Repetition and Liberty

I have been thinking, lately, about the strange relationship many of us have with repetition. Specifically, I am wondering why we sometimes only qualify or quantify repeated acts that seem unhealthy and/or counter-intuitive to the pursuit of happiness (or of the sort of contentedness-alternated-with-passionate-excitement that might be a better definition for what so many of us truly desire for ourselves).

I’m saying “we” a lot, when in many cases I am probably more directly taking about “me”. But I suspect there’s overlap in what I’m about to reflect upon, between my experiences and point of view and yours. I could be wrong. Either way…

It seems to me that we often view repetition as either bad or necessary, or a little bit of both. I don’t think these are the only views people take of repetition, and I don’t mean to suggest that no goodness exists in repetition (more on that later), or that necessity is inherently undesirable, but — I do wonder about the nature of our prevailing views on repetition as a concept.

Perhaps the questions is colored more than slightly by my life as a young American living in a large city. But for now, primarily, still — I’m wondering why repetition annoys us when we are playing out our role as consumers, why we are so demanding and temperamental when it comes to wanting and needing things and experiences that are better, newer, or greater – and yet, in exchange for our continuing admission to the unending game of pursuing such wants and needs, we tolerate and resign ourselves to such repetitions of labor and physical location that make us neither content nor excited. In short – why is repetition so abhorrent when we are buying…but so begrudgingly necessary when we are selling?

While I don’t have the expertise or the inclination to tease a complete in-depth socio-economic analysis out of this question, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to at least answer it for ourselves in a very basic way. It’s an especially interesting question to ask at a time when the job market is still terrible for many people, and inadequate or disappointing to so many more.

Why do so many of us accept the slowly dulling form of repetition represented by a job performed for someone else, but respond with vehement opposition when our favorite TV show or favorite musician provides us with too much of what we have already seen before? Taking this a step further, why do we need the carousel of favorites in the first place? At all? Why the trends – when, all the while, everything else in our own life remains the same? Get up, proceed with your day, go home or go out and do what you have done before. Do this whether you like it or not – in spite of whether you like it or not.

Taking yet another step — what would happen if we swung this pattern back in upon itself? What happens if the vehement opposition is aimed more directly at the more directly-opposed repetition? If we truly feel it, can we not at least privately deny the repetitions performed for the benefit of someone else, even if it they are repeated, nominally, with our own interests in mind? And then reenter the idea of repetition, which is a nonetheless natural occurrence, as something that can be better harnessed to deliver the contentedness and the excitement that we otherwise feel we lack?

Over the past many months I have experimented with such ideas. It has not been easy. This blog is an example. In its earliest weeks, I forced myself to sit down and write, once or twice a week. Lately, I haven’t posted here as often. I’ve been writing, but I’ve been writing other things. I’ve been working hard, but I’ve been working on non-writing related tasks.

Yet, still, through this medium, I have found another aspect to repetition – that it strengthens.

There is a reason that athletes and great minds excel beyond what the rest of us believe is possible. There is a reason some people among us walk with smiles upon their faces that might appear foreign and impossible to one who has too often lived reactively, rather than actively, to one who has repeated too often for too long without aim or hope.

What I am saying is that I am tired of repeating patterns of negation, and/or patterns whose purpose is not maintenance but stasis.

But what else can be repeated, and to more positive ends? What is necessary — but restoratively so? How can repetition be positively leveraged? What should we repeat?

I propose we begin – I begin – with a determination to repeat a declaration of faith, in repetition itself. In dogged perseverance. In any thought or act that replenishes the soul when it’s vitality becomes understandably diminished, however it must be done.

Perhaps repetition can provide a measure of liberty, if we embrace it wisely…and are patient.

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