I’m plagued by a thirst for glamour, for the ideal. I envision myself in a glittery spotlight, frequenting the most fabulous sites and establishments; flirting, bantering with the highest echelon of folk; studying the most regarded and esoteric of authors; donning the hippest of clothes…living each day as a thrust toward the infinite. These days are few and far between. I’m graced on occasion with these glamorous days. My attraction to aesthetic beauty becomes an aspiration that coalesces into a lifestyle. The presence of objectively beautiful things, people, places, and ideas set me in motion toward this utopian lifestyle that I construct for myself. I see a beautiful person and dream up the picture-perfect relationship with them. I read a thought-provoking book and want to write a dissertation on it that will be renowned by my colleagues. I see someone wearing a stylish outfit and want to emulate their wardrobe. What plagues me most of all is my ever-and-over-active brain, which is constantly formulating new theories, ideas, and calculations. A new theory blossoms in my brain, and I have to tell someone about it, I have to write about it, I have to publish this idea in the most prestigious of journals, and somehow spread it to the most elite of universities and formulate a path for it to trickle down to the lay level, initiating a cultural movement that will captivate the globe.
This missionary impulse that drives me to “make an impact” on the world keeps me up at night, fills my being with an anxiety that plunges me into an abyss that spans from the infinitude of my desire to the tragic limitedness of by ability. I taste a small morsel of glamour, of the fabulous, the ideal-and am tossed once again that sea of nothingness. Why is it that this taste for beauty always projects itself to the infinite, to that which transcends my own capacity? I find myself unable to live in the real world because it never lives up to the utopia I have constructed for myself in my mind. Why am I given these gifts, these abilities and desires, if they can never be materialized? Can I erase my yearning for glamour, and resolve to follow what is in front of me? Can I somehow attain the superhuman power to do anything and everything-write the greatest book of all time, encounter the perfect lover, reach aesthetic perfection, consume the finest of goods…begin a cultural revolution that changes the world and gains me universal acclaim? But no, this yearning only seems to distract me from the real. I have a tedious day job, an insufficient salary, a weak and unfabulous body, a wardrobe that is ever-out of fashion, the inability to acquire beautiful people, timidity that keeps me from moving higher and higher in social circles, and a limited brain that keeps me from knowing everything. It seems like neither my desire nor my limitations are erasable.
So am I doomed eternally to live out this tension between my utopia and reality? What will make it possible to live a fulfilled life in reality, when reality consists of humdrum and taxing demands that seem to both contradict my desire and exceed my abilities?
Perhaps the starting point of my freedom comes, rather than from erasing some dimension of my life, from looking at the very fact of my desire and the fact of my limitations. The beauty in front of me is given, gratuitously: the beautiful person walking down the street, the fascinating book I savor in my hands, the delicious coffee I sip on as I sit with a friend and discuss the dramas and complexities of our lives. These things that provoke my heart are just as given as my own limitations-a cross I definitely did not choose to bear. These objective facts, these events, these happenings, are signs that point me to someone who makes them happen. From where does this beauty come? Who is it that allows for this abyss to be opened in front of me? Who are you that desires to provoke me? Seeking earnestly for the answers to these questions is what allows me to plunge deeper into reality, as opposed to retreating from it. Freedom is less full when it starts as a scheme to construct an alternate reality or to push the current reality toward utopia through initiating some type of cultural revolution. The point of departure of my life in the real is a “You,” an eternal presence, which communicates itself through the faces of those who swim with me through that abyss.