Stress is the great mover and shaker; that sweet tension which builds mountains or escorts an idea up the ladder of fruition. Its reception can be of welcome or conflict. Our thoughts can respond by triggering the nerves to fire and the body to coil, brewing poisons through the whole of our being. And by a long accumulation of such poor reactions to this driving force, demented traits and physical illness will be born. By sheer laziness we never stand ready to face new events and the pressure they bear. The reaction to the unexpected is nearly always negative and fierce in opposition, as in such moments we resolve to do all we can to diminish and eliminate that specific source of struggle.
The art of life is to take any situation and extract the fine from the coarse. A man’s quality is measured by his ability — his response-ability — to channel any stream or river towards useful and attractive ends of his choosing. What limits and constricts this talent is our personal habits and inclinations, the likes and dislikes which rule our world through that constricted persona of a false ego. A vessel can be made of materials of varying qualities; its texture, shape and size likely fixed from birth to death. Yet it’s capacity to bend is the most crucial trait to develop and nurture, as breaking is always the result of a weak and obstinate design in the face of an ever changing environment.
From where do our likes and dislikes arise, and why are we not able to change them at will? Surely some are inherent of the human hardware and cannot be changed without a few dozen drops of sweat. Yet apart from the hardware, we see that our software contains numerous tastes and attractions which we have been programmed to enjoy or disdain according to values not of our own. We must find the glue which maintains the status quo of our inner world and unwind the coils until the slate has been cleaned to a saner state. A man cannot live his life simply by remaining what he is; so the capacity to change must become a well-toned muscle, prized above all others.
We typically understand change to be a reality informed by sheer necessity. It comes about when little choice is provided and a man must do what is necessary in order to survive. This is the way of the mob and crowd, where the masses change according to the abrupt movements of greater laws beyond their reach and control. A single individual is subject to the same laws, but he is also endowed with something, though now feint and feeble, which can provide him with the ability to diagnose and measure the situation and to struggle towards a change which improves his position. By what measure he finds this need optional, and relates to it with indifference or grave import, will decide how talented an artist he truly is.
Our relationship to stress governs all else, as it is the driver behind every motivation. Without it, waves would be no more and the Earth’s dramas would slow to the pace of a slug. The priority has always been to set the table straight and place the cultlery in their proper spots. Should disorder come about, we cry foil and weep until conditions return to their Edenic state. We are fixed to shapes and desperately want the world to fall into an order which can be anticipated. However much we may say otherwise, our deepest desire is for things to repeat so that the amount of energy we exert in a moment falls to the bottom of the barrel. That in us which wants something more, something else, is the spirit of that stress muscle, yearning for challenges and adventure to upset the patterns and reap havok upon what we think we know.