ehowton (ehowton) wrote,


I love running across words I never knew existed - that defined things I thought had no definition. And usually, I find them completely by accident. Well, almost. They're usually tucked away somewhere in plain sight amidst synonymous etymology. In this case, an avatar I've been seeking for some months - a visual representation of wonder which hitherto has been an arduous feat. And while I wasn't expecting bubbles...everything else - the composition and expression - were pretty much exactly what I'd been seeking.

I've been toying with whether or not how we behave is more important than what we do. As Henry Higgins observed, "The French never care what they do, actually, as long as they pronounce it properly." So it is with us - outside of medical personnel and the like - emergencies are just that, but then, that often seems to be the problem, doesn't it? Everyone is always under some illusion of justifying their behavior because of a fabricated emergency; they dropped their Blackberry - ITS AN EMERGENCY! (Actually happened to me once.) Is it really? Having worked National Defense, I find anything short of loss of life an emergency, and that puts me in the minority.

The word I ran across was neoteny. It means the retention of childlike attributes in adulthood: idealism, experimentation and wonder.* My wife had recently posted about joy and that day, as we're walking together around the geese-laden "lake" view path on our daily walk, she asked how one who didn't have a childlike-wonder about the world - could develop one. I was surprised by her question and I'll tell you what I told her - that I didn't know.

But on that same page with the image and the word, the author outlined it. She outlined exactly how to instill that in people, and ostensibly, ourselves: By being given the freedom to fail. That's it! Her sole commenter followed up with "The inherent pleasure of experimentation, of enjoying a journey that may not have an explicit end destination at the outset." To not fear failure. Rather, to use it as a tool. And that is why I enjoy work so much. Autonomy. Ability to play. Break things. Experiment. My management encourages this from me and I love it. It fits me like a glove.

How we behave doesn't have to be more or less important than what we do, but it certainly needs to be as important. Pride not only in what we do, but in how we do it. Aristotle said, "It is hard to be truly proud; for it is impossible without nobility and goodness of character." Guess where goodness of character comes from? From behaving admirably in the face of adversity. A self-perpetuating cycle of joy. Be not as the meek. Be proud of yourself for reaching your goals and also of your behavior while accomplishing them.


I will always be proud of your accomplishments. But more importantly, I will be proud of your attitude and your behavior during those times above the accomplishments themselves. I would rather you lose every ball game you ever played if you enjoyed the hell out of playing and were genuinely impressed in the efforts of all the players - on both teams. I would be more impressed with that than if you won more than you lost but were angry or resentful when you did lose. That's not why we play. We play for the challenge, and for the fun.

Not that there's anything wrong with winning - its a boon to the ego and validation that we've done well. But we can learn from loss as well, and other people marvel at our character when we do. Some people are only impressed with winning, but that is a sad life full of disappointment, for they cannot accept loss, and feel personally betrayed by it. They feel betrayed because they let that accomplishment define who they are because they are frightened of failure.

But not you. You will be magnificent.

Love, Dad

Tags: awe, curiosity, failure, kids, philosophy, psychology

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