I walked by a surgery practice room where medical students learn to operate on a dummy full of sensors on my way to lunch. As I passed I could not help but notice the obvious signs of intense engagement detectable on the faces in the room. I could see the challenge undertaken reflected in their focused eyes, furrowed brows, and bitten lower lips, and instinctively knew that such engagement with a real world challenge is what builds skill in these people. As is often the case, my mind applied a personal comparison and judgment to my perception of this busy scene: I eschew challenge because I do not desire skill so much as I desire meaning. I do not seek challenge because I learned to seek meaning through independent experiential analysis, intuitive exploration and awareness of contextual juxtaposition, and exposure to novel and unpopular ideas. I considered learning trainable “hard” skills as less important than developing the indirect “soft” skills that better enable me to analyze the world I find myself in and relate to the people within it. I’m an explorer of experience, and I have essentially found most challenges to be a distractions from my goal of understanding done for the sake of others and ego.
My learning style habituated not to overcoming challenges, but to circumventing them, with the logic that if I could expeditiously navigate around a challenge rather than taking the time to confront and solve it, then I would be provided with more time to explore my internal and external environments and play with the concepts that arise from the interaction of my attention and stimulation. I have always tried to outwit and outsmart challenges through manipulating appearances, taking advantage of technicalities and loopholes, or through appeals to prestige and arbitrary authority in order to free up time for mental play. Rather than learning direct skills through drilling and testing, I learned indirect ones used to influence opinion and defer the challenging aspects of responsibility via excuses and socialized fabrications to other people and times.
Accomplishment has always felt like something done for others more than for myself, so the mere appearance of accomplishment, even if hollow, was generally enough for me as long as I had the time and space to continue in my emotional and cognitive exploration of the world. Because I associate accomplishment with training done for the benefit of others, I think I’ve learned to avoid expectations set by others to free up the space for contemplation. The only accomplishment I have really ever desired is greater understanding, and I’ve generally been resentful of having to prove the value of my understanding to others, because my exploration is not for performance and is by definition incomplete. This desire to not be compelled to perform for others and engage genuinely with my thoughts and media has led to profound thoughts, but a dead end socially and in terms of continued freedom to think freely.
An essential aspect of wisdom is learning to practice in a wise manner. Amassed knowledge has no true meaning if the lessons of that knowledge are not acted upon and put into practice. My interpretation of meaning will have no effect on the world if I do not translate it into words, images, sounds, impressions, etc. that others can attempt to grasp and reinterpret. I must develop the skills and discipline to relay fragments of my mind to others, and that means taking wise action. If I do not learn to engage my productive creative capacity, then I will be left detached and floundering from the very understanding I’ve always sought. I’ve been blind to the wisdom contained within action, but I will find a way to practice because I must to remain sane.