Dangers Importance of Seeking Insight:
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by cause and effect. I remember long spans of time as a kid lying upside down across a footstool staring at the ceiling fan wondering how different perspectives shaped our experiences. Of course, my language wasn’t that art-school yet. It went something more like, “If I saw things from this direction all the time, would I be able to get around? Would other people know that I was seeing things differently than they are? Would it really be different if we were still just doing the same things? Would they be seeing things that I wasn’t or would I see things that they couldn’t? What would happen if everyone saw the world this way? Or what if only some of us?” On and on and on. I was an only child, I had a lot of alone time to sit and stare at ceilings. Boredom is essential to growth.
Growing up, whenever I’d ask my father about different topics he’d generally go rummaging through his giant stockpile of books and I’d be handed one or two and be sent on my way to go figure it out. Around age 11 I asked, “What is meditation?” and “What is Existentialism?” within a few weeks of each other. (I don’t remember what prompted the meditation question but I know the Existentialism question came up because of a joke from some tv show my parents had been watching.) So all at the same time I was handed my first volume of Buddhist teachings and a copy of Waiting For Godot. Books that validated people like me who stare at ceiling fans looking for a better understanding of where they are and why they are.
My work has always been driven by this search for insight to one extent or another. Look for the truth even if it breaks you, because if you break, then you needed to be broken. That may sound cold, but you don’t willfully cross out the expiration date and drink spoiled milk thinking that ignoring the reality of the situation will make it fresh. Wile E. Coyote’s belief that the road was actually still under his feet didn’t ever get him that far. Wanting something to be a certain way doesn’t do much at all to actually get you to where you need to go. Dealing with the situation as it is… there is the meat.
The idea for 10,000 Hours was a “ceiling fan” moment. A simple concept, how does pursuing mastery effect you, would allow me to double-down on my efforts to develop insight into my own life. Through 10,000 Hours I’ve turned an intense amount of investigation on my self. Because 10,000 Hours effects every aspect of my life from professional to personal, everything has been up for dissection.
Two years into 10,000 Hours, I noticed that there was an area of my personal life in which I was unhappy and I couldn’t articulate why. From the outside and on paper it all looked like it should. I heard endlessly from others how great it seemed for me. But it wasn’t. So in the back of my mind I kept looking, kept trying to scratch away the surface as I’m doing with all areas under 10,000 Hours. And yes, in March of 2014 I figured it out. There it was, a trauma I had buried; through sheer will had just refused to think about for 13 years. For all this time I’d been trying to run on the thin air and drink spoiled milk, willfully ignoring the dangers and the effects it was having on me. But there it was. Too late, I’d looked. I’d seen it again. The ground was gone and the milk was curdled. Now I fall into the canyon and vomit.
This started the two-year process of unraveling that mess. The more I looked, the more I realized that the trauma hadn’t been isolated and it couldn’t be compartmentalized. There would be no working around it, only through it. Nearly everything else in my life came to a stop while I began the process of untangling. I will not lie. It has been horrible. It has nearly destroyed me in various ways. But pretending your leg isn’t broken won’t heal it. Slapping a band-aid on it will do nothing. Emotional and psychological wounding, trauma, won’t heal on its own. It takes work. A lot of very painful work.
A friend of mine recently reminded me of the Winston Churchill quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” 10,000 Hours, on the surface, seems quiet. A conceptual performance project carried out through learning to knit: soft, comforting, traditional. In some ways it is. Watching my skills grow from simple ragged swatches to delicate and ethereal fine lace has a beauty and reassurance to it; from the outside, on the surface. But to be honest, 10,000 Hours is hell.
I do not regret it. I compulsively seek to fully understand my own existence and I would do it all again because that’s just what I do. But do I like it? No. This is the most painful thing I have ever done… 10,000 Hours isn’t knitting, it’s self-awareness. And developing true self-awareness is the most terrifying thing that can ever be done. And I will keep going.