11/06/2014 04:17 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Lust for Life


The striving to live, what George Bernard Shaw called "the life force," is not as obvious a drive as it might sound. It's the most elemental urge of the species, accounting for procreation and host of other processes including destruction and dissolution. The Austrian economist, Joseph Schumpeter, for example, invented the term "creative destruction" in talking about one of the forces at work in a capitalist economy. But the inertial force of existence itself may be a mysterious as death. You see it most clearly in those for whom there is no seeming hope, those who have lost everything and still want to continue on through a barren landscape which is often devoid of familiar faces. It's easy to see why a young person with all of life before him or her wants to live and all the more disturbing when a youthful person succumbs to an illness or takes their own life. However, you really see the life force at work amongst those elderly people for whom work and love, two elements of life which Freud identified as central, no longer hold sway. Most people are not about to start a new career at the age of 90, though in a New Yorker piece about his aging process Roger Angell did talk about a nonagenarian pursuit of love and companionship and even his use of on line dating sites. A Rage to Live was the title of a 60's movie about a nymphomaniac and then there was the famous biography and movie about Van Gogh, Lust for Life. Yet no one has ever accounted for what makes people want to hold on to life, after all hope for any palpable rewards has passed. It's like the notion of art for art's sake. In those people who want to live, with no strings attached, for as long as they can, you see the life force in its purest form.

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and future}