth?” “To serve the Muse?”
Now, for me at least, we’re getting closer.
I was visiting an old friend last week, a man I’ve known since sixth grade who from modest beginnings has gone on to great worldly success and who has remained a good guy throughout. We had a couple of drinks and we started reflecting on our lives. We were asking each other if we had any regrets about the paths we had chosen. If we had the chance to do it over, would we have followed different courses?
My friend and I both had the same answer. It’s a little tricky to articulate, so bear with me here if I stumble and bumble a bit:
My friend said, “If you took a prototypical middle-class American guy and put him in my shoes as he was graduating from high school, I might say, ‘Yeah, that theoretical fellow might have regrets over the way my/his life worked out.’ He could say, maybe, that I/he should’ve gone to medical school or I/he shouldn’t have gotten in trouble back in a certain decade. And I/he would be right.
“But that kind of thinking doesn’t apply to ‘me.’ Do you understand, Steve? There was a ‘me’ that didn’t have free rein. That ‘me’ had no choice. I was driven to do certain things, to make certain choices. Why? Was my motivation neurotic? Was I driven by unconscious forces? Yes. For sure.
“But above and beyond those influences, my life had a Pole Star. It really did. I couldn’t articulate this concept then and I can’t really do it now, but I felt that star’s pull and I followed it. Polaris, the North Star. Something ‘celestial,’ in the sense that it was fixed from birth, or even before birth.”
“You mean like ‘destiny?’”
“I know it sounds grandiose and narcissistic, even crazy. But yes. Yes.”
I agreed with my friend. I feel the same force in my life.
“I look back and I see moment after moment when I could have gotten off the train. When good sense and every other factor was screaming at me to get off. But I always stayed on.”
What does it mean to “serve the Muse?” Or to follow any calling or any dream?
It means, first, that there are forces in this earthly sphere that are greater and wiser than we are, forces that are unknown and probably unknowable to us but that exert a powerful and even irresistible gravitational pull upon us.
My friend’s North Star.
If you’re reading this blog, you have one. That’s why you’re reading this, whether you know it or not.
Because this blog supports that view of life. Every post reinforces it.
It’s a pretty far-out view of life, if you think about it. It certainly doesn’t align with the everyday, U.S. Prime, mainstream view.
What about these gravitational forces? Are they ‘good?’ Where do they come from? How do we sense them? What faculties do we employ to tune in to their messages?
Should we follow them? What if they’re telegrams from the devil? How do our individual destinies (if there is such a thing) play into the wider movie? Are we ‘helping’ the world if we follow our North Star? Or are we just deluding ourselves with some pretense of ‘meaning,’ when in fact there is none?
When I think thoughts about stuff like this, which is borderline grandiosity, I try to ask myself, “Am I full of shit? Am I manufacturing (and believing) self-serving fantasies?”
I believe (I could be wrong) that there is a higher dimension and that it permeates every cell of our lives the way radio waves and wi-fi frequencies inhabit the room I’m in and the space you’re in.
I’m not sure what that higher dimension’s agenda is. I hope it’s ‘good.’ It feels ‘good’ to me. It feels ‘good’ because it’s so hard to hear, so hard to tune into, and so hard to follow.
I’m a servant of that dimension. That’s how I see my life. I’m a student. I’m an acolyte.
The form my matriculation takes is writing. I don’t know why I write. I don’t know why I pick the subjects I pick. And I certainly don’t know how stories come to me, or characters or scenes or points of view. It’s only afterward, once they’ve been brought into physical existence on the page, that I can sit down and try to analyze them.
The professional skills of an artist—the left brain stuff, the management of emotions and expectations, the knowledge and craft of overcoming Resistance—are the offering I make to the Muse, to the Mystery. They’re my proof to her that I’m her servant, that she can entrust me with her gifts.
The self-surrender is the yang to this yin. The opening of oneself to the pull of that Pole Star.
As I’m writing this sentence, I’m following that gravitational draw. I’m very consciously and very deliberately NOT censoring or second-guessing it.
Is that an answer to the question, “Why am I writing this blog? Why are you reading it?”
May be. In asking myself these questions and publishing them in this public forum, I’m hoping a) to fortify and enlighten myself in this mysterious journey, and b) to tell you that you’re not alone, that your questions (which I can’t help but believe are just like mine) are not silly or fatuous or unworthy, and that at least one other person on this planet—i.e., me—is just as crazy as you are.