For the pursuit.

by David King on December 20, 2014

shipinthenight A ship in the passing.
A call in the night.

When I was young, I wanted to be many things. Between the ages of ten and fifteen, my career prospects included palaeontology, astronomy, marine biology, zoology, and veterinary medicine. There is a theme there, surely, but it seems that none of these early musings were of the materializing variety. My life would ultimately take a different path: psychology. But what are all of these things—these ologies and onomies? Are they the means to some end, or the goals before which we lay out some path? Perhaps they are mere products of the pursuit…

They are all of these things, of course, or they can be. They are also a selection of the myriad expressions of human endeavor. But at this precise moment in my life, I find myself more concerned with the pursuit. And as I experience an increasing existential angst over the matter—over the nature of pursuit and how it defines our lives—I am left with a growing desire to leave the ologies and onomies to those less concerned with such abstract matters of existence. I want to know what makes a person pursue any one thing. I want to know why I pursue. I want to know if it’s the outcome of the pursuit that drives me, or the pursuit itself. I want to know if I need it. I want to know if it’s what makes me tick. I want to know if at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter the nature of the ology or onomy so long as I am engaged. These may seem like unanswerable questions, but our world is one in which pursuit is a precursor to success. As a consequence, the pursuit of the outcome and the outcome itself become inextricably entangled, and the likelihood of confounding the two substantial. Yet given the brief nature of our lives, we would be remiss to not know these things. We would be remiss to not know our pursuit.

Those who know me well know that I am a person who is in perpetual angst. For as long as I can remember, I have been bothered. But what I do with this life, and what I make of it, is a question that is no more answerable today than it was when I was ten or fifteen years old. There are new ideas, of course, and more mature means to manifest them, but I am left unconvinced as to whether the outcome is any clearer. Perhaps I am frightened by the finality of the result, or simply insufficiently supported in my means. Or perhaps it is my pursuit to be bothered. In any event, I am beginning to understand the value of the pursuit itself, and of the striving towards something that is neither goal nor outcome. It is the ride, as they say; the journey; the cliché. But perhaps it’s everything.

Imagine doing it all for the pursuit, not the result. What this leads to is the realization that what one is doing now matters more than the outcome itself; that satisfaction in the moment is actually possible. It further implies that the boundaries of whatever institution or system in which one finds oneself are but temporary barriers to happiness, for the goal is more freely adaptable—so long as the pursuit endures. In a world consisting of primarily stagnated lives, it’s an attractive concept. It’s a purposeful concept, in a way that purpose is not the attainment of something but rather the pursuit itself, even if the something changes. Over an entire lifetime, I would imagine that living for the pursuit would mean really living, in a way that most of us only dream of—in a way that I’ve dreamed of since I was quite young, before the ologies and onomies and other pragmatic possibilities of life became the paramount concerns of my pursuit.

Of course, one still needs a thing to pursue. But I guess the point is this: Life is full of destinations, but it doesn’t have to be defined by them. Indeed, it can be defined by the pursuit itself. More importantly, life does not have to be defined by any one goal, and as a consequence, it need not be defined by any one path. The notion of change is an undervalued one in today’s world, yet it is change that propels us forward; keeps us moving; makes us grow. Without it, we would find ourselves the mere constituents of a primordial sea, knowing neither goal nor pursuit; the mere byproducts of chance collisions that are no more outcome than they are path or trail.

Pursuit is a ship in the passing. It is a call in the night. It is the thing that truly keeps us moving, long after the goal has been attained, and long after it has been lost.

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