Monday, June 12, 2017

As you grow older ... grow younger

'No le busques tres picos al toro' 

I first encountered this saying maybe 15 years ago in a book titled The Millionaire Next Door that I'd borrowed early in grad school.  I read a lot of books - about every kind of thing - in grad school.  Problem: you're supposed to NOT do that in grad school; you're supposed to focus.  But how are you supposed to know (believe, accept) what to focus on before you know (for instance) what not to focus on?
I held on to that busques tres pico...del toro saying like crazy.  By the way it means: don't search for three horns on the bull.  (or roughly Don't look for three horns on a cow.)   I knew it was profound.  I knew that it applied to my situation.  I knew that I was stuck somehow, frustrated where other people seemed to be accepting, and needed to unravel this saying, but it remained an unsolved riddle.
It was only this weekend that I remembered these words and felt them to be resolved; felt like I could finally park the saying among the things that I understand.
In part I came to understand it because I had recently read something about unicorns and how they don't exist or why or something.  This gave me a new, pretty visual for a three-horned bull where before I had only some grotesque growth from Revelations to imagine. 
In part I came to understand just because I'm older.  I see now how unique my "overthinking" problem is.  Look, it's not normal to look for that much more - sometimes a life is just a life, sometimes the things people do are just because the other person did them and social psychologists say people are just copycats, sometimes because their parents did them and so "it is written; destiny", sometimes because they just happened, sometimes because they were paid, sometimes because they felt good, sometimes because they felt bad.  And no, for most people, there is no "why" beyond these self-evident and temporarily satisfying answers.  For many people, that's what old age is for, or the death bed - time to reflect finally, on priorities, on if/how things could have been different.
But of course you know that's not how I have lived.  I have kept asking "but why...?"  Why is the rich man rich?  Why is the poor country poor?  Why is the job so boring?  Why is the joy so fleeting?  Sometimes I need to just let the bull be a bull.  Bulls aren't bad.  They're real at least.
As you grow older, maybe you know when what's before you is a bull and two horns at most is what to expect.  The job may give a salary but not meaning.  The trip may give new food and weather but not warm friends.  The old friend may share polite company but not excitement or insight.  Keep your expectations at two horns and you won't be disappointed.
film: Linda and Ali
It's important to know that I wasn't feeling very well when I made these 'discoveries.'  I spent quite a bit of time this past week researching gastrointestinal inflammation, anemia, etc, symptoms from dehydration to dizziness, but today I feel much better in part because maybe my body is killing the stomach flu germs (yeah, I don't get the flu anymore it seems; my tummy is the new battlesite) and in part because I used the best tip I got yesterday from a person, not a website - drink lots of water, flush flush the bad stuff with lots of water.
I'll say it's relevant that I wasn't feeling very well at the time that I came to understand mental laziness, the possibility or the importance of accepting drab, relishing the just-ok, letting life be.  My brain was tired.  I feel differently now.  I feel stronger and more able to perform my little optimization routines.
It's also important that I say something concrete in this messy essay, for example, graduate school was not supposed to be a life, or a philosophy, or some sort of three-horned bull like I lived it; it could be seen simply as a career step or qualifying phase with some training and the attainment of a degree as its end.
And so, because such drab is not good enough, alongside growing older, one ought to grow younger
Yes, we should all say, to unicorns the colour of bubbles.  Yes to dreams and fairytale magic and impractical wishes.  Sometimes people are really Superman or Wonderwoman.  Sometimes the job is incredible fun.  Sometimes, something happens that has never happened before.  Sometimes there is luck.
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t said...

Photos: all are images I previously used in this blog over the years. Click for referencing. Click again for source.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post. I was ok with the "messy" essay, didn't need the pretty bow tying it all together at the end. I stopped asking why long ago. Why often ties one to the past (digging up science history, family history, unicorn history)... I realized why is a waste of my personal time. Well I used to "sigma six" and ask like "five why's". Now I focus on the why that delivers a quick moral, and then transform that into a "how." How can I learn from this to do better, how can I avoid this situation (or person, he he) in the future. And it has worked so much better for me and freed up so much more time.

I learned how to deeply ask why in grad school (and the fundamentals of asking why science-wise from you, I think), and while it is useful for academic pursuits, outside of academic spaces, by which I probably mean in everyday life, I think it's not so productive.

I'm pretty pleased you wrote this, as I reached a similar conclusion as you (sometimes a bull is just a bull...) and I feel pretty smug I reached it a year or two before you ;)