"Today, the habit of renunciation freezes the ardor of desires," wrote the philosopher Max Stirner observing how our tendency to resign ourselves to the norms or what we should do ends by stifling our illusions and dreams, to the point that we not only forget these last, but we even forget our own act of dreaming and desiring.
It has been nearly two centuries since he wrote those words and society has changed little since then as it continues to put enormous pressure on the individual to comply with his explicit and implicit rules, even if he has to sacrifice his dreams to do so. his "I" and even his life.
Forgotten dreams and pragmatism disguised under dogmas
About a decade later, another philosopher on the other side of the ocean wrote something similar. Henry David Thoreau did not invite us to be pragmatic and to have our feet on the ground, on the contrary, he encouraged us to dream. “If you have already built castles in the air, your work must not have been in vain; there is where they should be. Now do the linings. "
Both philosophers encourage us to subvert the way they taught us to do things, as they did themselves. "No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be taken at face value", said Thoreau, "what everyone celebrates or silently admits today may turn out to be false tomorrow."
The mere fact that most follow a predetermined path, with certain milestones that must be achieved at a certain age, does not imply that this is also the best path for us. That is why both philosophers urge us to follow our inner compass, instead of making vital decisions guided solely by apparent rationality, which is really just a code name for social conventions.
Instead of asking "what should I do?", We should ask ourselves "what do I want to do?" And then look for the means to make it happen. Stirner thought that “possibility and reality are inseparable. You can't do what you don't do, just as you don't do what you can't do. " However, trapped in that tautological labyrinth, we are unable to see the way out because in our minds the concepts of reality and pragmatism have been so deeply embedded that we have left the dreams to the children - or the deluded. And we are proud of it.
We do not realize, however, that the tendency to sacrifice our dreams - applauded by society and often experienced as a sort of initiatory path to enter them - ends up transforming our soul into sterile terrain, where no illusion fruit of ours thrives anymore. own work, moving away from our "I".
Be all you can be
"Whoever is none other than what circumstances or the will of a third party make him, possesses only what that third party grants him", one of Max Stirner's phrases that summarizes his thinking. When we are unable to desire for ourselves, we can only seek out the lost cardinal points, desire what others desire, sow what others sow and, of course, reap what others reap. And that's the beginning of the end.
“What will it take for man to conquer the universe if it damages his soul?” Stirner wondered. What is the value of a life dedicated to pursuing the dreams of others? A life full of fixed ideas that end up possessing us dictating practically all of our decisions?
The philosopher outlined a possible path: "opposing the spontaneity of inspiration to the passivity of suggestion and what belongs to us to what is given to us". He extolled dreams, illusions and desires as an antidote to social expectations.
He told us: "Know yourself […] Give up your self-righteous efforts, that mad mania of being anything other than what you are." His cry of identity still resounds: "I want to be all I can be!"