I was watching the film, The Gambler, on DVD about a week ago and there was a monologue in it that completely blew my mind. It was one of those pieces of dialogue, very similar in sentiment to the, ‘our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives’ speech from Tyler Durden in Fight Club, that perfectly captures the sense of disillusionment that many of us feel with modern life.
I’m going to share it with you in a moment. I believe it might shed some light on your predicament if you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, or that the options The System presents for making a living, or living a life, are barely worth living for.
Then, I’m going to present you with a solution. You see I don’t believe it’s your fate to spend your life compromising your dreams, values, opinions, free time, friendships, loves and morals. You CAN have everything you want from life but in order to start creating a life where you do, there’s one major, and The System would say dangerous, thing you have to embrace about yourself.
More on that to come. For now, read the following passage and see if it strikes a chord.
“The only thing worth doing is the impossible. Everything else is gray. You’re born . . . as a man . . . with the nerves of a soldier, the apprehension of an angel, to lift a phrase, but there is no use for it.
Here? [he’s talking about modern life] Where’s the use for it?
You’re set up to be a philosopher or a king or Shakespeare, and this is all they give you? [the options The System presents making a living or living a life]
This? Twenty odd years in school which is all instruction on how to be ordinary . . . or they’ll fucking kill you, and they fucking will, and then it’s a career, which is not the same thing as existence . . . I want unlimited things. I want everything. A real love. A real house. A real thing to do . . . every day. I’d rather die if I don’t get it.”
– Jim Bennett (played by Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler)
Have you ever felt the same way?
Have you ever felt you have all this potential (nerves of a soldier, set up to be a king or philosopher etc.) yet modern life has virtually no obvious outlet for you to realise your destiny? Instead, your adventurous nature, and all your potential brilliance, gets diluted by a school system and, after that, a work environment that just wants you to be ordinary. To follow, never lead. To carry out instructions, never think.
And what about your desires?
Do you not feel the same thirst for the unlimited as Jim? Have you never felt the stirring of your soul, telling you to go for what you really want?
I’m certain you have, and if that’s the case, then there’s an important step that you must take.
At the start of the dialogue Jim tells us that ‘The only thing worth doing is the impossible?’
What does he mean?
This – The life you truly want, the one your soul is crying out for, is seen as impossible to achieve by The System we live in.
Think about what you’re conditioned to believe from a very early age.
You’re taught that you can’t be happy all the time. You’re taught that dreams don’t really come true. You’re taught that you can’t have everything you want and that, inevitably, you have to make a lot of sacrifices.
Therefore, what Jim means is that the only thing worth doing is defying these accepted truths (the impossible) and following your soul on the journey it’s urging you to take.
This is what you must embrace! Accept and acknowledge the fact that your soul wants more than what the crappy system you live in has to offer. Embrace the fact that you want it all. There’s nothing wrong with that. The System may teach you that you’re selfish for feeling this way but how do you serve humanity when you’re a watered down, tame version of yourself?
Take this step and The System would have you believe you’re playing with fire. Pursue the unlimited and you’re setting yourself up for massive failure, and the destruction of all hope, as you discover that it truly is impossible to have everything you want from life.
That’s how the story goes. That’s what we’re warned of.
The evidence used to convince us of this way of thinking is the lives of millions of people on this planet.
Just look around. Do you see millions of well rounded, happy, joyous and fulfilled people walking the earth? Or do you see a substantial minority of unscrupulous SOBs who won’t think twice about harming another person, a vast majority of people who live lives ranging from quiet desperation to relative comfort and a tiny tiny minority who are self-actualized?
I’m guessing it’s the latter, and because that’s all we tend to see, it becomes hard not to believe that life being incomplete is just the way it is. And if that’s just the way life is then, the best thing we can do, the thing that will cause us the least pain, is to just accept it and get on with our lot.
But there are consequences to following this logic!
I’ve already mentioned that the film this magnificent piece of dialogue is taken from is called The Gambler, and it’s given this title because its main character (Jim), unsurprisingly, has a gambling problem. He can’t see any productive opportunity to fulfil his desire for an unlimited life so he resorts to the only escape/option that does appear available.
For him, it’s gambling. For you or someone else, it might be drugs (recreational or pharmaceutical) or sex or food or shopping or excessive escapism through computer games, films or books.
As we know, the outcome of any addiction is rarely positive but this is what could face us.
Also, when we refuse to acknowledge our soul’s calling for an unlimited life, a part of us dies. Whether it’s our inner child or the dreamer in us, that spark gets extinguished after too many years of surviving or ‘getting by’.
I’m sorry for not leaving you with a clear plan of action. With this article alone I can’t offer you a full solution or tell you that everything is going to be ok. However, I will leave you with this.
Dedicating yourself to doing the impossible may be incredibly hard, but at least by being honest enough to honour your desires, you end all internal discord.
Don’t underestimate the value of this. So many people live in conflict with themselves, suppressing their desires and seeking destructive outlets for a release. You, however, will remain strong.
And it’s this strength of character and refusal to accept that it’s wrong, or too dangerous, to want the impossible that is the driving force behind every social and technological advance in history.
Was Nelson Mandela wrong for challenging a government that wanted to suppress its people’s freedoms?
Was Roger Bannister wrong for challenging the established sporting and scientific opinion that the human body couldn’t run a mile in under 4 minutes?
Is Elon Musk wrong for wanting to challenge a transport industry that pollutes our planet?
Of course not and, therefore, neither should you feel wrong, or be deterred by the danger, of wanting something fantastic and significant for your life.
So embrace your desires. Don’t play small. Admit what you want and put everything you have into achieving it.
(Image taken from Celestine Chua photostream flickr.com)
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