• J. W. Barlament

Will Is A Lie

Our ability to know our limitations is, in and of itself, a limitation.

Mankind is a mass of lazy bastards with a sprinkling of brilliance on top. While the occasional exception unendingly strives to make something of themselves, the vast majority of humanity is content with spending their entire lives doing the absolute minimum. Of course, we can’t completely blame them; living is an arguably easier endeavor now than it’s ever been, and people seem to be naturally inclined to capitalize on whatever ease they can get. Still, everyone intuitively wants to make something meaningful of their tenure here on Earth. Many people even anguish at the prospect of never contributing a line to the epic poem of the world. It’s just that the allure of ease is often too enticing for these would-be do-gooders to resist. How, then, does man remain sane, knowing he wishes to boldly tackle the world but constantly succumbing to inaction anyway? Simply put, he wields his intelligence against himself.

As with all worthwhile ideas, we can find an example of this in nature. It seems - at least to us humans, on the outside looking in - that no animals other than us have any sort of concept of willpower. An animal will never give in simply because it doesn’t feel like doing what it knows it needs to do. It just does what it needs to until it has nothing more to do, and upon getting to that point, the animal will finally let itself rest. Animals don’t hesitate, procrastinate, or distract themselves to avoid the job at hand, because in the wild world, those types of habits will either get you eaten or leave you starving. Animals are thus unconscious of their limited powers of will until it physically leaves them and they drop to the ground of exhaustion. Humans, however, are gifted with the peculiar ability to recognize our willpower and predict when it will run out. Perhaps it’s in our nature to misuse this, or perhaps it’s a wholly modern phenomenon, but regardless, it’s an ever-present nuisance in today’s world.

Willpower is a quantitative thing; although we don’t have any accurate ways to measure it yet, we know that it is a finite and must be conserved wherever possible and allocated only to worthwhile pursuits. This, coupled with our tendency to lethargy, leads us to greatly underestimate our willpower, because of course we do. Why would we overestimate it, thus making us use up evermore of our precious energy, when we could underestimate it, thus giving us an excuse to get lazy before we get tired? Rarely do people really run out of willpower. Far more often do they think they have, and then, acting on that false assumption, throw what willpower they have left in the garbage in favor of bathing in laziness. It’s a nasty tendency, and it’s just about inescapable in the modern collective consciousness. Despite this, though, it has a surprisingly simple solution.

Don’t give up when you think you can no longer carry on. Give up when you’ve pushed yourself to such exuberant extremes that your mind must demand you rest. Then, you will rest - not out of an admission of failure, but in a celebration of a draining victory.