Why is that no matter how passionately I feel about writing a novel, my inhibitions convince me I would sooner walk from Toronto to Montreal than even get started? There are distances that are simply known as “enormous,” like the distance between the surface of the ocean to its utmost depths; then there are distances that are “astronomical,” like the distance between our solar system and the edge of our galaxy; but both distances are shamefully miniscule compared to the distance between your intricate plans and intentions and the fruit that is borne from your meticulous contemplation. Your New Years’ resolution—“this year is definitely going to be my year”—but you dropped half of your goals by week three.

This article will not attempt to rectify why our incompetencies are destructive, nor will it chart a course to success by the end of this year; you have dozens of YouTube videos for that. What I intend to do is demonstrate how our sudden burst of emotion and our disappointment induced clever relapse into old habits is a symptom of our dispassionate age. Kierkegaard put it this way: “There is no more action or decision in our day than there is perilous delight in swimming in shallow waters.” Our culture belongs to fantasy connoisseurs. Everybody has a far of fantasy, some far of goal they long for, simulating the various intensities offered to us by entertainment and, more gravely, endlessly deliberating on something we care about, enjoying the ambiguous as opposed to the “extremes” where action is required. An existence that is perfectly satisfied in being isolated inside mental cathedrals of our own making.

I must preface the upcoming discussion with what I mean by ambiguity and passion in respect to inaction. The latter is nothing but an infatuation that has matured beyond the violence and torment of mental obsession. It takes a measured approach to the object of desire and embraces it—not embittered by the pain of sacrifice—a wholehearted devotion. It is much like a few sparse lines turning into a ballad by the work of a dedicated author. The former is the fog in which people relapse. A disconcerting amount of people think ambiguity simply indicates vagueness, but it is more sinister than that. Ambiguity revels in the deconstruction of substantive ideas into mere abstractions, objects of contemplation. The individual neutered and sedated by the entertainment value of fantasy. Devotion becomes purely an intellective activity.

To concretize my qualms about ambiguity, for instance, Homer’s heroes are no longer relevant icons to our culture because they inspire another generation of heroes; rather, they can be fiddled with and deconstructed by disinterested scholars or people who want to satiate their need for amusement via the culture. The commodification and exposure to facets of culture in our technologically advanced age allows people to replace passion and emotion with reflection and the rudimentary desire to seek enjoyment. The epic is subjected to deconstructive theses, forced to languish in the arms of scholars, critics, connoisseurs, and those who simply take cornerstones of civilization for the sake of amusement. Thus the epic makes pompous scholars, not valiant warriors. It is troublesome to think most of what is true, good, and beautiful are entertained intellectually, but never breach the walls of our minds like they once did in the past. Inspiration dies and from it arises distant curiosity. To emulate extraordinary ideals requires action, which is perilous; contemplation offers safety.

It is no wonder that eruption of emotions does not bear much fruit: the shrewd habit of taking the risk out of authentically inspired action and imbuing it with ambiguity has made indulging in anything ironic—everything is a joke to us. Sweep through shopping malls or endure five minutes on the Internet and you will gradually begin to see that there is an “aesthetic” that one can gather all their brain cells around and live in that unlived fantasy inside our heads, but it does not mean anything besides pure contemplation and reflection. Thus, there is no effective symbolism that expresses deeper metaphysical ideas. People cosplay things without understanding the very thing they find attractive. It is not Homer that is speaking but a Homer that we made to suit our proclivities. Anything that has deeper metaphysical significance to our culture is enjoyed like it’s a consumer product.

Movies are made to be trope savvy, the absence of any bridge between action and consequences, being a subversive in place of having an authentic personality—because apparently there is only one way of being distinctive—how ironic. Young girls who cosplay the Virgin Mary even though they are not virgins or love the Virgin Mary and so on. Flood everything with ambiguity, hallow out the carcass, then show off your self-certified “unique” cosplay to your friends—they’ll validate your ambiguous identity. We develop a parasitic relationship with anything we consider to be worth pursuing or the fundamental apex of life. You will even find people who accommodate despair and depression as an aesthetic for the expression of their individuality. The disinterestedness lens of ambiguity muddles the fundamental nature of something so much that what is ugly, and disparaging becomes something we entertain and seek. Impulsive behavior becomes synonymous with passion since the shallowness of amusement becomes the telos of our endeavors.

I maybe accused of conjuring up several naiveties via the admonition of an attitude corrupting our consciousness—that in fact, it is a net positive for things to be interpreted ambiguously because human thought has an infinity of keys and no two notes are the same. Why should anything else be offered some singularity? The answer to this dire question is that ambiguity is embraced by those who do not want to stare the truth in the face; it is an enemy of true passion. Ambiguity carves out a distance from ourselves and things we consider to be a piece of our souls. It seems like odd behavior until you come to recognize that we are often terrified of confronting the gravity of hear, say, do, and especially, what we believe. Besides having consequences, some are inconceivable at the present moment but eventually bring undesirable circumstances for everyone. It offers us comfort so we can relapse on our beliefs or on the promises we make. Thus, what follows from an eruption of emotion is a dispassionate wallowing where things enter our minds only to be put on trial and judged to be simply “fascinating”; it is as if we are all connoisseurs of endless reflection. We enable ourselves to consecrate our ego through the ideals we fantasize about.

This attitude of overindulging in self-reflection and romanticizing ambiguity has pernicious consequences for not only us as individuals, but society has trouble qualifying what is good and what is evil. Instead, there is either cynicism in the form of absurdity, proclaiming no force is capable of subduing evil, or, the infuriatingly pretentious belief that evil should be dealt with bureaucratically. The consequence is twofold; none passionately strive for goodness and all let their revulsion for evil fade away. We love all of this because it is convenient and requires no enduring passion. We no longer seek to emulate greatness, like how Dante sought to emulate Virgil, because we take comfort in translating greatness into an ambiguous term, shrewdly persuading ourselves that it belongs to us to define what greatness consists in, thus relapsing into our former conceited ways, which do not exist beyond the walls of our own mind. The intention of this piece was not giving you tips on how to succeed the coming year, as I have said before, rather to name the enemies of true passionate living that plagues all modern society and not just you: ambiguity and eternal reflection. The epic deserves to sound like an epic for the sake of enrapturing someone to follow the spirit of Achilles, instead of coming down to us in the form of disinterested theses. The spirit of extraordinary things does not deserve to be transformed into pure entertainment.