Friday, October 12, 2018

The Art of Quitting

photo: Byron Rollins (AP)
Is there something to be said for quitting, for giving up in the face of a challenge? Perhaps you're someone who has spent all of his or her life climbing the mountain. Is it possible that for a personality type of this kind the challenge lies in not trying to climb the mountain anymore? Cancer survivors are always told to fight, but there are patients with terminal cancers who may end their lives feeling they're in a final losing match. Dr. Atul Gawande wrote about this in a New Yorker piece entitled "Letting Go: what should medicine do when it can't save your life," (The New Yorker, 8/2/10). Is that the way you want to die, facing the pain of death and feeling like you’re losing a competition or not stepping up to the plate? The ethos of modern civilization is a business model with the idea that no company can survive unless it constantly grows. War is the other metaphor that's employed. Might is right and nobody wants defeat. Everyone is trying to improve and get better. People make themselves miserable constantly seeking out the best life has to offer. Of course, you don’t want to be a lump or blob, but is there nothing between scaling El Capitan without a rope and turning into a couch potato? Maybe there isn’t. Maybe you have to accept the fact that you’re either someone who meets challenges or not and if you're in the latter category, you’re going to do it until the day you die—when everyone will be patting you on the back and praising you for not giving up and all you want to do is sleep. You will never surrender and you will never find peace.

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