If you have lived long enough or experienced life deeply enough, you will find the uninvited and unwelcome presence of an unlived life. Often dwelling and developing in our unconscious, the recognition of the unlived life threatens to obliterate the fictions of our lived life. If we are not careful to integrate these fictions and stay conscious to our yearnings, then we are in danger of falling prey to a crisis.
Which fiction is greater, the one we are living or the one unlived? What a conundrum it is to choose between what is imaginative fiction in the present and the companion projection of unlived possibility. What a haunting ir-revelation the incongruence is between my current life and my unlived one. The lamented labor of wishfulness only brings ennui and the preoccupation of an unlived life restrains me from living this one. If only that logic could be the end of it… but the rational mind has very little to do with hauntings.
The fantasy of the unlived life is a seduction for me (as all fantasies are a form of narcissistic exploration) for it is completely about me, my inner world, my sacred desires, and my unmet experiences. The power of the fantasy is profound in its attempt to deceive me. My imagination in alliance with my fantasy, sustains the belief that somehow my unlived life would’ve delivered where this life did not. How easily that negotiates my mind.
This unconscious attempt at a self-cure overlooks its origin (as all fantasies do), specifically, that there could be no recognition of an unlived life without this current one; my inspiration for another life is utterly directed by the knowledge of this life. Such insights are distasteful and unsatisfying to the elegance of a fantasy. Why must we endure this deflation, the beautifully unattainable misery, the mocking suggestion that it could have been much more meaningful? I have devoted much time to this thought.
What I have discovered through painful exegesis, is that the unlived life is a tuning instrument, a Rosetta Stone, a diagnostic measure, a cartographic overlay; in truth an adaptive aesthetic that brings color to this current life. It reveals to me a more conscious fiction and looks at what is missing, what remains unsolvable, and most importantly, where I must tread to engage the energy of this life. As carefully crafted fictions over a lifetime to explain the world we live in, our life story needs this tuning. As much as we abhor discomfort, we inevitably must experience the catalyst, the crisis, or the epilogue of our psychological hegemony to bring this into focus, for pain is the testimony; the acknowledgement of life. Suffering seems the only passage that brings meaningful change.
It is our imagination that aids us in constructing a reality of purpose in order to cope with the world and it is a darker counsel for me to revisit the unlived life as anything other than a tuning instrument for decoding this reality. The ache of my unlived life is the unrealized potential in this one. Yet the unlived life does not leave us alone and I can only mourn my unrequited projection if I am to be free of it. If the unlived life is tragic, it is only because I am conscious of it. The lucidity that constitutes my pain also holds the seed to ascension. As Albert Camus states, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.” We can hold tension with our fate and still be superior to it; we can live in defiance.
The gift of this difficult journey is the development of a more adaptive story to reconcile what I don’t understand. The unlived life being historically unassailable, is now my way through. The remedy is not the cure, it is the integration of fate; a radical acceptance. Nostalgia, even a fantasized nostalgia (is there any other kind), is an affliction that forges us. Our fate belongs to us and silences the idols in our life. In this way, I suppose, my unlived life remains ever afterwards a quiet passenger, intuitively directing me and in some uncanny way, loving me. For as much as I longed for my unlived life, it also longed for me. I keep it alive.
And so it is that I find myself living in partnership with my unlived life, recognizing the deception while engaging the energy. This acceptance of pain as the testimony of living reminds me that I am alive and even more, that I am becoming more alive; more conscious of this fictional life. A more examined life.
The passionate Phoenix of Firefly Horizons and conceptual prognosticator of Mutatis Mutandis reborn through the scorching forge of his annihilation into creative sanctuary. Steve translates the fury of his Phoenix experience into experiential exegesis in search of perspectives not yet in view. Read more about Steve • Articles by Steve