The Urge to Start Over

What I’m asking…


What I’m asking… is to fulfill the frustrated need I had as a child, to be able to trust, and receive without doubt, guidance and direction.

Guidance and direction I could accept as being in my best interest. This is probably the most important request I have after a childhood need unmet.

I always had to mediate between what I was told and what my instincts would accept. This, the basis for all of my binds.

I’ve internalized this struggle. I can’t trust my own guidance, or wants; and I get stuck. What the young boy I once was wants most is to feel trust.1

1 Lisboa, February 2002, a handwritten note scrawled across a commuter train schedule that I kept in my wallet for years after.


This may have been the first intimations of an insight that began to lead me out of a life-long depression.

I was drawn to this poem as I began to write this post. It seems that somewhere in the tension between “The Urge to Start Over” and this desire for Trust unmet there lurk insights related to how we continue to beat our heads against our predicament and find it difficult to see a way ahead.

Now, part of our predicament is that we continue to insist that we be able to see ahead! This insistence keeps us off-balance and trapped in time as we rush to stay ahead of the moment instead of living in the only time/space we have, now.

There is a great longing to start over. I don’t think I’m unique in this regard. I think we are all trapped in this longing in some form or other. The Reductivists dream/nightmare we are reaching the end of is founded on the notion of a tubula rasa, a blank slate on which we – more precisely our Egos – can draw what they like and call it reality. In this way, for all its protestations to the contrary, this “Age of Reason” has been a continuation of the “Age of Belief” it attempted to supplant. Both are mechanisms to replace reality with a dream.

But, however we come to such an insistence it is a pernicious form of violence. From out of this violence we do to the truth, and to our organism and its ways of finding and carving out meaning, come all the other forms of violence we surround our selves with. Our difficulties in recognizing this result from the depths of habit that have deadened us to the violence all around us and in which we are complicit. In this way, this condition reflects the lack of trust, the impossibility of trust, we feel within the world-view that holds us captive.

Hungering for blank slates, from “Year Zero!” That confident cry at the start of the French Revolution that now brings cringing memories of Pol Pot’s genocide – the reductio ad absurdum of that previous revolution. Through the whole “Sea to Shining Sea!” and “Purple Mountains Majesty” of American Exceptionalism and the New Frontier. They all seek to discount now and push us off into “The Future!” – that acceptable “Heaven” of atheists everywhere.

How easily we forget, or never bothered to learn, that the Futurists were protofascists and that in Fascism we have the purest expression of such desires. But, then again, we insist we can ignore whatever doesn’t suit us. Who cares what a bunch of artists thought anyway?

We fall back on habits of Triage. We look for ways in which we can cut and run. “If only we could revert our conditions to this point!” becomes just an upside down version of chasing after the Future. If the Future “exists” out of the violence we do to the present, these dreams of reversion “exist” in the same way.

We are immersed in this kind of thinking. It always fails because it is partial. It is partial and we refuse to accept that it is. In this refusal, in the refusal to accept that reality will always outstrip our capacities to encompass it within understanding, and that any concoction we throw together in the wish that it will convince us otherwise is a return to that primal violence that holds us in this trap.

Trust is on the other side of this divide.

The child begins to distrust not when bad things happen, but when those in a position to know better refuse to accept and actively hide from the fact that something bad has happened or is ongoing. The same thing is true within us and between us as adults. The same is at the bottom of the gulf between each of us in our atomized isolation and the societies that claim to exist for our own good.

How do we take this in? How do we act on this hunch? How do we integrate this insight into our lives?

This is a process. It requires that we be patient and persevering in equal measure. Patient, because to insist that change follows an insight is to practically insure that it won’t! Persevering, because we will in countless ways be coerced and cajoled into staying where we are within the toxic simulacra of comfort that is the deadening numbness of modern life.

These habits: our conditioning, our thoughts, and the ways in which we are accustomed to dealing with our feelings; these are all striving to maintain us where we are.

When dealing with trust, perhaps the greatest lesson is to come to the realization that it cannot be striven after. No one, least of all that broken child within, that kernel of the organism we could have been and that we need to revive and integrate into relationship with all that is, will ever begin to trust because someone is “trying” to win that trust! Here again we run into the futility of striving!

