In T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” the title character is faced with an internal dilemma concerning his place in the world. He is caught up in the world of social norms and expectations, and though he recognizes his imprisonment, he is unable to summon the courage to break free and make choices for himself that might contradict this lifestyle.
His conflict is epitomized in his desperate question, “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”
The power and poignancy of this question come from its recognition of this dilemma in most human beings. At some point in our lives, we are all forced to confront choices that frighten us, mostly because we do not know what the effect of our actions will be.
Disturbing the universe is a terrifying concept because we are never sure if we will regret our choices or know what bad things might come from them.
Like Prufrock, we should be able to examine ourselves in light of who we want to be and who we are now. It is easy to fantasize about the lives we want and picture ourselves as great, successful people who have pursued and secured our dreams, but in order for that to happen, we must take action.
This involves not letting the opinions of those who barely know us, prevent us from pursuing our aspirations; the fear of what others think is far too restrictive in today’s society and may prevent you from becoming the best person you can be.
No two people will go about this the same way, so do not be afraid to stand apart from the crowd.
Our fear of an unknown future will never completely disappear, but a way to combat it is to examine our lives, build the habits we know we want to have, push past our fear and pursue the lives we want to live.
Part of this will include examining if our dreams and goals are worth pursuing. Rationality and financial considerations must come into play in this examination.
We all do this on a semi-regular basis, but it is important to do so with thought of our futures as well.
Let us strive to do what Prufrock could not. Let us dare to disturb the simple lives we live now and seek out the lives we want.
Not all of us need to change our lifestyles, but we all have aspects of our lives that could use improvement. If fear is stopping you, I encourage you to put that fear into perspective and think about the good that could arise from achieving those goals.
If we are able to overcome this fear, two things will happen.
First, it will become easier and easier to combat our fears in the future; this strength will come in handy down the line, for we all have struggles ahead that will be worse than anything we have known yet. With this courage, we will be better able to succeed despite whatever pitfalls come our way.
Lastly, by overcoming this fear we will have a better chance of living our lives in the best way possible.
Dare to make difficult choices despite fear, and good will come from it. We will be happier people if we pursue our goals and prevent fear from deciding our paths for us.