Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"The Unbalanced Trajectory of Human Life"

I offer you 2 learning objects to close out 2013 and launch into the future. 

This post was motivated by a thought-provoking opinionator piece in NYT this Sunday. The author, Todd May, said: 

"There is an assumption I would like to make here, one that I can’t verify but I think is uncontroversial. It is very unlikely that Edward Snowden will ever do anything nearly as significant again. Nothing he does for the remainder of his life will have the resonance that his recent actions have had. The powers that be will ensure it. And undoubtedly he knows this. His life will go on, and it may not be as tortured as some people think. But in an important sense his life will have peaked at age 29 or 30."

The question raised is: if at some point in our lives we are destined to "peak" in some sense, how do we respond to that experience, or even the knowledge that the experience of peaking can or already has happened? 

As I reflected on this question, it reminded me of a TED talk I watched this summer.

In her TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, looks at fear, creativity, and how to handle the real probability of having already achieved the greatest success she will ever achieve. 

"Everywhere I go, people treat me like I'm doomed... 'aren't you afraid you're never going to be able to top that?'... I still have maybe another 4 decades of work ahead of me...and it's exceedingly likely that my greatest success is behind me..That's the kind of thought that could lead a person to start drinking gin at 9 o'clock in the morning...I have to create some sort of protective psychological construct."

I propose that when we think about time and the one life we each have, the answer to finding constantly renewing purpose and meaning lies somewhere in the "protective psychological construct" that Gilbert presents in the latter part of her talk. It involves continually evolving our own complex identity. It involves recognizing that while our circumstances may make it impossible to ever top some past experience, they also likely allow us to reach a new peak on a new plane of accomplishment or awareness. 

To a creative, ever adaptive and hopeful 2014. May you all discover new geniuses. 

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