The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, February 25, 2005

Shooting your own toes off

Steve Perry offers this tidbit about the brilliant guy who died young:
Nah, my friend -- well, at the end, we weren't really friends any more -- was a foot-shooter.

Every time he would start to get ahead of the game, he'd do something that most average joes or janes on the street would look at and shake their heads in wonder -- how come a man that smart could so somthing so dumb?

My buddy wasn't a doctor, but he had some medical knowledge, and he knew that if you had a hereditary risk-fact for something fatal, the best way to give yourself better odds was to elimnate the risk factors you could control.

Smoking, he told me, was very yang.

Yang, I said, is something you can use a lot less of than you already have. He shrugged it off.

He shrugged off a lot of stuff over the years.

I think he thought life's rules didn't apply to him, even though every time he broke one, he got nailed.

It was a waste. A lot of his life was. The man coulda been a contender. He kept blowing his own toes off.
Steve Perry |
THANK YOU, Steve, for offering this, because it allows us to cut closer to the heart of the issue.  WE ARE EACH JUST EXACTLY INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO SCREW OURSELVES UP.  I laugh when I hear people suggesting that intelligence gets you into more trouble.  I don't buy that.  It's that people think that intelligence should solve all problems, and when the emotional crap comes boiling to the surface, and people screw themselves over, the usual reasoning is that somehow intelligence makes your life worse.
Hogwash.  Intelligence is one of the tools in the box.  Knowing how to FOCUS that intelligence is jsut as important, and that is largely controlled by our emotions.  Intelligence CAN influence our emotional states (by selecting targets of focus, for instance) , but rarely does. 
YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT TO FOCUS ON, or your intelligence is a lot like the strength of a Rhino on roller-skates: no traction.  Some of the "smartest" people I know have made TERRIBLE decisions about their health, probably due to that old body-mind split ("I'm not my body") that has destroyed so many. And their emotional life is often not much better.  The question is: how do we calibrate our senses?  How do we set ourselves up so that our intelligence will actually produce love, health, and success?  My answer, the one I am willing to place forward to be questioned, is to blace the concept of BALANCE higher than anything else. 
Steve's friend clearly did not place balance as one of the highest values.  As a result, his health was less important than his fitness.  His intelligence literally was cancelled out by his emotional "stuff."  If BALANCE is the most important thing, then you must ask yourself how your current beliefs, values, and positive/negative emotional anchors support a balanced life.  If they don't, then you examine them against the model of balance--not against the dysfunctional patterns inherited from parents or suggested by society.  You look at the Hero's Journey to understand the path ahead.  You look at the Chakras to understand the different manefestations of human energy.   This, or an approach like it, I believe to be wisdom.  INTELLIGENCE ISN'T ENOUGH.  By the time you learn the error of your approach, your life is OVER.  You have to learn by other people's mistakes.  Please, please, please (as James Brown used to say) don't think you can think your way out of the existential box.  The instructions for exiting the box are written on the outside of the box.  Listen to the sages of the ages.  The Hero's Journey tells the tale.


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