“Most people are settling for less than their potential, for less strength, energy and vitality than they both can have and deserve. To accept life anywhere below our fullest potential is to be living in the gap, blindly accepting “what is” without ever deeply considering “what could be.” ~ Shawn Phillips 

The paradox continues.  Is it possible to live a mindful life, accepting the current reality with grace, while simultaneously setting goals to change that reality and strive for something different?  Where is the balance point between pursuing your potential  and living in the present moment, with its griefs and joys and challenges?  

On the one hand, I want to to “be a bold participant rather than a timid saint in waiting, in the difficult ordinariness of now” (Ted Loder).  At the same time, Tennyson’s poem Ulysses has always been like a battle cry to me:  

“…yet all experience is an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move.”

And even though that untravelled world draws me, I have come to accept that there is no possible way I will live long enough to experience everything I want to experience, to accomplish all that I desire to do.  But that doesn’t mean I’m going to settle for a humdrum existence.  Tennyson again:  “as though to breathe were life!  Life piled on life were all too little…”

When I do not challenge myself, when I settle, I become flat and life tastes stale, insipid.  Despair begins to lurk. The less I do, the more I rest, the less energy I have and the less I want to do.  When I set challenges for myself, even when I do not reach them, still I have more energy, more focus, both for the task at hand and for the rest of my life.  All reality sharper and clearer, with the pain greater maybe, but there is also greater joy.

And maybe that is an answer in itself.  In Tennyson’s poem, the aging Ulysses gathers up all of his old travel companions, and they set sail once more, determined to pursue adventure until the day they die.   It’s the journey that matters.  Writing a book is an epic adventure in itself.  Seeking publication is another.  All of it tied in with the rest of life, with the joys and the griefs, all of the events, little and big, of the reality we are moving through.

Life as a quest.  I like that.  When knights ventured out on quests, there was no guarantee they were going to find what they were looking for.  The idea was to pursue the goal as long as your were able, to conduct yourself with honor, to fight to your very last breath, and never, ever, turn aside.  Which, fellow writers, should be our quest as well:  to write the stories that are given to us to the best of our capacity, and to fight the battle of seeking publication.  We can’t all be Lancelot.  It doesn’t matter.  All that was asked of the lowliest knight was to conduct himself with honor and fight to the death.

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