Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On attainment

Intellect, rationality, is a wonderful thing. Like a tool, you can hone it, perfect its use, guide it, after much practice, with ease. It is a measurement. I have spent much time with people who believe in this tool, a very fine tool. I grew up in the belief that it – ratio, science – was the small light in a vast darkness. So it is. I had not fully grasped the meaning of that metaphor though, until I bumped up against it again and again for a long time.

In the dark, you must sometimes turn away from the light to see better. This does not diminish its value; without it you would see nothing at all. But sometimes it is best to keep it at your back, and let your eyes adjust to the dark to see more clearly. So reason lights up human nature, but cannot be used by staring into the light. Instead I have turned away from it, knowing it there in the background from the glow it cast, but looking out into the darkness.

I have worked hard, this last year, at moving rational knowledge into my heart, accepting that rational thought is not what directs my emotions. Unless I can understand with my heart as well as my head, my reason desintegrates into rationalisation. My intellect alone is easily confused, easily lost in the fray. Perhaps mine is simply not strong enough. So instead I have simply put in the dumb work of self-development – writing every day, regardless of inspiration, doing tai chi even when I don’t feel relaxed, going for walks when it’s cold. The road to personal progress for me has been to put in the hours (some of the time...) and not think about the outcome. I find it always pays off when I stick with it – but never when I expect it or how I expect it. Most often this practice helps when I fail most dramatically, or am most disappointed. It’s when I learn the most. Beckett was right – and thanks again to Evan for the quote – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Funny how that quote become less depressing every time I read it, and every time I go through the same mistakes and learn a little more, and fail a little better.

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