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I have lived a very priveleged life.  One of the great priveleges of it is that I have usually been surrounded by very gifted people.  I’m not sure why this is.  My friend Robert says it’s because I don’t compete – it’s true that I don’t, I’m not sure if this is the reason though.

I can remember the day I stopped competing.  I was walking home from High School with my friend Robert Pryor.  He was a very bright person indeed.  In year 10 he came to school complaining that he couldn’t read Spinoza – all those propositions did his head in.  I was trying to impress Robert and talked about a drug that had been used to treat sleeping sickness (this was well before Awakenings).  Robert said, “Oh, that’ll be L-dopa”.  I couldn’t believe it – how could he know that?  And then I thought, “This is ridiculous; Why am I trying to compete.  I have a genius for a friend.”  [I don’t think of him as a genius now, just someone who was very bright.]  That was the day I gave up competing.

However even compared to my past experience I was surprised a few years ago to be among very gifted musicians.  I was talking about the guitarist Slava Grigorian and saying that he was a child prodigy –  I thought this was pretty remarkable.  These musicians went, “Oh yeah”.  Some of them had been child prodigies themselves and others were more of the – “and is the music he does really good?”  These are very gifted people.

Child prodigies are intriguing – they tend to not maintain their lead.  They slow down and others catch up – so that by the time they are adults they are just ‘normally great’ rather than prodigies.

This seems to be true for all of us (though not to the same extent perhaps).  The amount we learn in the first few years of life is extraordinary.  I wonder why we don’t keep learning at this rate.  Here are some thoughts I have:

1. We don’t need to.  We learn to negotiate our environment in a reasonably satisfactory way and stay with this.

2. Schools destroy our interest in learning.  (It takes years of consistent effort but they often enough succeed.)

3. We learn about what we are interested in and don’t worry about the rest.  Most of us keep learning about our interests and hobbies.

4. We’re not taught how.  This is an especial betrayal of the gifted.  They are naturally good at something and so they are left alone – and so they are unprepared for when they come up against something that they don’t find easy.

5. Vitality diminishes over our lifetime.  At the moment I am doing part-time work in a nursing home.  I have also, until recently been staying in a house with young children.  The difference in vitality is vast.

6. We are bound by past traumas, habits and prejudices.

Some of these I don’t think we can do much about.  But I do think we can heal ourselves from past traumas, re-do our habits and understand our prejudices.  I also think we can learn many new skills – speed reading is something that many have found quite easy to learn.

It is surprising how much of our energy is tied up in dealing with the past and worrying about the future.  Once we are freed from these bonds the surge of vitality can be extraordinary.  I don’t know that we will be able to learn as easily and quickly as a child (on the other hand I don’t know that we won’t) but I think we can keep learning and have much more vitality than we usually do.

What do you think?  Have you found times of vitality from healing your past?  Do you find that some things have got easier for you as you have gotten older?  Let me know in the comments.

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6 Comments to “Why Do We Slow Down?”

  1. I don’t want to speed up. I value my “moodling” time too much.

  2. Evan says:

    I know what you mean Jean. Thanks for your comment.

  3. It’s funny, I feel far more vital now at 32 than I did at 22, and I suspect it’s because ten years ago I had very little regard for what I actually wanted, and was more in a mode of surviving, impressing others and trying to prevent myself from getting hurt. A few years ago, for whatever reason, I finally gave myself permission to go for what I wanted, and I feel like I’ve been on the warpath ever since. (Interesting that I express it in war metaphors — I’m sure that’s something to look at.)

  4. Evan says:

    I guess war is one time where we’re allowed to put everything in to what we do. It was a huge relief to me when I decided to pursue what I was interested in. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Hey Evan! I’m a big fan of the Sedona Method, and in it Hale uses the computer analogy. Each unresolved issue, pain, fear, whatever it is, is like an open program. As we get older, we get more issues – this is like a computer running a thousand different copies of Microsoft Word or whatever at the same time. We have to start closing them off, which frees up our RAM.

    I see the whole thing as an evolving consciousness. Our consciousness is designed to go up by itself, except we bog it down like sandbags on a hotair balloon. Throw the sandbags away, and let what happens, happen 🙂

  6. Evan says:

    Thanks Albert, I like those analogies a lot.

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