Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Individuals change everything. One of the reasons that anecdotal evidence is not allowed in certain types of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry is that people can be so weird. There is no event so horrible, no environment so emotionally damaging that we can't find someone, somewhere who throve there. There are no advantages so absolute that we can't point at people born with wealth, intelligence, beauty and access to power yet still wound up as absolute losers.

Exceptional people respond in exceptional ways. The people I like best have an uncanny ability to shape the world around them and shape themselves to do what they feel needs to be done.

One of the friends I admire most started with next to nothing. Born into poverty with a single parent, a racial minority, an intelligent and gentle soul in a place that valued strength and violence he has literally created himself and his world. He is strong, smart, balanced, successful. He is physically, spiritually and intellectually an example of K'ung Fu Tze's "Superior Man".

What a great anecdote. Clearly showing that with hard work and dedication anyone can...

That's the thing. Reality matters in the particulars, politics in the general. Who Steve is over-rides almost every possible restriction that life or chance can throw at him. He is a fighter and a winner. He hates losing and even more hates giving up.

The fact that one person did rise from those conditions only means that. Maybe it means that everyone can. But it doesn't even imply that everyone will.

That's simple, but it is more than that. Exceptional people respond in exceptional ways, but certain exceptional people need exceptional challenges to grow. Personally, I found out in college that when I took twenty hours and worked full time and worked out with the judo and fencing team and maintained good relationships, my grades were better. When I had no room for error I did much better. Who I am and what I've done is largely based on maintaining that level of pressure.

That's paltry, but think: Were it not for the Nazis would Churchill have ever been anything but a burned-out, alcoholic former Navy guy?

That's another side, too. The people who deal with the hard stuff well often deal with easy stuff poorly. Look up the life stories of Medal of Honor winners and read the litany of alcoholism and suicide. In some cases, exceptional people who never find exceptional challenges never become special at all. They sink into oblivion, maybe not even dreaming of what they might be.

The title of this is too metaphorical. Oysters make pearls to encase a bit of grit that got inside the shell and is irritating. An oyster with a perfectly happy life who never gets any impurity or irritation, never creates anything exceptional. It's just meat.

1 comment:

mistamark said...

It's no use saying, "We are doing our best." You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.
Winston Churchill

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
Winston Churchill

We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.
Winston Churchill

We shall show mercy, but we shall not ask for it.
Winston Churchill

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
Winston Churchill