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April 23rd, 2021
You have a ticket to ride by default. And yet many go about life as though they are waiting for permission to get aboard life and take it for a spin. This is likely, at least in part, caused by a modern industrial education system where children are berated with a condition where only one course of action gets the good grade. And then when school is over, the rules change: suddenly success is not a rigid set of directions, it becomes a creativity exercise with an infinite set of possibilities. It requires a whole new way of thinking.
Kids are remarkable in this respect. Kids don’t have to goad themselves to play, they don’t need to plan it, they don’t worry, they just do, and most importantly, they don’t feel like they need permission. This freedom is lost along the way for so many, and those who do manage to harness the creative potential of life as an adult are either people who managed to hold on to the child they once were, or it’s rediscovered. Unfortunately, both are rare since most go about their days in much the same way as yesterday, coming up with ideas for what could be, what might be possible, but staying in a perpetual state of stalemate, waiting always for permission that no one has the power to give.
So much modern anxiety is wrapped up in saying or doing the wrong thing, perpetually, obsessively thinking about those embarrassing moments in the past, the ones that no one else remembers. They amount as most to a genuine mistake, and this is exactly what school trains us to judge our worth by. Our grades are determined by how many mistakes have been made, and so to it seems is the mental health of many people. Could just be coincidence, but the stark difference between this state of affairs and how we approach the same issues as children makes for a palpable argument that there’s more than just correlation at work here.
The grudging realist might try to think there way out of this trap by accepting that mistakes will happen, but it’s more than this, mistakes are actually very important and it’s good that they happen. The process functions best when the whole of it is embraced. A permission to live is really a person, and even an enthusiasm to dive into a pool of action with the confident expectation that it won’t all go well.
The perfect grade is an ideal that only a few can really achieve, and yet, despite it’s lack of relevance to the way life works after school we’re all goaded to strive for that ideal, often painfully, like a Sisyphus who can never rest, always chasing the asymptote of an ideal. On some level we all know this is bullshit, otherwise everyone would be a better student and there would be some serious skin in the game that activates the sort of primal motivation that makes failure a non-option. Instead we are worn down into a mediocre and tremulous sense of doing anything.
The secret is realizing that the only person to give you permission to live is the one waiting to hear it.