Today is December 20 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you obsess over your dreams?” Today’s reflection begins with observations from two authors from completely different genres.
The first comment comes from the pen of French novelist, philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre who wrote “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”
Now it is true that other Navigate the Chaos posts focus on finding purpose in one’s life. For today, however, we are going to couple Sartre’s statement with a reflection from Ray Bradbury who, upon contemplating the broader role of doggedness in success, said “I discovered early on that if you wanted a thing, you went for it — and you got it. Most people never go anywhere or want anything — so they never get anything.”
By combining Sartre’s belief with Bradbury’s, we have today’s reflection on obsession. By accepting the comment that you are responsible to give life meaning (Sartre) with the observation that you must go after that which you want (Bradbury) you can understand why some people use the strategy of obsessing over a dream. For these people, like mountain climber Fred Beckey, they understand they are responsible to give life meaning and obsess in the going after what they want.
Beckey was an American rock climber, mountaineer, and author, who made hundreds of first ascents, more than any other North American climber. His obsession was detailed in a 2017 documentary film on his life, Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey. Beckey was born in Düsseldorf, Germany, and his family immigrated to the United States in 1925, ending up in Seattle, Washington.
He started climbing in the North Cascades as a teenager around age thirteen, learning the basic concepts from the Boy Scouts and later, The Mountaineers but quickly going on to harder climbs on his own. He managed to continue this focus on climbing for more than seventy years and has become an icon in North American mountaineering. He attended the University of Washington and received a degree in business administration in 1949.
He entered the printing industry and soon discovered that his work assignments encroached upon his climbing goals. He eschewed the printing industry to gain more climbing time. He worked as a delivery truck driver, which left him time for climbing. As time went on, he decided that climbing was his life's focus. He never married or had children, he never pursued a professional career, he never sought money or financial security as a goal—his goal was to climb mountains.
As Beckey said in a 2010 interview “I just climb for the fun of it. I'm always motivated to try something that people haven't done. I guess you get a reputation that way, and an award goes out because of it. I'm not into awards. I don't do stuff for awards. I do what I feel like doing.” Clearly, if everyone used Beckey’s strategy to navigate the chaos the world would be, well, more chaotic!
The nuance involved with today’s reflection is the realization that some strategies are simply unappealing. You may want to have a family. You may want to pursue awards. And you may want to keep the same job your entire life. How you navigate the chaos is deeply personal. No one should ever tell you how to live your life. This Navigate the Chaos series is built upon a question. There is no statement involved with any of these posts. There is no advice. And there is certainly no guarantee.
Each day allows you an opportunity to ask yourself a question. If you want to. If you choose otherwise, fine. If you want to become obsessed with the pursuit of a life goal that is your decision as it was for Beckey. Perhaps becoming obsessed for a certain amount of time is the exact strategy you need to use at that point in your life. The choice is yours.
How often do you find yourself obsessing over a dream so much that you forgo fortune, fame, and family?”
Do you agree with Sartre in that “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning?” Why? Why not?
Do you agree with Bradbury who wrote “I discovered early on that if you wanted a thing, you went for it — and you got it. Most people never go anywhere or want anything — so they never get anything?” Why? Why not?
Even if obsessing over a dream is not the appropriate strategy for you, can you accept how some people might use such a life approach?