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Jean Boulogne [Giambologna]: Allegory of Architecture (ca. 1580; Cast: 18th century)
"Our future must remain in the future tense to make any sense at all."

I claim to be HeadingHomeward while I might more descriptively insist that I'm Asymptoting there, but Asymptoting sounds like another one of my made up words, one of those requiring further explanation. I won't mind explaining if you can bear to listen to my blathering. You see, Heading connotes a more definite direction and a more certain destination than my present adventure wants. I hold a general direction in my head, but it's really little more than an intention yet. Likewise, my destination seems tenaciously uncertain. Oh, I have a specific address in mind, but mere location hardly a destination makes. Aspiration might better describe the direction I'm heading, more feeling than anything, so I consider myself Asymptoting, after that geometric concept of a trajectory unlikely to ever find its target. An asymptote, as you doubtless already know and which I'll explain just to remind myself, is a not necessarily straight line destined to move ever closer to its destination as it lengthens, but often an arc or curve certain to never actually arrive there. Over time, it might well manage to move close enough for most intents and purposes, but it will most certainly never actually arrive.

Why be so picky about making this distinction? I'll explain by referencing Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman philosopher, who insisted that only fundamentally unachievable objectives ever manage to become transformational.
His explanation focused upon the apparent nature of human aspiration, which requires a certain level of dissatisfaction to fuel it. Achievable objectives tend to produce dissatisfaction. Hoffer argued that achieving anything tends to deflate net motive ardor. Much better, he thought, to pursue grand abstractions: freedom, salvation, liberation, targets destined to always remain ahead no matter how much progress one might make toward them. While I was trained to think of objectives as tangible destinations, like physical targets, Hoffer considered these to have historically produced much less satisfaction. Once successfully achieved, the tangible quickly converts into something less juicy. It might be that we were designed more to pursue than to achieve, but we might have been dissuaded from that instinct by some insidious element of civilization, or by something. I blame my earlier project management training.

So, I'm considering this HeadingHomeward adventure an opportunity to reframe my relationship with my intentions. While it might seem absurd to insist that my objective explicitly
not be met, this shift seems somehow necessary in this time in my life. I'm no longer even pretending to tick aspirations off any bucket list. I'm no longer accumulating achievements, but more aspiring toward experiences, sensations. I most desire the sensation of passionate pursuit, not the sensation of ever ending that. As I imagine packing up for the move, I realize that most of my possessions have turned into ballast, certainly useful for stabilizing my boat, but not very much my passion anymore. Nor are they likely to motivate me much further than they already have, for I already possess them. Curiously, they've become more like holes than objects to me now. I still sense a certain possessiveness but they no longer pull me forward. They anchor my identity without propelling me. They represent what psychologists call hygiene factors, elements of maintenance but no longer motivators.

My experience managing projects contradicted what my training instilled, for the more firmly I held onto the tangible objective, the less likely I became to ever experience much satisfaction when achieving it. Curiously, the most satisfying efforts brought me close, but needed some spin to convince me that I'd succeeded. I often failed to even notice when I'd achieved done enough, so focused had I become on replicating the ever-more-practiced pursuing. The resulting explanatory story might prove enormously satisfying, dripping intrigue, while mere achievement quickly evaporated. Close calls proved juicier than any slam dunk, and attempted slam dunks usually missed their mark. Once any project was declared completed, we'd dismantle the exquisite structures created to achieve that end and we experienced over, but never together. For this excursion into the future, I require no such overly-inflated but inevitably disappointing destination. I intend this HeadingHomeward to set up a continuing trajectory, to set a tone for further adventuring. Success seems more like continuing the search than anticipating ever ending it. I catch that we're HeadingHomeward for the expressed purpose of HeadingHomeward in ever greater earnest, with the purpose not of ever arriving there, but of ever more passionately pursuing heading toward. That's what I mean by saying that we're Asymptoting rather than merely heading. If we ever arrive back home, we will have succeeded only in heading backward away from our future, not a destination we're even distantly interested in. Our future must remain in the future tense to make any sense at all.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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