The First Step to Reinvention

Discovery is that "Eureka!" moment that Archimedes writ in stone as he solved a problem. He needed to find out if a king's crown was 100% gold but knew that the oddly shaped object could not be measured in the traditional ways. He puzzled over this and decided to take a bath and as he sat in the tub, the volume of his body displaced the water and he was hit by a bolt of lightning, a divine breath, an inspiration and he (according to the legend) ran naked in the streets shouting "Eureka!" (which is Greek for "I have found it!")

Discovery is the first step to reinvention.

It is the discovery of gold in Sutter's Mill that transformed the state of California; it is the discovery of the means of space flight that landed humans on the moon; it is the discovery of the Polio Vaccine.

It is also the revelation of the drunk driver narrowly missing a child on a bike in the road, the moment of truth when a mother of three realizes she is and as always been gay, the painful truth that watching martial arts on TV does NOT make you a martial arts expert.

Discovery is wonderful and awful, the soft glow of the new and the harsh light of reality. Some discoveries are like a present at Christmas; others like a punch in the balls.

But the key to discovery is the follow-up. The application of the lesson. The reinvention.


Growing up, I had plenty of opportunity to reinvent myself - I was the new kid at school far more than I was not.  As my family moved around, I got to entertain whom I would be at each subsequent facility - was I the thoughtful kid who sat at the corner of the blacktop during recess reading science fiction paperbacks [Eighth Grade]?  Or the loud, rebellious smartass who continuously challenged the rules at every authoritative utterance [Second, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh Grades]?  Perhaps a turn at the Criminally Inclined [Fifth]?

The problems with this chameleon-like series of reinventions was that there was rarely a self discovery involved in the choice.  The only discovery involved was one of reaction.  How did people react to me when I was Type A or Type B?  What reaction was the one I preferred?  Was I personally more comfortable with fitting into the Authority Prescribed Conformity of Public School Life or more enthralled by the Thrill of Breaking the Rules and Provoking Authority at Every Turn?

The result has been a heightening of my personal dichotomies - I'm told by someone that I'm one of the nicest people at the public radio station I work at but told I'm a real asshole by a longtime theater comrade in the same three day period.  Both are right.  At some point (and if I knew the exact moment, be assured I would write at length about that moment, sparing no details in the telling but I don't...) I discovered that this shifting back and forth in persona/personal style/approach to others was, itself, both a strength and a weakness.

Now, the conventionally minded will say "Then focus on the strengths and minimize the weaknesses, right?" and that makes sense in a conventional sort of way, doesn't it?  But it doesn't work that way.  Yin is not Yin without Yang, Hall is just a guy without Oates, and there are no Good Times without Bad Times.  Life and Death in an eternal struggle is the Name of this particular Game and I have to accept BOTH my strengths and weaknesses in equal proportion.

The Yang of my split-level A-frame House of Ape is the source of my Get Things Done (and, while it can be argued that the THINGS I get done may have questionable value, it cannot be successfully contended that I do not actually get them done).  It is also the side that loves nothing more than to provoke people into a reaction.  It is the side that tends to make being my friend or co-conspirator difficult.  My Yang talks too fucking much, cusses too much (as if there IS such a thing) and demands far too much from everyone around me.

Yin, on the other hand, listens and slowly learns, responds with a modicum of generosity and tries out that Empathy thing on for size like a dozen pair of shoes walking 12 or so miles in a variety of directions.  Yin is goofy and sometimes sweet and buys flowers and lunches and craves solitude - long moments of No People of Any Kind, Lost in Thought and Absorbed with the Plight of the World.

Yin reads about the vast economic disparity and gets sad; Yang reads the same thing and gets Royally Pissed.

Yin is a bit of a pushover; Yang is a bit of a bully.

My discovery in recent years is that both sides are equipped to handle different situations.  The application of the lesson - the reinvention - is to more thoughtfully let one or the other out of his cave to handle the appropriate situations.  It's a tough lesson and a difficult challenge but if reinvention was easy, no one would need a fucking therapist.

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