Velleity of the Human Heart

Humans do not possess a single, focused will. Our will is made up of countless strings pulling in all different directions. At certain points in our lives it may appear focused and singular, with all the strings flowing together in perfect alignment: steps toward a dream career or goal, building a relationship with a partner or focusing on an experience in the moment. Our values and actions align, and there’s a clarity in our desires that’s content and fulfilling.

But the deterministic world won’t allow that for long. Over time, through our continued experiences, new values arise and past values weaken. Perspectives emerge that we never fathomed before. Suddenly, that once simplistic vision is covered in complexity. The strings are pulling in all directions, and our thoughts and actions become what can only be described as incoherent. This change in the human heart is inevitable.

The last several years I couldn’t grasp this change in myself. Many of the values I professed and spent countless hours devoting time to were no longer being reflected in my everyday actions. Thinking over this disparity I noticed how re-markedly common it was across friends, family and strangers in the news alike. It’s a human condition to be confused about our values as we change. After all, time is often a zero sum game, and zero sum games can make for incredibly difficult choices.

Luckily there’s a word that describes this struggle: Velleity. As Psychologist Avi Sion writes, “The concept of velleity is important because it enables us to understand the co-existence of conflicting values.” Perhaps being mindful of velleity will help us come to terms with our ever changing desires.

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