The Urge to Act

I was born in a small village in Spain. I had a complicated adolescence and my father committed suicide when I was sixteen. For more than a decade I pursued a music career. At twenty, I moved to Hollywood and became obsessed with the idea of becoming a superstar. That was, I thought, the way to cope with my trauma, the way to live a more-than-exciting life, and make my family proud. My Ego grew to dimensions I didn’t know existed and my anger grew with it. I lost contact with reality and became vulnerable. I got married shortly after that and it all went overboard within a short period of time. I returned to my country five years after my departure.

In my teenage years, I began suffering from different forms of mental illness (social anxiety, depression, stress disorders) which for obvious reasons, worsened after those emotional experiences. Through that, I grew a lot more in touch with the realities of this world. Perhaps a blessing with a high income tax.

I started thinking of the millions who die of hunger. I became more compassionate with the tragedies of refugees—especially after reading a book about the story of Doaa Al Zamel and other stories of Syrian refugees fleeing from war. I started thinking of the huge inequality gap and how the Communist Manifesto could have been written just yesterday. I started thinking of the children who don’t even meet the basic needs to grow up mentally healthy and will never be able to develop even half of their full human potential. I started thinking of the roots of racism, nationalism, attachment to groups, religion, attachments to all sorts of things. I started thinking of the divisions between East and West, South and North, Black or White. How stupid! I started thinking of lust, greed, narcissism, responsibility, empathy. Why do these elements exist? I started thinking of the Bible, the Gita, the Quran, and the prophets. I started thinking of human nature, human conditioning, and all the things that go unnoticed in our daily, routinary lives. I thought of compassion, love, unity, quality of life, the structures of power. I thought of sex and desire and the great great energies that can move a man to the blind pursuit of it—sometimes even at all costs. I thought about it all over and over, obsessively, and I could no longer imagine myself following the path I had been following throughout all my years. How could I? Those thoughts were consuming me deeply. Haunting me day and night.

I felt guilty, miserable, and ashamed of myself for having behaved the way I did. To the point of constantly thinking about death. A beggar for power! A depressed beggar for power who without knowing it, all he was seeking, deep down inside—like all of us—was redemption.

After the Covid-19 quarantine, I was completely broke and had to subsist out of my family's support. I started working a minimum wage job but the pain was so powerful, my mind so unstable, the weight of my concerns so heavy, I couldn't bare spending 9 hours a day in a place that furthered my unhappiness and brought me no joy. I hit rock bottom when I had a nervous breakdown and visited a psychologist and a psychiatrist who prescribed me antidepressants and Quetiapine. I had to face a choice: Do I medicate myself in order to tame down all these critical feelings that in a way are full of meaning and are helping me connect with the world's suffering, and adapt myself to a society which (we may all agree) is sick and needs serious reformation, or do I raise my voice and stand up for what I believe is pure, beautiful, and entirely human?

Then I asked myself: Is there absolutely anything I can do about it, being in the position I find myself in? What can and should we ALL do about it?

Many of us are not satisfied with the life we live. We feel trapped by the algorithms of civilization and its demands. We are too conscious of our wasted potential, and so we suffer because our nature does not expand and flourish the way we feel it should. Sometimes, in the pursuit of creativity and spirituality, we end up marginalized or misunderstood—Our voices silenced by the machinery of capitalism and profit. We live then, on these terms, in the mode of survival.

Yet we are not bohemians. We are not decadent people. We want our planet to thrive, our creativity to prosper and grow, our minds and vision to interconnect. We want freedom and a full life of enjoyment without stress and unnecessary worries. We want peace of mind. We want good health. We want what every single human deserves: a good life.

How can we achieve that? By taking action. Even if that same action implies not to act, we must act or refrain from acting with purpose if we want to achieve some very specific results.

There have been great examples of selfless action, a concept largely discussed in the Bhagavad Gita, in the past few years. Like those of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US, Greta Thunberg in Sweden, Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan, and probably thousands, if not millions, of other cases that do not end up in the spotlight. This would suggest that there are people in each district, in each corner, in each house, wishing for an awakening of the human capacity for compassion and solidarity. The eradication of the narcissistic trait and the “Me first” mentality. A change in the way we treat each other, an advance towards unification, and in more mystical terms, immortality. How does one not know that a humanity with no vanity and obsession with power and control would be a much healthier humanity?

Many of us are also (consciously or subconsciously) not happy with the way our system works. The education we receive may seem unfulfilling to us, our governments entirely corrupt, their military spending a show of insanity, the values and ethics of our culture wrong, the crimes all around us evil, the discrimination against other beliefs entirely irrational, the malice of some men or women superior to our understanding. But at the end of the day, how many of us do much about it? Perhaps we go to a protest on Sunday. But Monday we are back at the office's desk. Mostly worried about the destiny of our own individuality. Not truly living, but again: surviving.

We feel so powerless and overwhelmed against the huge volume of these important issues that are so persistent throughout history, that it feels much easier for us to just focus on our own wellbeing and those around us whom we need in order for our wellbeing to establish. We live programmed by fear and by not acting (unless we are purposely refraining from acting), we easily end up depressed and lost in the dark rooms of existence.

There are, indeed, many great ways of escaping and attaining pleasure. Music, art, meditation, sports, and all sorts of entertainment... But those great privileges cannot mask the fact that the issues we are debating are still—and will always be as long as there is no solution—the core of human suffering. At least in this lower dimension where flowers bloom and the sun rises every morning.

We can engage with these gratifying pleasures for as long as we have the opportunity to do so. But sooner or later we will be forced to go back to that same old song and face the core problems. We cannot negate, then, that these problems are an important part of the fabric of our reality. A reality which our children will have to inevitably contend with.

We can choose to spend our time trying to attain as much pleasure as we can possibly get (within, of course, a broken system, and only if the social conditions do not deprive us of our basic rights) or we can find a more holistic approach trying to advance a system where pleasure and true respect amongst all communities is the norm.

In this context, pleasure could simply mean the destruction of all avoidable pain. Suffering which is created by mankind. Or we shall say, the consciousness of mankind.

I no longer know if my actions can have any sort of impact in this world of contradictions. I no longer know if our anxiety has any cure. I no longer know what this step I am taking will bring. I am in a state of confusion I must confess. But this won’t stop me from trying to use my time on Earth.

And so, I will walk and walk, all over Europe, country by country, penniless but not hopeless, hoping to spread the project of a peaceful, unified humanity. Hoping to raise solidarity. Hoping to proclaim strength and vitality for those who need it. Hoping to break the stigma of mental illness. Hoping for an alteration not of policy, but of the heart of the greedy individual. Aiming at the seemingly impossible. Whether it will be of any use, or if it will be judged as a madman's adventure, or the outburst of an abstract idealism, that is not in my power to decide. I truly hope to hear from you. I believe in our future.


— Pau Martí Riembau