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?