Why Do We Strive?

It’s a funny thing, striving.  We all do it, to one degree or another.  We try hard to become better artists or to improve what we do and how we do it, but why do we do that?  Yes, there is a societal pressure to do so, but that doesn’t really account for it.  Resistance would be more common, if that were the only reason we strive.  There’s something intrinsic about the motivation to strive.

It has been suggested that striving is synonymous with survival, but I don’t buy it.  You can do a lot less than striving the whole time, yet still survive.  It could be argued that people are, in general, far from having to strive just to survive and so strive for other reasons.

There is the theory that striving is all about ego, power and accumulation of wealth.  Maybe, but then why do starving artists, with no immediate prospect of power and wealth, continue to strive?  Is it a delusion?  How do we explain the artist that strives without an audience?  From whence does their ego boost come?  From inside?  Well, that same ego boost could be obtained by lying to yourself and avoiding all the hard work that comes with striving.  This explanation of the need to strive doesn’t seem to cover it, as far as I am concerned.

Could it be that humanity, as a species, has the disease of wanting to continually strive for better?  After all, cats and dogs tend not to have purposeful projects of self improvement in progress the entire time, yet we humans do.  If it’s a sickness, what is the cure?  Does the disease do us any good?  In our striving, does anything actually get better, or do we all just make everything worse?

Could it be that, as sentient beings, we understand how much better things need to be and so our personal striving is the only contribution we feel we are able to make, in order to make things better for ourselves, everybody else and subsequent generations?  Could it be a responsibility and fealty to our species that we try to keep up our end, as it were?  Are we in fear that if we all stop striving, disaster will follow?

Could it equally well be the case that the universe is an organism and that there is a celestial imperative in all of us, as components of that giant organism, to continually evolve and develop?  Could it be that the universe compels us to do so?  If so, why?  What is the purpose of the universe’s need for us all to evolve in our consciousnesses?

I have to confess that I haven’t found a satisfactory answer to the question.  I don’t know why we all strive.  I know that we do and feel a strong sense that we ought to, even if we remove the societal pressures.  Most people, in retirement, perish for want of a purposeful project, for example.  That’s a well documented phenomenon.  We seem to need to live for a reason, even if we cannot articulate what that purpose truly is.

Let’s say that the reason we strive is for the betterment of everything, in the widest sense of the word “everything”.  Do we succeed in that aim?  I wonder.  I wonder how many people strive fruitlessly, pointlessly or in ways that are, on net consideration, detrimental to humanity, the earth and the rest of the species on the planet.  In which case, shouldn’t we stop those people from trying so damned hard?  Wouldn’t it be better if some of the weapons makers and inventors of toxic products just didn’t strive so hard?  Couldn’t we have done without the invention of leaded petrol, for example?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think it’s an interesting question and one that goes to the very heart of the artist’s struggle to create better art.

Why do you think you strive?


About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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12 Responses to Why Do We Strive?

  1. masqua says:

    “Could it equally well be the case that the universe is an organism and that there is a celestial imperative in all of us, as components of that giant organism, to continually evolve and develop?”

    Here lies the truth as I envision it to be.

    All of nature evolves through strife itself and the artist exemplifies that yearning through their creative processes. It is art which made this world (as Nigel Spivey would have it) and this also applies throughout the material and spiritual universes.

    There is nothing which does not attempt towards completion and, inversely, all will eventually succumb to entropy. The same is true in the miracle of life as it is in the evolution of stone.

    • If the universe is a purposeful, self-organising entity, why should entropy be the end game? Isn’t that a Materialist article of faith? Rupert Sheldrake has much to say on the matter.

      • masqua says:

        There is not one example of life within the material universe which is immortal (yet), but we attest to it in the spiritual universe.

        There is no stone which will not one day be silt, no orbiting planet which will not be reduced to gas in a supernova nor a galaxy which will survive a black hole within its center.

        Everything is birth and rebirth.

      • That might be so, but since the Big Bang, order in the universe has been increasing at an accelerating rate, defying the second law of steam engines (thermodynamics). Nobody can tell you why and therefore heat death is not a foregone conclusion at all, especially when we observe increasing expansion. The universe might not be a machine at all, subject to eventual entropy, it could be an organism that continues to grow and evolve. That is at least consistent with our current observations.

      • masqua says:

        The fly within Cosmic Order is the existence of super black holes.


      • Except that we cannot account for 80% of the matter and energy of the universe, other than by postulating dark matter and dark energy. Even with black holes, if we only count 20% of what there is, the entropy may not be increasing at all.

      • masqua says:

        As we are both playing within the field of speculation, the truth lies in what we would believe it to be. 🙂

        For myself, I believe in cyclic, recurring and multiple universes as they are formed through supermassive black holes.


      • And your belief may be testable and provable, but not with current evidence. I offer a paradox as a potential disproof of the orthodox view. That’s not, I claim, pure speculation, it’s an unanswered and I would hold a valid question. The behaviour of life on earth flatly contradicts the belief that life is cyclic. Not so far.

      • masqua says:

        The behavior of life on Earth does not contradict the idea of cycles at all. Do you not agree that our sun has a life span and that it will, at some point, indeed die?

        We (all life on this planet) depend upon the sun. As it goes, so do we.

      • I think there is no evidence. Human kind could inhabit an exoplanet by the time the sun burns out. There may be local examples of entropy, but as many localised examples that run counter. We’re not a primordial soup anymore, for example. We became more organised than that. I don’t think it is safe to extrapolate like you are, based on the evidence we have.

      • masqua says:

        “I don’t think it is safe to extrapolate like you are, based on the evidence we have.”

        Then I shall relent this debate and leave you to your belief in the immortality of modern man as we exist within the material world.

        My apologies if I’ve offended your world view.

        Have a nice day. 😀

      • Not offend at all, but I have enjoyed debating the ideas with you. My point is that we know less than we think we know and our theories are heavily dependent on faith. I hope I have not offended you either. Thank you for the refreshing exchange of thoughts on the matter.

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