The unlived life

Everyone has dreams. Some abandon them. Others embrace them. Some try and fail. Others fail to try. Many find a new success in their failures. It wasn’t the success they thought they’d experience. It was a peculiar success whose genesis lay in the failure of their first dream.

Entrepreneurs know this. They try ten things, eight of them fail. They re-invest in the two that don’t.

Stephen Pressfield’s book The War of Art is a must-read for anyone seriously committed to taking any sort of risk in life, not just for the creatives for whom the book was written. He writes, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.”


It’s resistance that makes us put down the book proposal we’ve almost completed. It’s resistance that smacks us in the face when we sit at the computer to write our sermon. It’s resistance that gently whispers that we could never do what we’ve always dreamed of doing and what others say they can see us doing.

Our society is ordered around distraction: “we live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of [our] unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it. By selling us a product, a drug, a distraction” (War of Art, 31). What’s easier: two hundred words or two hours on Facebook? What’s more important?

Spend some time today thinking about what you really want to do with your life. 

2 Replies to “The unlived life”

  1. In my 20s, I liked to say that the unlived life is not worth examining. Living in Boston at 22, I had more free time than money so I walked the Esplanade, crossed the bridge into Cambridge by foot and enjoyed reading Commonwealth Avenue’s historical markers and plaques near statues. My favorite, on Comm Ave is a man atop a rock wearing a baseball cap and looking out. I don’t remember his name but the quote of his said, “Dream dreams then write them down, aye, but live them first!” that encouragement was often on my mind as I ventured beyond Boston through over 20 countries as a low-budget, solo backpacker. When staid people asked me when I would quit traveling to join the “real world” I asked for clarification on which real world they meant since I’d seen real worlds in Germany where people traveled by boat to get from place to place in a certain town, in France where I was the guest at a radical commune for a couple of nights or in Finland where I learned to appreciate fish for breakfast and sauna for bedtime.

    Even now, some 15 years later, I enjoy referring to my “traveler’s ethic” penned a long time ago with sharpie marker on a piece of poster board. That traveler’s ethic entails “flexibility, simplicity and adaptability”.

    Thank you for your blog post. It reminded me of the challenge to be “alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic” and ready, as my friend’s religious community says, “for any good work.”


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