Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Screen Behind the Mirror - whatever that means

I dove into an audiobook this week Anti Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and really enjoyed over half of it until my phone started going all wonky and I had to reset it to factory before discovering that the problem was unfixable and it was time to order a new phone. Things that need insurance, like handset devices, are not anti-fragile. 

The premise of this book is that there isn't a word for things which benefit from chaos. Something destroyed or harmed by chaos is fragile. Something which neither is harmed nor benefited by chaos is robust, stable. And so it becomes necessary to invent a word for things which benefit and become stronger through chaos. There are certain things which cause an object, person, or concept to be vulnerable to circumstances, (there's a lot in there about economic and governmental concepts); and that acting and performing tasks helps to make one anti-fragile, whereas simply talking about things leaves you open to chaos. There's some amount of anti-intellectualism in there, but it appears to come from a place of earnestly disagreeing with certain systems which are endemic in academia and our current scholastic system. 

This book seemed to have been my lesson for the week. Chaos is going to occur; the wind will blow, the earth will shake, the fire will burn. Today I went to a class at my synagogue and we talked about that passage in the story of Elijah where he goes up to the mountain top and all this crazy shit happens, but g-d isn't in the wind, the quake, or the fire; g-d is the "still small voice" inside that insists you are anti-fragile. Rather, it's not the shiny, pretty, noisy things that give us strength, but the person who insists that you're much more durable than you've allowed yourself to believe. 

The journey through the last six months has me believing that I am anti-fragile. Recovery from any destructive habit is scary, chaotic, and breaks all of your available tools, but those broken tool make you look for new ones, which makes you less vulnerable to chaos next time around because not only do you have new tools, you now have the ability to look for and create new ways to make the world work for you.

In a way, being anti-fragile is what lead me to bulimia in the first place. Of course, my anti-fragility lead me out of it too. I've learned a lot, grown a lot, and become so much stronger through this, so I'm convinced that I'm being primed for greatness. Leaders are born out of adversity; they don't just appear. And yeah, we tell people things like "do hard things", but choosing to play the game on expert is a lot different from having that choice made by your life circumstances. Maybe people who intentionally do things that are more difficult than they can handle are anti-fragile too, all I know is that having that pressure, pain, and adversity just happen as a form of chaos made me better at whatever it is I do these days.

If none of that made sense to you, that's okay. Here's a picture of a derpy dinosaur that I got for my birthday.

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