You Are Not a Blank Canvas

If you put a gun to my head, I would wager that the uniquely human tendency to oscillate between perceiving yourself as omnipotent, of limitless potential, able to do anything – given the requisite time and resources – and perceiving yourself as a fixed, unchangeable, lump of flesh, has been going on since… well, forever.

To put it differently, you’re either seeing yourself as a blank canvas – bestowing upon yourself the potential to be shaped and moulded into just about anything – or you’re seeing yourself as a finished product – you simply are what you are. The End.

Of course, as with any duality or dichotomy, the truth is more: “a little from category A, a little from category B.”

The reality is that, no, you can’t be, do, or have just anything. But that’s not a bad thing. Actually, that’s a very, very good thing. Now you don’t have to waste your time on a load of shit that was never gonna work out anyway. You can cut away the non-essential 99% – the stuff you were only doing because everybody else was – and chow down on what’s left, because the stuff that’s left – the stuff you can be, do, or have – that’s the best stuff anyway.

Move towards what is beautiful, and away from that which is not beautiful.

Move towards what is beautiful…

Figure out what you love. What you’re good at. What makes you lose track of time. What makes you feel transcendent. What makes you feel connected to something bigger than you.

And run at it full-speed. Get it under your fingernails. Let it kill you.

… and away from that which is not beautiful.

Figure out what leaves you cold. What was never in the cards for you anyway. What everybody else seems to think is essential in life.

And forget it. Put it behind you. Have nought but disdain and four-letter words for it.

The paradox of choice

It’s funny – when you think you’re going to live forever, and thus have all the time in the world, you don’t know what to prioritise, what to make important, what to spend your time on. And yet if you got given three months to live, I don’t think you’d spend them playing Candy Crush, reading tweets that make your blood boil with righteous indignation, or giving a shit what shade of lipstick is “in” this summer. I think you’d more likely feel an urge to fuck all that and do something that actually matters to you. Death – the ultimate limitation – would focus you on what mattered.

And the same is true when you assume you are a blank canvas, and that you can do anything you want to. If you’re not careful, this ignorance of reality will turn into an inability to pick from the infinite buffet of vocations, goals, and ambitions. You might think you can do anything, but in thinking that, you make doing absolutely nothing of any consequence much more likely.

What you must do instead is get up close and personal – make friends – with how shitty you are at most things, just how unsuited you to almost every path, and simply decide that you don’t care. Then sink your teeth into whatever’s left.

Life is never about quantity. Only quality.

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