life is short

Sucking the Marrow Of Life


I want to suck the marrow of life.

I want to live: to be passionate, to be reckless, calm, vigorous, virile.

I want to suck the marrow of life.

But there’s not a whole-lotta marrow-sucking going on. I feel trapped in a sterile existence. Trapped by the duties of school. Trapped by the responsibilities I thrust upon myself. Trapped above all by the monotonous complacency of habit. Inside, my heart beats, pumping passion through my veins, crying to be released: to feel, to grasp, to love. But I am trapped.

The truth is, we all are. We’re all caught in a complex set of illusions. Even worse, we spend most our time maintaining the very illusions that bind us.

That might sound a bit odd. Let me explain.

Our ‘society’ is really a dense fabric of interwoven systems: legal, judicial, executive, financial, social, moral, et cetera. We are the individual threads that bind everything together. These systems mediate our interactions with each other and the world by establishing ‘rules’ of conduct (laws, customs, morals etc.)—weaving our threads in a very specific pattern. We can survive without these ‘rules’, but they are effective in promoting prosperity, so they remain.

This is not a new phenomenon. Since the dawn of intelligence, our interactions have been mediated by similar constructions of the imagination. We have always cooperated according to social custom and moral system. These are also myths promoting social cohesion and therefore economic prosperity. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. 

The problem is that our modern systems have become so complex that they demand increasing amounts of our time and energy. No longer do constructs serve us; we serve our creations. We require hundreds of millions of lawyers, accountants, bankers, office workers, economists, politicians to maintain them. In fact, all these people are playing around with mere imagination-stuff, manipulating fabricated systems to promote order. Not only that. We spend most of our days interacting with and within these fabricated systems. We use our phones, spend money, pay taxes, use credit cards, go for driver’s tests, get IDs. We plan our days with Google Calendar and Todoist. Even activities such as cleaning and maintenance, as Thoreau points, are effectively self-imposed, as our possessions are fundamentally unnecessary. These activities are not truly ‘living’, because they are not essential to life. I am afraid that when we each of us die, we will discover, if we are perfectly frank, “that [we] had not lived”.

The Matrix is a great film. But it is misleading. We don’t need technology to create a simulation. Our minds are computers powerful enough: in the collective sphere of our imaginations, we have created a ‘Matrix’ that gives the illusion of life and prosperity while robbing us of anything that has real value.

We are a society of illusions—artificial laws and morals and customs, dressed up as natural, inviolable law. These are helpful illusions, to be sure. But I think, some time ago, we lost sight of what is truly important: not participating in and maintaining these fabrications, but actually living, reaping the benefits of the systems we have created. Of course, it is not feasible to tear down our constructions and burn our possessions—we cannot go back, except with much suffering. It is also not clear that this would be desirable. We must instead attempt to “front only the essential facts of life” as often as possible: to talk, laugh, dance, read; to create and to express; to make food, and to love. Perhaps more importantly, in all these pursuits, we must endeavour to be more primal, more human—endeavour to escape our bored, sterile complacency, finding the will to conquer each day, to devour and to squeeze and to suck all that is tender and sweet from the moments we have.

Choose to do what is human. Do it with passionate humanity. Suck the marrow of life.

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