Driven

What is it our humanness that seeks to surpass itself?
Wendy Palmer, The Intuitive Body, p. 45

In her chapter on learning in The Intuitive Body, Wendy Palmer asks the above question. The chapter is about the human quest to learn, but it got me thinking about some other things. What compels us to innovate? To continually develop new technologies? What compels us to seek improvements to our very lives? This seems to be something that is engrained in the human spirit. An upward” motion1.

There’s a story that one heres in relationship to this — what compels innovation is profit. What gives people the motivation to find cures, to create life-easing technologies, is the possibility of personal reward. I think it might be something else. Something deeper within us.

Our reward system” of money is really an exchange system that meks it possible, no, makes it easier, to organize the resources necessary to make things happen. What makes it a reward” rather than the simply being resources is the story we have. Of course, the story has influenced the way we organize our world, making the reward compulsory2. The story at the center or our culture is one that tells us the only reason to do soemthing is if there is a clear financial benefit for us. But the history of humanity, I believe, shows us that this isn’t the primary driver of adaptation3.

What is driving us? I’m not going to claim to know. It’s a mystery — maybe the mystery. What seems clear to me is that we do indeed have some driver that seeks to surpass wherever we currently are. Unfortunately, the story we are operating with seems to be telling us that we should withhold this drive within us unless we get something out of it.

What would it look like to liberate this part of ourselves? To open more fully to the drive within us that is propelling us toward something. Something, I suspect, that’s more whole. Though something that may never arrive. Maybe it’s not supposed to. Maybe that’s kind of the point.


  1. Upward may very well not be the correct frame here, as it implies a bias that we have that up” (e.g. North, upward, higher) is somehow better, and not just different. That’s something for another time, though.

  2. The reward actually becomes the baseline. It means that we have to shoot for a bare minimum to subsist, let alone to thrive. The story includes the idea that thriving and having more is what motivates. I’m saying that we’ve got it upside down.

  3. There’s a ton of stuff written about how humanity has innovated over the years. I’ve read the tiniest bit. I’m not claiming any kind of expertise here. I’m simply riffing on something that seems pretty clear to me. Don’t @ me.

April 23, 2019


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