I keep returning to an inkling that has yet to be refuted and that continually finds reinforcement, that the simple act of witness may be the most powerful thing we can accomplish. Not because this is our “Destiny!” Or because it will lead to some desired result. But, because it is the most direct way to acknowledge and connect with all that we truly have, our attention and awareness and the world in which we find ourselves immersed.

We’ve spent how many thousands of years now rejecting this? Insisting that what we desire is more important than what is.

Changing this does not follow from the urge to start over.

Changing this requires that we abandon that urge.

For a drowning person to begin to swim they need to abandon the urge to will themselves out of the water.

To find one’s natural buoyancy one needs to let those waters close in over our heads.

Letting go is not surrender! It is a necessary first step to any continuation of life.

What lies between us and our natural buoyancy is our fear.

What holds us in fear is our lack of trust.

We cannot trust anyone who refuses to acknowledge the violence we are immersed in.

We cannot trust ourselves until we acknowledge that we are immersed in this violence and that we cannot wish our way out of it.

To move on we need to reject the urge to start over.

Paradox is how we most often perceive the order we cannot understand, the order we insist is “chaos!”

Turbulence is that kind of order. Turbulence is a characteristic of water in motion. Drowning is a rejection of such realities.

Swimming is an acceptance of turbulence as an aspect of that which provides us buoyancy. An ineradicable aspect of the way things are.

We have a choice. We may continue to reject our immersion in complexity beyond all understanding or we may be buoyed by it!

Trust leads us towards such buoyancy and urgency blocks our path.

Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

7 thoughts on “The Urge to Start Over

  1. Tony,

    I was once caught in an extreme undertow. I had been body surfing and a set of” humungous” waves came through. I was tossed and tumbled in the wash until I was completely disoriented under the water. I didn’t know which way was up or if I was going to ever get another gulp of air. Before I could panic ,I realized that I just needed to watch which way the bubbles rose and follow. I soon came to the surface. My troubles were not over.

    I was quick to realize that I was fast moving away from shore. I was trying to swim against about a four knot undertow. I was making no headway and I was winded and tired. I had witnessed undertows before, and new that they always broke up in the outer edges and joined with the downshore currents. I stopped fighting the current and swam away from shore. Sure enough the undertow spit me out and I swam laterally back to shore.

    In both sets of circumstances, fighting the flow could have killed me. I would have lost all momentum and crumbled. But by using those outside forces, maintaining my momentum, and vectoring my efforts I nudged myself back to shore without expending all the energy I had left.

    Momentum is life! To stop and try to start over again is to give up momentum. We will not be reborn through this process. If we are to remake ourselves it has to be done during the journey. with slight and careful vectoring , cautious nudges and an eye on lifes turbulence all around us. Slow it all down in our minds, feel, see, and work with all you have.

    We are all broken! Broken hearts, broken spirits, broken trust, failures, disappointments, disillusion, Whatever! But it is only a shell. What lies within is fluid. Fluidity is motion . The shell might just be the only thing holding us back. What freedom we would gain to be unencumbered, to move with life and not against it. Our trajectory might very well change.


  2. Heh, this reads like a comment on this: (heading is Libor Scandal The Latest Front In War On Reality ) Yes, having a war on reality seems really stupid and dangerous. And still, majority of people make a living from it, and some pull really nice profits out of it. Don’t know what to call it what I’ve felt about watching the drama: sometimes regret for not being able to participate, often dread, sometimes fear as we are all in the same soup anyways – and having a job means I am doing my own tiny part in all of this. Constantly looking for methods to keep out of the suck of the maelstrom – dreading that fast and joyous ride, being a kill-joy to myself for dreading the last crushing part for people who have specifically opted to have the fast ride. Being witness, yes, but I’d like to be impartial. Or at least I’d like to cheer my own side, having come this far without being sucked into the wild ride. But it seems more like I am cheering the other side against myself. This herd of me has not reached any agreement in this matter.

    In one of life’s turbulences this came to me: fear is the first form of consciousness. Is it possible to shed the origin? Keep the fruit and burn the tree? I really don’t know. Fear and negativity have become such convenient scapegoats. They always seem to stand right between me and the dream. Would the complexity of life clear away if I just could get rid of all remaining crumbs of fear and negativity? Or is there, maybe, a way to use fear to sharpen attention? Ride the current of fear instead of fighting it?

