Fight the Flow (don’t “go with” it)

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frankl search “Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or between what one is and what one should become…. I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i.e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

— Victor Frankl, psychiatrist, concentration camp survivor, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning

I’d like to share a different take on the famous advice that we should “go with the flow”. I don’t think that’s very good advice.

In the New Testament, the prodigal son “went with the flow” – down and down into an empty life of trivial comfort and pleasure, until he awoke one morning and realized he was a slave in a pigsty. He then began the long walk, the long struggle, ‘home’. Gurdjieff (among many other Teachers) warned against what he called “the evil god ‘Comfort’”, and he taught his students to struggle against inner inertia and strive to become what a real man or woman ought to be. This required, as various ancient stories and legends confirm, that we must “fight with God” – I take this to mean that since the whole direction of God’s creation is outward from the source, we must struggle “against” God in order to return to the source. This, of course, as in the prodigal son story, is what God wants us to do, though clearly we have been “set up”.

Taking this one more step:

Serenity, peacefulness, acceptance and patience, are of course very sacred and necessary qualities. But they are not the only sacred and necessary qualities. When we pursue them exclusively, at the expense of all effort (both internal effort and efforts in the arena of life in which we find ourselves), then we are ignoring half of our responsibility, we are denying half of what it means to be a human being.


A magnificent book you should read if you haven’t already: