We Don't Know How to Be Alone

Vincent Van Patten

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History has taught us how to be a part of a group, a system.

We learn about civilizations, wars and armies. Besides the leaders who command these armies into battle, we rarely learn about what each person of that civilization believed in.

Were they thinkers, dreamers, outcasts who challenged the norm? Surely. But they would die instead of being given the freedom to explore their own beliefs.

“Humans are not wired to act as individuals,”

writes Steven Pressfield in his book The War of Art.

“We’re wired tribally, to act as part of a group… We don’t know how to be alone, how to be free individuals.”

Pressfield has written several fictional books on ancient Greece. In The War of Art, he discusses how to think on our own in the modern world and break through our inner creative barriers.

The mentality of thinking for yourself changed with the ancient Greeks, who began questioning each person’s purpose in this world.

Have we actually come any closer to an answer? It’s difficult to imagine everyday life over two-thousand years ago. But once I started reading on my own about their stories, beliefs and habits I realized how similar we really are.

They were human just like us. I’m sure a twenty-two-year-old then had many of the same questions I have now.

The world is big. I want to uncover the cultures that make us different and the same all in one. I want to explore and meet the people that give it life. I’m scared, too.

There’s a looming doubt about what I want, and if it’s the right thing.

But this doubt isn’t breaking me, nor is it holding me back. It’s a sign of love. If you aren’t scared to do something it doesn’t really matter to you.

“The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

says Pressfield.

Sometimes I wake up wondering what I’m doing. There’s a story in my mind that I want to play out, but I ask if I’m really that creative.

A writer must be an authority and know exactly what they’re doing. I don’t. So why listen to me? Because I’m not doing this for an audience. I’m writing this for me.

Sit down and just do it.

Once I sit down, I get inspired. I feel a release.

It’s energy leaving my body that turns into something entirely different. I’m able to put words into this world that nobody else can. Only I can express what I feel because nobody has been on my journey. I realize I love to write. I love to create what others can’t.

This is what the Greeks were searching for, an answer. They wanted to know what each individual human was capable of creating in our own minds and how it fits into the bigger picture. This is philosophy.

When broken down, philosophy is the study of love Philos, and wisdom, Sophos.

Today, with so many external motivators and distractions, we rarely think about why we’re doing it all.

Most people follow the masses and do what others want. But what do I love? What passion burns inside of me that I can dedicate my life to and feel genuinely like I’m doing this for me?

It’s easier to do what others tell us to. We don’t have to dig so deep.

But the artist, the creator, the believer inside of all of us feels that pain. We push that person deeper because it’s too painful to listen to that voice inside that wants to find its purpose.

It’s time to accept that inner person and truly love them. The Greeks had several names for this type of love. They called it philautia, which comes in two forms.

One is positive — love and pride in oneself.

The negative is associated with narcissism, a false type of love.

We all have bad days. I constantly ask myself what I can do better. I go in and out of slumps. I want to be the best version of myself so badly that I become frustrated when I know I’m not giving it my all…

Breathe… Relax.

Take off your mask and feel vulnerable. That’s honesty. Honesty is being okay with not having the answers, but having the humility to ask for help. Then our love for others can become real. It’s full and flows naturally.

This is how we create the bonds that make life worthwhile.

Throughout my life, I’ve gravitated towards people’s positive energy. It's a sort of genuine happiness with oneself which radiates and others can feel. I’ve developed deep relationships with these friends who I couldn’t live without.

The Greeks called this type of love for your friends Philia. To them, it was the type of love developed by comrades on the battlefield.

This is a love for one’s brother or sister who you trust to have your back through all the ups and downs that life throws your way.

If we had to handle life completely on our own, it would be damn near impossible. It takes courage and a deep understanding of oneself. That can take a lifetime to discover.

Surrounding yourself with others who you can rely on gives life simplicity. Without that deep friendship that I’ve found, life would feel empty. It’s that comradeship that we’re all in this together discovering our own paths at this young stage of our lives and simply learning about the world.

Life can get in the way, but I know they’ll always be there when I need them, and I there for them. It’s a pure love that I have for my friends whom I truly want to see succeed in their own ways.

That’s where the love of others can blossom. It’s confidence in oneself that turns into confidence for your tribe, your circle. We all possess a true uniqueness, each one complementing the other.

We’re on a similar path just trying to make sense of it all. Those questions that we began asking ourselves thousands of years ago may never find an answer.

But I have faith that the muse will strike if we have the courage to ask.

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My name is Vincent Van Patten. This is my home, a place to share who I am and what lights my soul on fire. I’m a writer, media creator, and co-host of The Dare to Dream Podcast. Most importantly, I’m an inspired citizen of our ever-changing world. I strive to learn all that I can about how we’ve progressed to where we are today as individual cultures and as a planet. It’s my passion to fill every day with exploration and creativity no matter where I am, whether in California crafting my latest project or on my way to discover someplace new. By writing about my experiences, connecting with people and the earth, and remaining present, I always feel at home. I write to express my perspective of daily living, from the thoughts in my head to the relationships we share as human beings. I write about travel, culture, books, life, philosophy, spirituality, health, self-improvement, and history. I also write poetry and short stories  —  doing so soothes the soul. I believe we’re here to challenge ourselves by questioning all we think we know. When we do, we open our minds to a way of living we could never have imagined. This life is a journey with no finish line in sight. I hope to leave a positive impact with every step I take.

Del Mar, CA
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