Mark vs Cancer

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dissatisfaction and Complacency

What drives someone to excel? To reach beyond their current situation and to strive for something greater?

Often, we speak of the need to find contentment with where are lives are at, with what we are currently doing. This is Zen-like: living joyfully in the now, appreciating the wonders of the present without clamoring for the future or regretting the past. But when does Zen transform into complacency?

Should Martin Luther have been content with the corruption he regarded in the Catholic church? Should Christopher Columbus have been satisfied and remained in ignorance at the center of a flat earth? Should Thomas Jefferson have stayed comfortably within the maternal auspices of the British Empire? Should Winston Churchill have succumbed to political pressures and placated the advancing Nazis? Should MLK have disregarded the racial injustice swirling around him and quietly accepted the brutality of his white oppressors?

My friend Dan and I had a conversation along these lines yesterday. It seems that the great persons of history were usually nudged forward by the elbow of their discontentment with the status quo.
If we were completely satisfied with the present, what would impel us towards the future, towards improvement and progress? If we were perennially satisfied with the greenness of our own grass, would we ever venture outside our own pastures?

But this motivating dissatisfaction, if unopposed, can be equally poisonous to our well-being. "It's no secret that ambition bites the nails of success," says Bono. Should life be a never-ending quest to find something better than what we've got right now? That fast lane of ambition seems to drive CEOs to prison and Latin American politicians to be deposed and hanged.

I guess walking this tightrope between dissatisfaction and complacency is one of the many tricks we learn in life's circus; can we balance between them without tipping over and falling to our premature deaths?
More to the point: is being a small-town doctor in Wyoming enough to keep my happy?
Or is this gnawing restlessness in my stomach driving me towards some yet unforeseen greatness?
Or do I just have bad indigestion?


Jeff said...

Take a zantac and call me in the morning.
Your post reminded me of a great song myself. My new song, "One Less Day," goes like this:
"Hey, what are you waiting for?
You don't have to live your life that way.
All you'll have tomorrow is-
One less day!"
Deep, I know. I think it is important to be content with that which is right in our lives, and let that which is wrong motivate us to bring about positive change. That's how I feel.

Tankfos said...

I plan on solving all of the world's problems.


Dad said...

Well, Marcus, once again I have no idea what you are talking about.

If one is constantly looking for something better than one will never be happy or find joy in what he already has. To a degree I think we need to be realistic about what we can accomplish and content with doing the best we can.

On the other hand, there are people and I have met many of them that are simply driven to do more, do it for the first time, do it better, do what no one else has, etc. Without that drive and ambition, many of the innovations and advancements in our life would not have happened. What if Ghandi had not tried to change the world or at least India life with his positions? What if Edison had given up? What if Lewis and Clark had not gone West? The list goes on and on. We all can't be Edison's or Benjamin Franklins or Brigham Young's. But we can be the best we can be at whatever it is that drives us and I'm sure we can all be more than we think we can. It is when it becomes an obession to the extent that to the exclusion of all else that I think it can be problematic.

For instance, you may want to be the best 3-ball shooter ever and if you do nothing but shoot, shoot, shoot, (which by the way describes you ball playing pretty well) to get better to the exclusion of your job, your family your church responsibliies, etc. you can actually be doing negative good overall. You get my point.

Balance, my friend for most of us is the key. I've become very comfortable with my mediocrity on most everything so I know of what I speak.

By the way, that gnawing in your stomach is just a bad meal so shake it off and go be what you can become.


Danalin said...

I'm excited to hear Jeff's song!

I agree with what Jeff content with what is right and try to fix or change what is wrong.

I would add to that, in my opinion, something doesn't have to necessarily be wrong to make a bold move or a big change. Sometimes you just feel in your gut that there is something bigger or something more or just something different to be done. Like being a doc in a small town...a very noble profession helping many, many people. But maybe there is a different path to follow someday and so Heavenly Father - and your own spirit and ambition - are telling you not to get too comfortable.

Achieving our divine and full potential - a tricky business!

Angie said...


I've thought a lot about this delicate balance, actually. As an idealist I've learned that it stinks always wanting things to be better--to be perfect. It just ain't worth it. One little motto I made up that I try to live by is, "The trick to being happy as an idealist is finding the balance between trying to better yourself and loving who you already are--what your life already is." I guess the same principle applies to a person's circumstances in life.

However, I remember in high school hearing our stake president give a talk about "spiritual restlessness," and I guess it stuck with me. I believe the spirit does teach us through those kind of feelings. Sometimes it's uncomfortable to feel so restless because you're not sure what the future has in store for you or what the next step is. But in my experience, if you take a step, any step, you'll figure out which way to go.

I know that the work that you're doing in Worland is important. It just stinks that you have to go through a rough adjustment period. Hang in there...before you know it, we'll live up there, or you and Jeff will be in practice somehwere else!