The internet is full of people who specialize in various types of analysis: film, video games, literature, art, history, you name it, someone out there is thinking about it. Many of those same people can be said to be overthinking it. What is overthinking? In simple terms, overthinking, at least how I’d define the term, is thinking of an idea or subject past the point of its own intention or past its implications. You can do this with theories behind confusing movies, look for the hidden symbolism in music videos, and generally look for patterns that aren’t there and, to our credit, when we can’t find it, we put it there ourselves to reward the effort. Seeing patterns is a human impulse, and we have natural pattern recognition software, because once upon a time, noticing the harbingers of coming storms and the onset of winter meant that the tribe that recognized these patterns were more likely to survive than a tribe who looked at a coming tornado and thought, “Should be fine, I’ll introduce myself.”
Whoosh, mother fucker!
While it has been generally very good for our species, cultivating our imaginations as we imagine shapes in the clouds and in the stars, but there is a darker side to this. Have you ever been on a date and, maybe your girlfriend/boyfriend said something that, intentional or not, made you think about it to the point of obsession? Has a simple statement ever made you obsess over if something more is being said than is being said? I’m sure (most of) you have, and while this generally doesn’t lead to negative effects, after all, being thoughtful and concerned is a positive trait. But when you allow something beyond your control, or something you believe to be beyond your control, you can, like the famous ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprise of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action. — Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.
In English, this highlights many of our most distressing thoughts: what happens when we die, the shortcomings of our emotional, physical, and intellectual courage, and the very real fear of failure, the fear of being forgotten, the fear that all of this is for nothing, that in the end, that golden door at the end of the road pops like a balloon in the dark, or locked, leaving us on the other side of paradise to think about our failure and the extension of it. One of my most persistent fears is, in the end, the last thing I’ll see in this world will be the eyes of the person I have failed the most, that this, these articles, my stories, will be those bubbles, magical, growing and expanding, but briefly and once popped can never be reformed: anxiety is the only medically acknowledged demon, and that demon will whisper, and convincingly, that which it knows will most disparage your sense of accomplishment and pride, any sense that what you are doing matters. This can make us all lose the will to act. It’s natural and common.
My only argument for my continued push, the rationale behind my refusal to close these documents, to keep on writing, to keep practicing, to keep striving for something, has nothing to do with legacy or what happens after I’m gone, but what will happen while I’m still here, and the greatest fear, and one that should be motivational, is that it will all be for nothing if nothing is the sum total of all when you clock out. I would rather be eroded by the waves, all the way down to the bone, than let them make me fall. Resolve to stand, even if your legs are broken. If for no other reason, it really, really annoys death when he’s expecting.