How do we untangle intention from willfulness?
How do we untangle will from the desire to control?
How do we avoid hubris while promoting an active humility that searches out ways and means to embody intention?
And so it goes, around and around.
The trap that catches the “Man of Action” seems perfect and complete. He, most of them have been men, chooses to cut the Gordian Knot and go for his objective ceaselessly, willfully, with tremendous energy focused and channeled by confidence and a profound conviction that he’ll do whatever it takes. This constellation of traits, attitudes, and strengths lead to a fury of action that draws admiration from far and wide. The details don’t seem to matter, the ends in mind, or his methods. Most will grasp at an immediately appealing spectacle in his swift carving of time and space, the succession of events ticking down, rippling outwards from this locus of power and drive. Our weariness at the apparent futility within the day-to-day, at the slow sameness that such characters interrupt, brings us to cheer each step he takes, each tactical victory. Before the trap closes, or even after, some other shooting-star flashes out and grabs our attention. We have short memories when it comes to tallying their failures and assessing the trail of destruction they have left in their wakes. The show goes on, our gnawing sense of futility short-circuited by our hungering after the next defiant stand.
I do believe the accounting, if fully and accurately made, will, in each case, show a net loss from every such adventure. I’m also convinced, more beleaguered by a lingering doubt, that there must be a way to achieve a life worth living free of such escapades. So, caught between the certainty of the ultimate futility of willful action, and unable to let go completely of the desire to act, that there must be some form of right-action that achieves its ends – ends aligned with and not contrary to the needs of the overall fabric of being – I struggle in the space between efficiency and effectiveness. It’s a question of stance, where do I put my feet? How do I gain leverage? False footing guarantees disaster.
Every day I have lessons confirming my preference for inefficient, yet effective, action in small things. Over the span of decades I can trace how I’ve either avoided tragedy or achieved important goals through indirect means, contrary to all received wisdom. Still, the middle-ground appears muddled and difficult to read. My instincts for the short and the long-term fail to click into place to help orient me with any certainty on how best to deal with big events seen looming just out of reach….
* * *
Do we own intention? Is intention just another way of couching our desire to be willful in a sleight-of-hand designed to circumvent our responsibility to avoid the traps of attempting to control events?
What if the problem isn’t with intention, but our relationship to it?
When we say we “own our intentions” is this false?
Is there a lie at the back of this assumption that leads us into confusion?
This post isn’t laying out answers, just asking some questions that seem flimsy from a common perspective, but I’m beginning to think there’s something big in them, waiting to be sussed out.
Is intention the last refuge of Ego?
Can we inhabit an intention that is greater than ourselves, without falling into the delusions of megalomania that come from having “Right on My Side?”