Fire and Ice
One of my favorite poems when I was a teenager (and which is still pretty awesome):
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
- Robert Frost
I was reminded of this poem when I was thinking about some ideas, and how my work has been a pretty steady march on a few basic ideas. How do we change ourselves, primarily. But answering that question requires that I also think a lot about questions around how do we motivate ourselves, how do we know what we want, etc.
There was a quote passed around the other day about how a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money. I remember how easy it was to be against things as a kid, and to have ideals, and to be judgmental about other people… before I was put into situations or circumstances where those very things I was very against now made sense and seemed not quite as terrible as they had seemed from afar. I’m talking simple things, like drinking coffee, or smoking pot, or having sex, or getting a job where I worked at a desk all day, or having kids, or a thousand other things.
I think, to this day, that most of the things I’m judgmental about are really just reflections of situations I haven’t been able to relate to.
It’s important to put your principles and judgments and ideas into the fire. To test them out in real world situations. To see if they actually make sense on the battle field as well as the cushy war room.
And that made me start thinking about how we as a species are always trying to put ideas on ice. To figure something out once and for all. The 10 commandments. The 7 habits of highly successful people. The 21 days to better abs. We want to absorb ideas that have permanent value, that can be relied on for longevity.
But the beautiful thing about science, and the pursuit of truth, is that the facts never leave the fire. They’re always changing, improving, getting closer to the core in some way.
The worst thing to do with ideas is to put them on ice, to freeze them in time and assume they apply to all people, in all times, and in all situations.