The thought of a pursuit rendering someone’s existence as valuable was confirmed to me recently by reading Spieltrieb by Juli Zeh. In this novel, the main plot is a a sexual fantasy game between teenagers who have zero empathy towards their subjects, even when the game turns into a matter of life and death. In this example, puppet master Alev uses the argument of game theory: Every player needs an opponent, and if such a person does not exist, it must be created in order for the game to continue.
The existence and necessity of such oppositions and polarisation in novels is obvious – surely you have noticed the construction schemes made to create suspense and give the protagonist meaning, success depending on the writer’s ability to tell a story.
Any writer knows about the importance of pursuit.
But this essay isn’t really about Zeh. These thoughts had occurred to me weeks before.
What about the general existential meaning of pursuit in a regular existence, a realistic narrative?
I also believe it to be vital.
Let’s dig into that:
In regards to social pursuit, the formula is easy and transparent. As a social animal dependant on other social animals, the pursuit of something perpetual. An agenda is always to be found, even if social norms and arbitrary value systems have resulted in our denial of that. With every action, as social animals, we pursue something. The fact that a morality clause prevents us from seeing ourselves clearly as intellectual animals, is fine for some but unacceptable for me. So, for example, actively pursuing a relationship can be beneficial for several sociological reasons.
The other aspect, individual pursuit, is the drive to chase something and to continue doing so in order to gain value of existence and evolve as an individual. In this case a universal principle also exists and is diminished by moral codes which belittle a certain kind of pursuit and project value unto another kind.
The truth is than beyond the morality of good and bad, any pursuit is good for the evolution of an individual. Such is one of the aspects of game theory, but really just a core knowledge any intelligent human should have: evolution is necessary for a meaningful existence.
The pursuit of another person, of a social structure, of a healthy body, of mastering a craft, of having more discipline – any of these is as valuable as the other. The act of pursuit itself is what is needed to keep the psyche and/or the body working towards something and towards development, meaning the individual is moving forward. Stagnation and static state are fatal to any living form, especially a human being.
In literature, the reader sees dynamic characters undergo chance and finds those to be most interesting. However, he often misses the fact that to keep his own actual psyche running and functioning, a daily pursuit is also vital.
Going further, there are two kinds of pursuit an individual can practise: the pursuit of the familiar, and the pursuit of the unfamiliar. An easy example of the first would be any animal, since they follow their instincts daily to survive inside the circle of life.
For a human individual, however, pursuit of the unfamiliar is the most rewarding form of development. Not stepping onto a familiar, traditional, conventional path opens the possibility of reaching a place we have not experienced before. Following our own individual pursuit in spite of what society tells us to do is most exciting, because it raises us up from the herd and lets us explore ourselves, our very unique and special selves.
So, next time you think about a very small achievement and the immediate satisfaction it gives you, try to broaden the concept of pursuit and maybe go for something bigger, something other and something more complicated. Stepping onto your fear of action and taking a walk towards something new which you can claim for your own, is possibly the most exciting development an individual can undergo. In that regard, long term pursuit strengthens character even further.
Pursuit is vital and biologically necessary. The pursuit of the unfamiliar is the key to a successfully developing society of strong individuals. If taken into consideration seriously by this empty generation who are currently distracted by social media in a most macabre manner, we might actually stand a chance.