I don’t know what I would have amounted to if I hadn’t found characteristics that I wanted to be part of me. Parents, relatives, friends, non-friends, animals…admirable things. It’s hard for me to imagine a person passing through his/her developmental stages isolated from influences beyond cause & effect, influences that extend our consciousness beyond our physical being to include the more mental and social.
I have a number of friends that have skillsets and characteristics that I just love, and I want them. Um, the skills and characteristics, sillies. One friend, Beau, is an amazing time-manager with an ability to get things done in the most laid-back, casual (and Texan?) way. Among his mantras: “Every successful project starts with a willingness to try something.” If you don’t try something, something will never happen.
And what he applies himself to is remarkably renaissance in variety and aspect: art, music, science, and more. Something simple like going on a hike, he’ll stop at the trailhead and study the map, absorbing and memorizing what detail he can, whereas I wouldn’t have risked engaging precious brain cells as though trying to conserve what little space might remain within the storeroom of my head.
For him, the effort was effortlessly rendered, not taxing, and would bear the reward of comprehending one’s physical context and appreciating one’s progress along the trail. Walking along the trail, taking pictures and admiring what we’re part of, he’ll discuss Chaos Theory and algorithms for genealogical search engines…with no regrets in sight.
My best friend, Jim, can look at a situation and connect the dots immediately, as well as his having an ability to get things done … because he dives in to do it. How he connects the dots leaves me admiring in amazement: he considers the relationships of elements that compose a situation and what significance those relationships have for the topic at hand or even what they might suggest for future topics. He does not accept a superficial interpretation unless the surface is instructive in itself.
As for getting things done, he does “what [he] has to” to arrive at specific objectives whose composition he can parse at light speed. He surveys a situation’s components, calculates what he needs to accomplish given the components’ characteristics, and then he propels himself into realizing an outcome channeled toward a favorable objective. As Yoda would say, “There is no try — only do and not do.”
A phrase that one hears often from Jim is, “Git ‘er done!” He reminds me of a mentor I used to have who had a mantra: “What do I need to know to get this done?” rather than “How the hell am I going to do that?” His art is as calculated as emotive; as rational as it is transcendental.
Jim’s fiancée, Kristy, has an amazing talent for poetry & literature and grounding their arcane meanings to specific landmarks in the landscape of her life. But the part that most amazes here is she applies her brain to sifting through the literary sand of poetry to expose nuance that only poetry and art can convey. Who knew that “applied poetry” could exist that way?
Still another friend, Harry, applies what can only be called wisdom to situations that life and living present, especially when counseling his and his wife Barb’s children, talking politics, and ruminating on business. The wisdom manifests itself in his weighing options and choosing the paths that lead to healthy, positive approaches to any challenge.
Barb is methodical and thorough in what she does, to a fault. I watch her plan for building a home, and her approach stuns me in its maturity, as in how developed the approach is. How she is able to apply this approach to any situation (that I have been conscious of) boggles my mind.
When either of them faces a new situation, they learn and strive to discern not just the immediate details, but how the constituents compose a whole. And they can do it spontaneously. Non-structured situations do not threaten them.
In the same vein, a close friend of ours, Patty, has a knack for diplomacy where she can find the angle to a situation that complements a context (and its players) stupendously, on the fly.
Paco has, like, a gazillian blogs that he keeps fresh, he’s a photographer, and oversees several operations as a line of work. And this does not include how he folds in a social life! He saturates his living with activities that project back on him a zest for appreciating thought, language, art, organization, and culture.
I can only infer that he has similar time-management skills as Beau … or maybe he actually “makes” time! He, as what seems to be a common ingredient among my friends, connects the dots in life’s circumstances by considering how one component interacts with another component, and what the significances of these interactions are.
Only So Much Energy to Expend?
I have a bunch of really quality humans for friends — mentioned and un- —, and I can go on and on about the virtues in each of them & what I’d like to have of them for myself. To prevent myself from writing exposés on any more of them, suffice it to say that I have plenty of ambient virtues around me for which to strive, yearn, and imitate. The key is: They apply themselves with what appears to be zero effort. No cost. What might prevent me from doing the same?
For me, it’s a constant struggle to not be … lazy? Is that the right word? I think it is! When faced with pressure, tho, I can perform. But I don’t want to just perform on dramatic stages that suddenly materialize and demand Oscar-winning participation. I want to simply do, without the sense of it costing me anything. Which leads to an interesting question.
Whence this sense of cost?
I’m not exactly sure! There are clouds forming over the horizon of my mind casting embryos of shapes too early in development to be identifiable. I will contemplate by peppering:
I think I feel like expending effort requires something of me that I don’t want to give, but why and what? I expect the obvious to be obvious when I need it to be. Entitlement — what’s important will make itself known to me or will just be me. It’s a “waste of energy” … but what else would I do with the energy? It doesn’t accumulate. You can’t store it. Sure you can run out, but then you rest and eat, and it’s back stronger than ever.
