The Human Condition

It’s very popular to ward off most of our perceived inadequacies with the phrase “We’re human”.  

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“Don’t be so hard on yourself, We’re all human beings after all!

“It’s okay that you can’t do this. You’re human, not machine!

“I’m allowed to be emotional. I’m a human being, you know.

Today, I want to talk about a specific concept, something I personally consider the quintessential human quality:

Dissatisfaction.

To acknowledge this, we need to take a step back and be a little honest with ourselves about a few things.

Typically, we either constantly plan and look forward to a point in our life when things will be better than they are (“It’ll be great when…I get that promotion, get into a relationship, have kids, etc”) or indulge in nostalgia (“I had a better drive when I was a child”).

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Talking about nostalgia, it’s the ‘Pollyanna Principle‘, which aims to explain our tendency to remember the positives of life. It tells us this:

“We typically process pleasant items more accurately and efficiently than unpleasant or neutral items, and we tend to make positive judgements about a wide variety of people, events, situations, and objects.”

This means our brains process and handle positive information better compared to unpleasant information. This also means that we tend to remember past experiences more favorably than they actually were (Except in cases of legitimate Clinical Depression).

So, we’re innately wired to constantly work on and change (Improve? Not entirely sure about that) every existing aspect of our lives and the world around us. Why? Perhaps, actual perpetual bliss, if ever possible, would completely eradicate our need to accomplish anything at all. Perhaps contentment has been evolved out of us to impede that. 

Nietzsche states in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883-1885/1954):

And life itself confided this secret to me: “Behold,” it said, “I am that which must always overcome itself…where there is perishing and a falling of leaves, behold, there life sacrifices itself—or power…Only where there is life is there also will: not will to life but—thus I teach you—will to power. “There is much that life esteems more highly than life itself; but out of the esteeming itself speaks the will to power.”

Growth is important. The dynamics of growth find their enemy in all-encompassing satisfaction. Even the mere demand of contentment in some minor setting takes a stab at growth. 

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We realize that truly authentic behavior cannot exist without vital dissatisfaction.

So, where do we go from here?

The challenge that fundamentally attacks us is the need to control cognitive unrest and maintain some balance between these extremes of satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

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We cannot grow without dissatisfaction and we cannot live without some semblance of stability. Routines are cumbersome and boring but to experience something exciting, we need to have them to be able to break out of.

Perhaps setting your life up to be able to smoothly transition between the two is worth putting some effort into. 


See the World in a Different Light,

Signing Off

Shawn Kenneth Fernandes

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