0424 – the yin-yang nature of our inner child and parent

Amusingly, I have repeatedly messed up the numbers of the past few word vomits. I keep writing 0241, 0242, 0243 instead of 0421, 0422, 0423. I suppose subconsciously I feel like I can’t be approaching the mid-400s yet.

I made a few more videos on YouTube. I’m still really self-conscious about my accent and the way I speak, but I really want to be a part of the International Internet Community (imagined or otherwise), so I feel like it’s really important to me that I practice speaking clearly and I get better at it. I feel like I will be giving speeches and such in the future when I grow older, so I might as well do it now. So I’m doing it. I’ve also lately felt more of an affinity for the guitar, like I’d like to start practicing more, deconstructing more songs that I like, improve and grow as a musician. I no longer feel as much of an interest in impressing other people– I’ve written off the idea of being some kind of rock star. [1]

I’ve been thinking a lot about the passage of time, as I mentioned in the last post (but didn’t really do justice to.) I’m thinking about what it means to be an adult, and what it means to be a child, and I’ve been trying to revisit what it felt like to be younger. I look for clues in my writing and in old videos and pictures, and in old comments and statuses on Facebook. It’s really obvious to me now how much I sought the approval of others. I still do, obviously, and I probably always will, but it was a much more intense ache of sorts then. I wasn’t doing very well in school after my early success, and maybe I needed to prove to myself in some way that I wasn’t a total fuckup– that my fuckups were intentional and by choice, and that I could still get people to acknowledge my greatness and superiority in the spaces that I chose. So all was well, eh?

It’s all so silly on hindsight. And I’m sure I will be looking back on today and think that I’m being silly right now, too, in ways that I cannot even perceive yet. Probably for spending so much time thinking and writing and deliberating. Previously I was performing to others. Now I’m performing to myself. Solitude adds a certain honesty to writing and thinking, which is good [2], but I think there’s something beyond that… which is action, obviously. I should be taking a lot more action each day.

I’m still bumbling around, I’m still meandering, I’m still waiting for all my wounds to heal and for all my soreness to fade before I start taking massive action. But I know intellectually that the soreness never completely fades. The athlete has to play hurt.

So about the passage of time, adulthood and childhood. I’m thinking about Einstein, and how he accomplished his greatness by focusing a child-like curiosity upon physics with an adult’s persistence and focus. Same for all sorts of high-performing innovator type folks that I really love. Take Da Vinci, for instance. He was clearly highly proficient, but he also had that child-like sense of wonder.

People tend to talk about this in a very simplistic sense… I don’t often hear people talking about how HARD it is. To simultaneously be a child and an adult. When you’re sick of being an adult, it’s tempting to be completely childlike– to be irresponsible, short-sighted, pleasure-seeking. When you get burnt one too many times from childlike curiosity, play and exploration, it’s tempting to be ‘completely adult’– that is, straitlaced, dreary, boring.

The good stuff comes from doing both at the same time, being both at the same time, embodying the best of both worlds in a constant yin-yang fashion. Being at once the artist and the manager. Discipline with joy, curiosity with focus, wonder with verification, awe with persistence.

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[1] In fact I think anybody who wants to be a rock star should take that as an indicator that they should probably sit for a long time and examine their own mind, and maybe spend some time in solitude away from humans if possible. Well– I think everybody should do that, but I have a suspicion (might be overgeneralizing) that people who want to be rock stars, who seek that sort of praise and validation… probably have something that they ought to examine. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

[2] I recently re-read that great piece in The American Scholar about ‘Solitude and Leadership’, and I really enjoyed it. It’s interesting how I focus on different parts of it. When I first read it, I focused on the part about how students at top, elite universities were describing themselves as “excellent sheep”, and I enjoyed feeling superior to them because I was a bad sheep. I’m bad at following orders and so on. But now I realize the critical thing is the later part of the essay– about learning to be responsible for your own decisions. About the courage to really distance yourself from the forceful sounds of the sea, and calmly figure out for yourself what is best.

This isn’t easy. I used to think that I was thinking for myself when I was disagreeing with people. But disagreeing with people means that you allow them to set the agenda. You’re defining yourself in opposition to others. Which is slightly better than defining yourself in alignment with others, because opposition forces you to come into conflict, and conflict can sometimes force you to think. But that’s a narrow, shallow sort of thinking. You begin with the conclusion and then you think really hard about how to get there. That’s not true thinking. That’s not true independence. That’s not freedom.

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