With information, I don’t do trivia — I retain the larger concept like labeling a compressed (.zip) file (archiving a set of documents) with a single, summarizing thought. Waste of effort, waste of space. Will I use it again enough to justify the effort? Sometimes the trivia is useful for mapping to other similar notions, so why not attempt to retain some?
Or maybe I can’t relate, or I rotely evaluate something to nothing. I’m “good enough” as I am. But what am I that is better than what I might have been having made different choices along the way? And “good enough” for what? Breathing?
Obviously I can’t put my finger on the why and what, but I know the problem is grounded in something that dulls the will justified with excuses and apologies for manufactured conflicts in valuation.
Really, the fact is that it costs me nothing but some attention. If I don’t use it later, well, it was of interest to me now. Knowledge and skills seems to have a 6-degrees relationship to other knowledge and skills, relationships that may not seem apparent right there and then. A new bit of information or a new way of thinking or acting opens doors to other worlds and perspectives. And that’s just the learning part.
Changing, in Spite of Myself
Then there’s the part of wanting skills or characteristics I don’t have but want. The aspects of me that I like, I want to keep; the parts I don’t like, I’d like to trade them in; the parts that can be improved, I want to improve. I absolutely do not believe that old dogs devolve to being twitching creatures of past patterning, unable to learn and do new things. That’s BS! Old dogs can learn new tricks.
Ah! so am I talking about tolerance for change or changing one’s tolerance? Of imitating to add to, or imitating to adjust?
I just recently had a conversation with a dear friend of mine, who responded to a statement I made about how people change. He said, “Hmmm — I don’t think that’s true.” He & his stunning wife own and operate a bar, where he has experienced the same people coming in year after year. Some people, he says, simply haven’t changed. Is it possible for that to be possible?
My first thought was, I cannot dispute that. My opinion seemed to have changed, since it is only as good as the last bit of validating information it rests on. I cannot question his powers of observation or intuition, but I still cannot not logically induce that change has, indeed, happened, however small. Micro change may be occurring so slowly as to become integrated without our notice because the more salient macro patterns of behaving and cogitating are employed and reinforced. People can close themselves off from, at the very least, mental and behavioral changes… as far as we can tell. That seems well-documented or accepted.
Yet I believe nothing stays the same. Nothing, not us; not a rock; nothing. But change can happen slowly enough where we perceive it as static. Withering is change. Getting strong is change. Learning is change. Even eating and drinking involves changes to our being, potential and actual.
Staying the same would seem to require as much effort as directing energy to guide change because, if everything else around you is changing, then you have to fight to maintain the structures or appearance of sameness around you … or at least the illusion of sameness. One does not realize it is effort because it is so deeply integrated and fused into the habits on which ride everyday living and thinking.
Effort is imminent, inescapable, unavoidable. It’s essential for just being. Living is expending: you expend to expend, in a cycle of expending just to be. What does cost mean in a contained system where “cost” nourishes itself? Cost, in this context, is a meaningless and contrived superimposition upon a system of vitality.
Learning, imitating, doing … any effort at all that we make is a cost without cost.
What’s really exciting about change is that I don’t have to be the same … um … whatever I am — I can morph and enjoy even the same vistas from different angles. When I resist, I remind myself of the type of attitude where one expects the universe to simply fall into line with who- or whatever I am now, at my current transient state, as though who and what I am is so special that I must conserve it at the cost (?) of becoming a museum piece among museum pieces on a storage shelf storing shards of nothing but mundane, banal, and ordinary pride. Cost here is the trading of something that could be for nothing. Habits become prisons for static lives with pride as the guard.
Not to be confused with habit and prisons, one can apply oneself within more of a cause & effect environment and embrace the change of nature, around and within. Walling oneself away from over-rationalized centers of living might seem like one is avoiding change, but I know plenty of people who have moved to or remained in rural Idaho and Montana, and who are living in the richness of participating in the quotidian and cyclical machinations of the system that produces and sustains us. Being that is simple and present; more cause & effect with the added spiritual element of profound aesthetic appreciation and elementary wonder. Participating in the cycles and changes of their inner and outer systems keeps them vital. The key is application.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the perceived stability of certain circumstances that allow me to nestle into a sense of comfort and safety. I love mini-traditions that become the machinery for enjoying the facets of life they do expose, like spending time in San Pancho, alone with humans whose company I so much enjoy; or Saturdays on the beach for less concentrated socializing. But for whatever “self-actualization” means, I note the ambient virtues of my friends and I intend extrapolation of formulae to test and try on myself for the purpose of change.
I love that I can change. Change keeps living fresh.