Growth

In between reading and writing, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we grow as people. There’s the biological process, cell division, etc – we come with our own blueprints in this regard, and through the Human Genome Project, a few on the planet understand this to a degree well beyond the average person’s – but the basics are there for all to understand. But other sorts of growth defy us, and I have found nothing in all my reading and exploration that sufficiently explains things to me.

I suppose it’s a peculiar thing to think about, but perhaps it seems that way because we don’t think about it enough. Or, perhaps it’s just a fool’s errand, the universe trying to understand itself through the self study of a collection of molecules that defy mathematical probability and not reality, which seems pretty consistent with reality defying probability at every turn. And through all of this, somewhere on a planet in this otherwise uninteresting part of the Universe, someone sitting in a chair idly twisting their toe on the ground is thinking about something highly improbable.

So this is the background noise of our growth. It is the background noise of what we perceive as growth. Perceive? Why yes of course, because we can’t truly measure our growth, and we can only assume that it is growth because of changes in ourselves – if we bother to even take the time to assess ourselves.

That which we perceive has it’s own tempo. In cities, and around other human beings, it is a matter of the tempo of others, of that which is artificial, of our own collective creation. In more rural settings, nature’s tempo is more dominant. In the quiet of solitude, we choose what is dominant – we choose our backgrounds as we select a music playlist to read or write to. We color our world in this way with our choices, and what allows us this flexibility, brittleness or firmness of choice? Is it our experience coupled with some DNA and RNA settings set at our birth default. Then we interact with our world, twisting and turning our matrices, folding in on ourselves, in extreme circumstances the result becoming as tortured as the path to becoming tortured.

To make matters worse, we are conflicted – each person, to some degree, wants to belong and thus will try to fit in with some – maybe because they are what they wish to be, maybe because that’s all they have, maybe because they know better, maybe because they don’t. And yet, every human being also wants to be individual, independent, and someone that stands out be it for reasons of procreation or less biologically rooted reasons.

So. How does one measure growth along these lines?

Well, we can’t as far as I can tell.

And yet we talk about personal growth as if we could stand next to a post every year or so and draw a line to measure a physical attribute. Our experience of growth is subjective against a flowing canvas that we do not yet understand.

But we change. We learn, hopefully, some faster than others. Physically, we grow until our body decides that entropy deserves a fighting chance, and I cannot help but wonder if perhaps emotional and mental disorders, unrelated to our biology, are not our minds letting some of that entropy in.

And then what is entropy? For this context, a means of explaining disorder within any system as applied to ourselves, but then this leads to question what disorder is when considering what we have learned from Chaos theory, that chaos – disorder – is likely just order we do not recognize yet.

So the reality is that we don’t know enough to measure ourselves. So why do we try? Why do I try? Isn’t it somewhat egotistical to measure our own growth? Isn’t it sort of like killing the Buddha?

And there we are, full circle. There is personal growth, we all understand that, but when it comes to actually demonstrating it, measuring it…. we do not have metrics, we do not have anything that is truly objective, and even the opinions of others are flawed by their subjectivity.

Reboot Stages

ReBoot SpriteIt’s happening again.

At times in life, things change so much that a re-evaluation happens – or should. I suppose for people considered normal in society, such times might be when they are getting married, or when they’re having a child. For me, it almost always  seems to have to do with supporting myself or some new knowledge that requires a re-evaluation of everything that has happened since.

References

It’s a minefield. We remember things sometimes not as they happened but as we want to remember how they happened – a fact that keeps lawyers and psychologists gainfully employed, where objectivity is as subjective as our memory. This is where objective notes can be of worth, disciplined writing that requires one to report to a piece of paper or other medium what happened in sometimes annoying detail. Writing logs in the Navy and with the Marine Corps prepared me for that, from security logs to SOAP notes in medical records.

Writing notes is important. Recently, someone griped to me about how their manager required full reports from them and, 2 days later, would ask them again. This has been happening for years, and he reported to me a conversation where the manager said, “I don’t remember 90% of what you tell me.” My thought was – think it with me, don’t say it out loud – “Write that shit down!“.

I have found in writing things down I do remember things in detail without referring to my notes; though admittedly if I write things for other people they read through a filter of their own reading comprehension if they cross the threshold of their willingness to read. You can’t document for people who don’t RTFM. Or, on the internet, follow hyperlinks or actually read the posts you share. Fair notice: I mock people who don’t do the latter 2 things openly, viciously, and with a great deal of annoyance.

So I have notes, scribbled into Moleskine notebooks, documents in manila folders, documents on computer systems (no cloud; it’s insecure, silly)… and I find myself perusing  these things and looking not at the way I wanted my life to go but how it actually went, from the sources of meals to friendships that lasted to those that did not, from ideas that are now rejected to ideas that have survived decades. I’ll gratuitously link Moleskine notebooks I use on Amazon.com because they have survived decades. 

