Who would have known a recent visit to Alexandria Park in Hastings and a guided tree walk would inspire this work in progress. The Park happens to have a very diverse and nationally significant tree collection planted by Robert Manock in 1882, and subsequent others.
Much of what was conveyed was fascinating but left my memory swiftly. What struck a chord was information about the nature of the Eucalyptus tree: apparently they happen to be self-sacrificing so that their native youngsters can grow in well fertilised soil. In essence, they make themselves as flammable as possible so that when they inevitably burn, in the wild fires of their typical homelands, they burn bright and leave lots of fertilising ash.
This in turn allows and nourishes the younger generations (not yet born) to flourish.
It reminded me once more of the ambiguity of life forces, and the significance of that which is greater than perhaps our own insistence and sense of volition. Something the sea often teaches me and touches in me: the understanding that we are both significantly connected yet open and vulnerable, we are in movement, incongruent and impermanent. Yet far from inconsequential. We all have the potential to be far-reaching and changed in every encounter, even if we don’t see, feel or act on it. In fact, understanding our potential and capacity to act, even in the face of great limitations, could be the very thing that liberates and transforms suffering.
Understanding and identifying the vitality of often ambiguous intensities and affects within existence, when encountering both our freedom and limitations, may support us to act. Perhaps there is great importance in feeling into and investigating our suffering, anxiety and despair. To sometimes move beyond self preservation and safety into discomfort and uncertainty. To perhaps question the idea the self is an identity, an image or an object that needs to be fixed or made safe and certain and move into courage, generosity and open curiosity, with less need for any exchange. Perhaps, when we can face it, to surrender to life’s limitations, crises and drawbacks and let them move us. Transformation is perhaps in the very falling.
Returning, again and again, to the writings of Frederick Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard (the latter discussed in more depth in later blogs), and those subsequent great minds who have tackled their ideas, we find discussions and real experiences that highlight commitment to facing and investigating the passions, the intense (affects) forces within experience, and their commitment to act without the need for eminence and self preservation. Nietzsche said,
“Physiologists should think before postulating the drive of self-preservation as the cardinal drive in an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to vent its strength – life as such is will to power; self preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of it”. (Nietzsche, F. 1886/1978, Beyond Good and Evil. p. 26)
Within the quote we find Nietzsche referring to ‘strength – life as such is will to power’. The interpretation here is not that strength is the opposite of weakness but strength as potential, potency, vitality, a force/forces of energy.
Nietzsche inspires us to look again, across a multiplicity of forces. To widen our stance and help us see there is so much more to the forces of life than self preservation. More will be discussed in part two.
Susanna Petitpierre, BACP Registered, is an experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor, providing long and short term counselling. Her approach is primarily grounded in existential therapy and she works with individuals. Susanna is available at our Brighton and Hove Practice.
Further reading by Susanna Petitpierre –