had a long talk with eb last nightramble

June 18, 2004

Had a long talk with EB last night. He's a more insightful guy than you might expect. One of the main points was he thinks I need to get better at recognizing competitive situations, and then decide if I'm going to compete or disengage, but if I do the latter, do so more knowledgeably than with my usual fear-of-losing redefine-the-competition approach. In some ways, sometimes for better but often for worse, that fear-of-losing thing is a defining characteristic of my life. It's kind of a misapplication of that old "better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt" saw...except in my case, it's more about better to give a half-hearted effort and see what comes up than to have one's limitations outlined in stark relief. At its heart, it's a terrible ego thing; I think I'm subconsciously convinced, despite all evidence to the contrary, that I'm always the smartest guy in the room (and when there is evidence to the contrary, my belief in the theory of multiple intelligences--which is actually a nice multipolar way of looking at the world--lets me redefine "smart") and work to shield myself from anything that would prove me wrong on that.

One unpleasant side effect of that is I'm not a good loser, at least for stuff I've worked at at all. (Like, a board game I don't like, I have less stake in, so I probably preemptively disengage a tad, and can just follow the rule of "if you can't do something well enjoy doing it badly".) When a video game or round of darts is going badly, I'm the most sometimes angry and sometimes whiny (and sometimes both) S.O.B. around. Why is that? Dunno. Historical evidence suggest EB and I are fairly evenly matched in both fields...(Hmm, one thing I didn't think of last night is I am a bit better at say, multiplayer video games when things don't go well. Unfortunately, either because I have more experience at the specific games, or just spent more years at gaming in general, I'm usually better at any given game than many of my gaming buddies, but most of them take it with good grace.) Why should it get on my nerves that I might not be the best darts player in the car, when I so freely admit I'm not the best on in Cambridge, or Boston Metro, or New England, or any other reasonable level of competition?

So I'm trying to figure out where all this comes from, both the general overview and the sense of whiny rivalry. EB has a few theories, from what he knows of my background. One of the most interesting is--and even if it's not quite the root of this, I think it might start to answer some questions I was recently asking about how my father's debilitating illness and death when I was a teenager affects my way of dealing with others now--is this concept that I never got a chance to "beat Dad" at stuff. EB recognizes that Oedipal Conflict and Freudian thought in general is out of vogue, often for good reasons, but still thinks there's something to a normal male development stage of gettin' better than yer old man at something, whether it's one-on-one basketball or academic pursuits or what have you, and the time of doing that directly was denied to me. (I guess this presumes it can't easily happen posthumously...my dad raised a pretty high bar in the way he went from a bit of a backwoods boy to a very refined and educated man, collecting art--prints,mostly--in a meaningful way, doing national championship level needlework, and generally acquiring an amazing set of skills and diverse cultural interests. (Come to think about it, I did a write up on those things a year ago that tried to do justice to what he accomplished.))

Another place it might come from is not wanting to admit the world just isn't fair. (And EB thinks a certain kind of Christian upbringing, extremely egalitarian, might feed into this.) Somewhere out there, there's someone smarter, richer, better-looking, more-well-hung, better-adjusted, a better writer, more creative, luckier...and, undoubtedly, all of the above, and more...there's some growing up I have to do about making the best of the talents I do have. And I the problem isn't those talents per se; I definitely have a lot of raw intelligence and creativity and many other things; the problem is I have such a mixed record in the "making the best of" department. Sometimes a desire not to know my own limits has led me into a kind of drifting lack-of-drive, lack-of-competition way of being that in some ways has worked out ok for me, but in some ways hasn't.

Yikes, this went on for a bit, eh? Let me know what you think.

Sellout of the Moment
Wow. I had gathered that Garfield was pretty commercial and made by committee and by-the-numbers and all that (despite liking it a lot when I was like, 7) but I had no idea it was always so planned...

Stupid note of the moment...I would have said "when I was like 8" but the 8) looked too much like I was trying to make a glasses-wearing smilie.