    I must remember this expression: war on reality. There’s something very amusing about the idea. Maybe this is not a tragedy, after all, but a farce.


    1. Thank you for an important reminder, “fear is the first form of consciousness.” It’s not that we abolish fear, but that we do not let it fossilize into anxiety. In that way I would say we are not after “burning the tree.” For me in my childhood it was not the fear that traumatized, but the responses to fear I was exposed to: the denial, the panic, the paralysis in the face of the frightening. And, an inability to move on.

      Moving on, not starting over, does not require a blank slate. It begins with compassion and acceptance….

      Isn’t repetition what makes tragedy into farce? The mighty fall: tragedy. The fool falls over and over again: Farce.

      Lewis Lapham writing his editorials at Harper’s Magazine back in the Nineteen-Seventies was constantly touching on the American propensity to war against reality. He was one of my earliest influences from a living writer writing about contemporary events.


  3. Oh, those people who are having that wild joyous ride right now: they are the ones who have the trust, aren’t they? They have that inner certainty that someone, something, somehow, is gonna save them and make them whole, no matter what happens. I’ve known all my life that I’m not one of those lucky ones. If I jumped off a cliff, I would fall, not learn to fly. Is this a lack in me? Lack in imagination, fluidity, something? Or are those who are certain they would sorta, kinda, fly, delusional? I really, really don’t know.


    1. I would say that there is a distinction between forms of trust. We conflate trust with belief. Then we create narratives of the heroism of maintaining beliefs in the face of reality. This, I would consider delusional. It is a stab in the dark. It is lunging after certainties with no concern of whether there can be any certainty. This is the war on reality.

      There is another form of trust. It grows out of the integrated responses of “the herd,” as you call them. The integrated organism has the capacity to develop a working hypothesis that it/we can trust. This is at the juncture between sincerity and seriousness. This is centering and balancing and allows us to act from a position that gives us access to whatever “traction” is available to us.

      The first, accepts the illusion that wishes will make it so, that “I can fly! If I believe I can!”

      The second takes us from drowning to swimming. Or we drown – if conditions are such that we are overwhelmed, but we have not thrown our selves away.


    2. kristiina,

      You are talking about people with a “faith” system. They believe in a system that will always provide more suckers. They will gladly lead you to the edge of the cliff and accompany you over the edge. Unfortunately, they don’t tell you about the “golden” parachute they are wearing.

      Above all else, You have to be the disciple of your own beliefs. You can’t afford yourself duality. If you watch the drama, you may begin to believe in it.You will risk becoming a participant. But if you slow it all down in your mind,see it for what it really is, the chaos and misdirected energies and stinking putrification of it, you might get through it or around it without getting it on you.

      I don’t mean you should put your head in the sand, either. you need to be a careful and critical observer, not a skeptic, not with a jaunt iced eye. Establish a reality based on clear perspective. Deal with the other realities for what they are, very small problems blown into enormity.



  4. Looking at the fruits ot the tree of violence: I see them in myself, I see them around me. The fear for survival petrified into a life-philosophy. I think there’s a term for it: the bag-lady syndrome. The feeling that if one does a wrong move, one is going to end up being a bag lady. Living out of that fear: watching one’s every step from this point: will this take me towards becoming a bag lady? This is imprisonment, the reverse of freedom.

    So, opening the gates – nothing happens. Much. The bag lady moves onto the property, but she is still bitter. Why did she have to be homeless so long? The one running the show with survival fears has now even more pressing survival fears for herself, as she has lost the top spot. The grumpy members of the herd. If only there was a garbage can for unwanted herd members. But just like with garbage, taking those unwanted out of the field of vision is only one manouver in the war against reality. Giving them their own place.

    Being with horses one has to learn to stand up for oneself. A horse is unscrupulous and will use me as a doormat if I let him. But they do it differently. It seems low-ranking horses are more prone to physical violence, higher ranking horses do it with maneuvers. It is possible to negociate with a higher ranking horse. A lower ranking horse will just push and ignores suggestions. In a herd, the higher ranking horses have to act as an unsurmountable wall to the lower ranking horses. This gives them a feeling of security. A place of their own.


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