On Growth

Prioritizing Patience and (Un)plugging

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Above: Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.


I really didn’t want to write today.

After ten Zoom calls, seven phone calls, five cold brews, and innumerable pings, bings and bongs, the very last thing I yearned for was novel composition.

Writing is a nasty business.

It consists of the exacting translation of neurochemical signals (i.e. thoughts) into digital hieroglyphics (i.e. the very words you are now reading). Like wrangling cattle or walking on water, it’s a damn near impossible exercise in taking unfinished thoughts; polishing, refining, and buffering them; and finally exposing them to the best sensemaking agents of all: the minds of other people.

That said, writing begets reflection and reflection allows for rest, something I desperately need.

As of late, life has more resembled Red Queen's race than leisurely stroll in the park. This is neither complaint nor protest; merely fact. I’m not overwhelmed, just a tad bit whelmed, as it were. Luckily, this indicates that my heart is beating, that my diaphragm is contracting, that I am alive.

Every living thing must go through some gauntlet to give rise to growth.

Take the butterfly as an example. Per Scientific American:

Butterflies are often viewed as a cheery symbol of transformation. Interestingly, their complete metamorphosis from caterpillar is neither bright nor easy.

It is gruesome.

Inside the enclosed chrysalis, all of the caterpillar’s internal organs melt. It becomes a living soup, completely unrecognizable from the creature it was, except for a few tiny cells known as “imaginal cells.” This macabre process activates a few tiny, powerful cells that remember what it is and what it is supposed to become. These cells initiate just the right DNA sequences in order to turn the wreckage of the caterpillar into the beautiful resurrection that is the butterfly.

None of this happens unless the caterpillar completely goes away. The caterpillar has to die in gruesome fashion in order to change into the best version of itself.

From violence and suffering come rebirth.

To avoid a similarly-gruesome, personal metamorphosis, today I share a short(er) post from a sleep-deprived scrivener.

With that, I shall heed Banksy’s sage advice. I leave you with three pertinent, soul-stirring quotes.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ on trust:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke on patience:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.

Live the questions now.

Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.


Writer Alice Walker on the discomfort of growth:

Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening.

We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger than we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant.

Often the feeling is anything but pleasant.

But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be... for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.


Per my about pageWhite Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.

If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email.

With sincere gratitude,

Tom

P.S. For better or worse, I have joined the illustrious (read as: dubious) ranks of the Twitterati. I have been spending a fair bit of (read as: far too much) time sharing some shorter quips, bits, and thoughts. If you enjoy White Noise, I’d wager some dogecoin that you might appreciate what I have to share. I invite you to follow along here.