The actor Stephen Tobolowsky, whom you might remember as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day, remarked during a recent interview that he believes humans “don’t look for happiness in life.” Instead, he believes, we want to feel complete. This rang true for me.
Moments of completeness are joyous and painful, and everything in between, and they always feel accurate to my lived experience. However, these moments are, as is their nature, transitory. They end and humans invariably seek ways to sustain them, even if those strategies sometimes are unhealthy.
At the same time, the feeling of incompleteness we seek to avoid or change also is temporary. In other words, we exist in a state of in-betweenness: between thought and action, between yes and no, between cultures we adopt and those we are born into, between yesterday and tomorrow. We are always coming or going, almost always never arriving, a dizzying experience to be sure.
With practice, however, it is possible to gain one’s footing. Awareness of this in-betweenness and reflection upon it leads towards something resembling acceptance or better yet, equanimity: a calmness during difficulty. I can’t know everything. I can’t do everything. I can’t be everything. And thank goodness for that!
There are moments when action is required and moments when it is necessary simply to be, and most of our time is spent somewhere in-between. The desire to feel complete might be innate, as I think Tobolowsky believes, or not, I just don’t know. What I do know is that the tension emerging between completeness and incompleteness is what propels us forward in our lives.
It is the pulled string on a bow that pushes the arrow forward. It is the equanimity of the bowstave that allows for this action to occur. The arrow does not know the difference, nor does it care. It simply needs both to begin and end its journey.