Posted by: scintillatingspeck | December 17, 2012

Production. Possession. Love.

In an attempt to write myself a trail through the thickets of confusion, I want to dwell on some ideas tonight.  What does it mean to be “productive,” and why does our culture seem so obsessed with it?  Why do so many of my own anxieties center on this urge to be productive, “useful,” “moving forward”?  What is the feared alternative?  In conjunction with the production obsession, it seems closely tied to the notion of possession: possessing desired things, feelings, people, ideas of one’s self.  What am I trying to possess that can’t be possessed?  This whole idea of possessing, is it based on illusion?  Is it possible to let go of the urge to possess?  Finally, I want to return to love, that vast, mysterious country that often feels a world away; I know it is in this swirling thought-soup somewhere.

Cultural conditioning is such a drag.  A hundred tape recordings in my head, past and present, blare on simultaneously, at the mere mention of the word “productive.”  Holy crap, make it stop!  The noise!  From a young age I was told, in ways both explicit and subtle, that I had better make something of myself.  I had better work hard.  I had better be industrious.  I had better be “successful,” make my parents proud, achieve greatness, reach certain markers of status, acquire the correct things, and be a model citizen.  That way, I might be considered acceptable.  Maybe.  It would still entail constant competition, endless comparison to others of my “station,” to see who was one-upping whom. And what’s the alternative?  The frightening other side?  It’s being a slacker, of course, a vagabond, a ne’er-do-well, probably on drugs, homeless, crazy, ugly, diseased, unwanted, unloved, alone, ready to die.  Wow, that’s a stark contrast, eh?  Does mediocrity get any play?  In my mind, for most of my life: no, there was never room for mediocrity.

I am standing in a metaphorical burning-hot shower, trying to scrub off this crust of productivity, wincing at how much it’s infiltrated my skin.  Mind you, I’m not opposed to “doing” things.  It’s the underlying motivation that I’m concerned about.  If it’s all in the name of assuaging anxiety, mine and the larger, greedy culture of domination, then I don’t want to feed that beast.  That sort of anxiety is never soothed.  I want to take my every action, large or small, cradle it in my hands, and ask it, “Are you necessary?  Whose purposes do you serve?  Are you doing good?  Are you kind?  Are you a knee-jerk reaction to external demands?  Are you heartfelt?  Answer me, or I’ll put you down and walk away.”

The urge to produce, the urge to make something of myself, it seems to walk closely beside the desire to possess.  What might I have once wanted to possess?  Degrees of “higher” learning, the admiration or envy of others, an interesting career, lovers, beautiful objects, entertainment, a house, a spouse, a child, a farm, a community, a view of myself as singular, remarkable, worthy?  Yes, I have wanted to possess all of those things.  Not just live alongside, but possess.  As if I could own them.  As if they could be mine.  This now seems like the height of illusion.  What a sight, to see that colossal veil drop, to see that beyond it there is no such thing as possession.  No permanence, no guarantees, no “right” to anyone or anything.  These degrees that I spent so much effort and years to get?  What good are they, past the immediate pleasure of reading, writing, listening, conversing, teaching that was involved in acquiring them?  My child, does she belong to me?  No, she belongs to nobody; the most I can do is offer her my love.  My husband, do I possess him, does he possess me?  No, we are not one, and I find the whole concept of a marriage contract to be a troubling prospect indeed, another odd cultural artifact, a layer of implied bondage that I chafe at.  What of having a community?  How quickly it can melt away, how quickly a neighbor is no longer a neighbor, or a colleague a colleague– sometimes, literally, overnight.  It takes enduring a lot of loss to realize that those “possessions” never really belonged to you in the first place.  It goes further, into the very heart of identity and ego, that clinging to ideas of Who One Is: it turns out those can’t be possessed either.

And again I find myself circling around to love.  Non-possessive love.  Non-striving love.  Totally unproductive love.  Love that can’t be described or contained.  Impossible love!  Love that sings into the void.  It knocks me off my feet, seizes me by the hands, spins me around, makes good and sure that I’m dizzy and disoriented, kisses me with the full force of animal longing, shows me that there is nothing left to cling to, and makes me laugh, and laugh, and laugh.  We are dying, day by day.  The illusions fall away.  Love is all that endures, the final sojourner.



  1. Thanks, dear friend.

  2. profound inquiries….identity….maya, maya, maya……”the dualistic cosmic delusion” – “When there is duality because of ignorance, one sees all things as distinct from the Self”…the One…ness….which is Love…..

  3. Funny. Amazing. Insightful.

    Love this essay.

  4. Productivity is a commercial concept. It flows in a narrow channel of exchanges based on measurable, commodified values. They account for a minuscule part of the interactions, even in the human part of the universe.

    And even where we think we can place a value, there may be effects far beyond our estimates.

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the message was lost.
    For want of a message the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    And then there is the Butterfly effect

    “The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.”

    Adrift in an ocean of cause & effect, it is beyond us to sort out the strands in this gargantuan matted maze of consequences.

    What is “ours” seems to be “ours” within our limited perspectives. Even we ourselves are but a number of those strands that come together in a bit of time & space.

  5. […] defies intellectualization, that which resists commodification, is somehow inferior, or evil, or not productive enough.  Sexuality is such an intensely charged topic, on so many levels, and yet we’re captivated; […]

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