Go Find Yourself
Are you hiding in plain sight?
“Are you already doing who you are?”
That question barely makes sense.
Still, I like it because it combines process with self-identity and hints at motivation. To answer that question all you have to do is look at how you spend your day—and with whom—to begin to sort your priorities.
Matthew Crawford’s book The World Beyond Your Head: On becoming an individual in an age of distraction (NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015) is not a quick read. But it is a satisfying text because he pulls back the draperies hiding some daily mysteries we live without thinking.
Mr. Crawford, the philosopher/motorcycle mechanic dismantles the notion of work and rebuilds it around the cylinders of service and ability and passion. (Wait—only three cylinders? What sort of wimpy metaphor is that? Don’t blame Mr. Crawford—that’s just my take on it and I’m only ¾ of the way through the book.)
Mr. Crawford notes that we must submit to a discipline—this is important—to become useful and adept at that discipline. Sort of like knowing the rules well so that you can break them well:
- Mechanics must know the fundamentals of engines to work on them.
- Writers must know how to speel, and the must know a grammar, to right. Otherwise, misunderstood. Are they?
Mr. Crawford’s take on authority is powerfully counterintuitive: we submit to the authority of a discipline so we can work within the logic and expectations and outcomes of that discipline. Along the way, after practicing that discipline for a time, it turns out we come to understand life through the tools and foci that discipline affords.
This notion of authority is counterintuitive because we Americans like to speak ill of authority every chance we get. I may be chief among the ill-speakers. That needs to change (though, of course, speak truth to power, and so on).
Here’s the point: looking back over the disciplines we’ve come to use every day is a key to how we understand the world and how we process life. Some people understand life through their writing. Some people process life through their woodworking. Some through watercolor or costume design or clipping topiaries.
There is a link between who we are and what we do.
Dumb sketch: Kirk Livingston
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