It is common for us to tell ourselves, “I can’t do math.”, “I can’t write poetry.”, “I can’t etc…” and it is only so because we are limited by our environment.
I refer to environment strictly from the viewpoint of an average middle-class citizen of a first world country, as it is not the purpose of this post to consider those limited by poor circumstance.
For most average middle-class citizens, our lives flow in general monotony: work – home – work – home. We live in a structured economy and society that enables us to have regular incomes, regular spending and regular lives. This is why we have become quite regular too. We are predictable, functional and exceedingly normal. Our environment has shaped us so.
Hence we shudder to consider acquiring new skills or knowledge that demand commitment or a leap of faith. How many of us will start learning piano in our 40s or even in our 20s? We have work to do and money to churn. How many of us take up a new sport in our 30s? We have enough exercise running after our kids.
To take this inertia further, I propose that we have an inability to create new skills and knowledge.
Consider this: You are locked in a cell, and have absolutely nothing to entertain yourself with. Day after day, you edge on the madness of boredom. In order to occupy your mind, would you turn over what you have learnt and create something, anything?
Such was the experience of Brian Keenan, an Irish teacher who was unfortunately kidnapped in Lebanon. Together with journalist, John McCarthy, they devised elaborate hand signals to communicate with two Americans in an opposite cell. How many of us consider it possible to devise a method of communication? (and without Google’s help)
In our safe and comfortable lives, we deny ourselves the possibility of learning, creating, of becoming so much more than we can. Yet, what is there to complain of, when we are not imprisoned; or are we?