I had the most interesting conversation on Twitter last night, one that grew (unexpectedly) out of yesterday’s post. I can’t get it out of my mind.
It was about authenticity (again), and control. Specifically, about whether taking ownership is, perhaps, an attempt to control too much. About whether self-examination can lead to a lack of authenticity – to what? Narcissism? A lack of mindfulness? A preoccupation with the past or future; things that we can’t control? Some, or all, or maybe none of those.
In a true moment of not letting go completely, I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it. Because that’s what I do, whether I should or not, whether it helps or not; I think about it until I can either understand, or feel satisfied that I never will. Or understand that it’s not time to understand yet. Sometimes we just have to let stuff sit in the dust, rest in its inscrutability, until we have the right hands to pick it up with, the right eyes to see.
And, yes, sometimes we just have to let it go and embrace the mystery.
I graded for my fifth kyu in Ki-Aikido a few weeks ago. I didn’t want to. The western system of colored belts bothers me on a subdural level. In
they don’t use colorful belts. You wear white until you wear black. I want to rebel against the artificial gradations. (And yellow is not my color.) But they still test on the way to the black belt, grading progress and providing unseen benchmarks, steps in the air that are invisible but strong enough to stand on so that the next level can be seen. I’d rather not wear the belt, but I accept and enjoy that the testing has to happen, and appreciate knowing that I can move forward. Japan
I think that I approach the mirror the same way. I’m not looking for external validation as I do it (he says in his blog – oh, the irony), but testing myself helps me know where to go next, what to keep and improve, or what to leave behind. Sometimes the most surprising things happen, like when I discover that an old thing, trait, behavior that I never really liked no longer serves a purpose; that I can leave it on the side of the road and just keep walking instead of carrying the dead weight around.
Socrates said that an unexamined life was not worth living, and I buy that. Granted, I’m invested. Maybe I’m just a fan because I want to enable my own navel gazing. I have to admit the possibility, right? But can’t we wonder about the future and pick through the past without losing hold of the moment, of the present. Can’t we?
Earlier this week Stephen Elliot talked about how people don’t really change. Who we were is who we are is who we are. I buy that to a point too. To a point.
But we evolve too. There may be a core that can’t change, but how we dress it can. There may be an ‘us’ that can’t change, but how that ‘us’ interacts with the world, perceives it, embraces it or not; that can change. That can evolve. And that requires some level of examination, whether we burn the barn or go through it one item at a time, or maybe a bit of both. The examination is ongoing and painful and beautiful and grotesque and distracting and enlightening…
… and absolutely, authentically, worth it.
P.S. Sadly, my URL change yesterday had one unforeseen consequence that has no remedy at the present time: ID has no process in place to navigate all the ID comments made on the old URL into the new URL. All those comments and tiny conversations are lost to the outside now. Sorry, my fault.
If it helps, I can still see them all and visit the threads through the ID dashboard, but the truth is that I already miss them.