Well written notes from other people can be awesome. Poorly written notes from other people should be printed on toilet paper and used appropriately. Must I draw it for you? 

Re-evaluation

Meditation in the Deer-ParkIf you have good notes, the hardest part is re-evaluating… everything,

Everything that happened. Everything affected. How it affected you. How it affected others. How everything was affected between then and the now. Everything.

This requires the hardest thing of all: Honest reflection. Being hard on one’s self, being realistic about results, and being able top hold multiple conflicting ideas in one’s head at the same time. It is, by no stretch, easy. It takes time, energy, time, introspection, time, questioning the introspection, time and… did I mention time?

Growing is hard, painful and has no patience for ego or dishonesty to one’s self. Being dishonest means atrophy or stasis – really one and the same – and dooming one’s self to the failures of one’s own history. Doors will remain disguised as walls, walls may be disguised as doors like a cartoon.

This part gets harder every time, I’ve found. The volume of what you have to process increases with time, and, if you have learned anything from previous re-evaluations, means a more assiduous process every time. Worse, as we get older our opinions can become more hardened and more difficult to change, making the introspection more difficult. Sure, someone out there might write a book about how it gets easier – maybe they know something I don’t – but it’s harder and harder every time for me, but more and more necessary as I grow.

Paths open, paths close, plans are experimented with… some make it through this process, some don’t. Which leads us to…

Decisions, Decisions

Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.

– Laurence J. Peter

“Whee do I want to be next? What do I want to do? What’s the next set of goals?”

Such questions were easier when I was a child, even as a teenager when I knew everything and felt the confidence people seek in politicians. More experienced, having put my hands on the stove burners of life a few times, it’s harder every time – and easier at the same time. As we grow older, we’re supposed to have more questions than answers but we’re supposed to be better at asking the right questions.

Or, at the least, we think so. In talking with people who seem to have their lives together, I’ve found that when they are honest they don’t feel that way. Life is a floor of banana peels, plans are order we try to push onto a canvas of uncertainty – misunderstood order we learn about as we grow, or we break. There are skeletons against the walls of Life, broken bones apparent – we see them in life as those that we somehow outgrew.

The rare ones we know are like us, figuring stuff out, maybe even leaning on each other. Statistically, I think that it’s fair to say that as we progress there are fewer and fewer people in these Halls of Life still navigating their way – some ahead, some off to the side.

We don’t really know what we’re doing. We just know what we’ve done and tried to learn from it – some better than others. Some have been afraid to get bruised and fall, they stand in place or even dare sit down in life as we trundle by. Some even grab our feet, drowning in their stagnation they try to hold us. The angry kick them, the strong pull away easily, the fearful slap at them and attempt to run away. Some might spend the time to convince them to get back up and face life.

Yet we must move on, and even undecided, we make our decisions with the best of intentions and hopefully with the best information and sincere re-evaluation, or as close to them as possible.

Slide.

In time, you will realized that’s all anyone is doing, no matter how far ahead or behind you think they are.

The Quests To Do ‘Good’

Grave of the unknown ChildThere are some of us that have thoughts and ideas of how the world should be – trying to make something that speaks to our internal canvas, sometimes daring to expand that canvas.

Sometimes the world betrays us – we betray ourselves – by expecting things to work in certain ways when they do not. We might expect that people in authority actually care about what they are responsible for and find that they don’t care about our particular dumpster-fires or don’t see them as important. Maybe they aren’t important in the grand scheme of things, maybe they are.

He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.

– P.G. Wodehouse. Eggs, Beans and Crumpets (1940)

Sometimes the things we invest ourselves in do not come to fruition in the way we like – maybe it’s a person we tried to help who keeps finding ways to destroy themselves, maybe it’s rescued animals having a less than pleasant ending, maybe it’s someone simply ignoring us when we try to help them avoid future problems.

The world, despite the stories we’ve been told and the way that we are told society should work, does not work the way we believe. Society is an agreed upon illusion that, when stripped bare of the ideals we superimpose on it, can be uglier than we are taught in schools and by those that love us.

We live in a world where everyone is on a quest to ‘do good’, but ‘good’ is a relative thing. ‘Good’ for someone in poverty might mean being able to eat, ‘good’ for someone who does not have to worry about that food might mean seeing their children go to school and do well. ‘Good’ is a problem because we all don’t agree on what is good. What is fair. What is right. What should be done.

And so we expand our canvases, not shrink them. We find out why the world is not as we think it should be and we try to address that. In the blink of a decade, you can find your canvas has expanded you; you may find yourself doing things that you never planned to and may have made absolutely no progress in making the world a better place.

But you might have accidentally made yourself a better person. You might have made yourself worse. That’s the real journey. That’s the true measure of the world we live in.

The Quest to expand our canvases.