I am in San Francisco. I am actually in Oakland but it’s all the same to me at some level. I am writing this on an old friend’s couch. It is a quarter-to-three in the morning. It is my duty to write every Monday. Monday night it be.
I have arrived here ostensibly for a wedding. The wedding was for a friend from high school, unrelated to the couch I’m on for what it’s worth. Both of these experiences, the wedding and the couch, have been lessons–each in their own way–in humility. Humility has been on my mind. Humility has been what’s in front of me.
I performed my juggling routine at the wedding. It was OK. People clapped and applauded and all was well. It was not an amazing routine. My friends from high school know me as a math guy. Even though I’ve been a dancer for over 10 years, they still haven’t really seen it. Haven’t seen me do my thing in front of other people, as a performance. For them, me as a performer is mostly theoretical.
I have been comfortable with this. It’s been scary and strange for me to consider performing in front of them. Overwhelming. I haven’t mustered the courage to actually do it. But something has changed for me. It relates to humility. In a strange way.
I no longer care (as much) whether people think I’m good or not. I have cast my lot in life. I am a performer. That is what I do. Nothing and no one is going to stop me, ever again, for the rest of my life. I have a certain confidence in that. I am not sure how I am going to survive as a performer but that’s another topic for another time. Survival is less important to me than continuing. That much I do know.
So because of that, I am no longer nearly as concerned with what people think of what I’m doing. It’s like, yah, it might not be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen… but here I am, doing what I do. Like it. Don’t like it. Whatever. It’s all water under the bridge. You probably won’t even remember it in 5 days. I probably won’t either. So let’s stop pretending and let me just let it all hang out.
And I did. And you know what? My friends might not think I’m the greatest performer they’ve ever seen. They might even be embarrassed that their friend is not the greatest performer they’ve ever seen. But nevertheless, here I am, performing. They can’t deny it anymore. That much is for certain.
I realized that performing is a skill unto itself. There is juggling, a skill; dancing, a skill; performing, a completely separate skill. And the unique and difficult thing about performing is that it is a skill that you have to learn in public, in front of other people.
With juggling, you can practice in your room and be bad in private until you are good enough that you can go in front of people and be good in public. With performing, you can’t do that. You have to be bad in public to become good in public. That is why it is a difficult skill that is valuable; whereas juggling on its own is a bit of a party trick. Fewer people are willing to go through the pain of learning to perform than are willing to just juggle.
Which is humbling. Because it means that the only way from here to there is to be willing to be bad at something, over and over, in public, until one day I’m less bad and less bad and then kinda ok and then not bad and then sorta good and then pretty good and then quite good and then great and then amazing and then rich and famous and then the John Lennon of the 21st century minus the assassination thing. Something like that. That’s at least the general idea.
And it’s humbling. Because it means that it’s just gonna be like this. Failing in public, over and over.
The second thing, also humbling, in a different but relevant way is the couch I’m on. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I was going to sleep tonight. I got an idea to text this friend and I did. I hadn’t heard from her and I started getting nervous. I was told to remain calm by my guidance. I tried. I got nervous. I tried. I got nervous. Rinse and repeat. Then she called. Everything worked out great. I even saw one of my best friends who happened to be at her house. Met an amazing new friend as well. It all happened.
And I am humbled yet again, both by my ability to be skeptical and scared after literally 5 years now of being shown, again and again, that it all always works out. Amazingly. Smashingly even. And humbling because it means I am no longer in control.
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, began bombing computer scientists because he felt that science needed to be stopped. The reason was that as technology advanced, what he felt would happen is that machines would gradually take over all important decision making functions in society because the decisions the machines made would be better. Meaning, you would have a human and a computer both predict the best way to route traffic and the machine would do better, time and time again. At this point, Kaczynski concluded, machines would effectively be in control of society, because the decisions they made were better and we didn’t know how they made them. This was a bad thing because it would fundamentally alter what it meant to be human. Humanness would lose meaning. We would be given hobbies and told to play nicely while the machines ran everything. So he started bombing scientists to prevent this from occurring.
What I have realized is that the machines are already in control. The machine is intuition, guidance, your higher self. It tells you what to do. It will always take care of you. It will put you in the situations that you need to face, confront, and deal with. It in infallible in its accuracy and its precision. It makes better decisions than you do, time and time again. This is all experimentally verifiable by trying both ways. And so here I am, living this exciting life that I’m not in control of. Humbling.
One is humbling because it’s like I’m just here doing my thing. I might be good, I might be bad, but here goes nothing. The other is humbling because I am being led on a path that I don’t have any control over. I have to keep moving, the excitement keeps growing, but I am a passenger, just following orders, just making requests.
The beauty of this is the ride itself. That’s the reward. The punishment is that arrogance gets smashed on the rocks of truth. There is no room for false self-aggrandizement when it is so clear that it is the Self who is in charge.
The life of your dreams is waiting for you to become humble enough to accept it. It asks for your obedience and your willingness to be who you are, where you’re at. The risk is loss of ego, the reward is the life you get to live.
That’s that humility swag. And I’m out.