Tag Archives: evolution

12 Things in 2012.

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YOU GUYS. It’s May 2nd, which means that 1/3 of 2012 is already gone. What the what?! Crazy. 2012 thus far has been a year unlike any other for me, so when I saw Liz‘s list of twelve things she’s learned in 2012 so far, I thought hey! that might be a good way to preserve some of the magic that this year has shown me and to share some of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from January to present. Some of these things were hard-learned, some of them I learned by accident, and some I’ve always known but haven’t been able to accept their truth until now. But I’m still learning all the time, and that’s not nothing.

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01 /// That most of the American stereotypes held by Europeans are not entirely untrue.

02 /// That curiosity is one of the best qualities to have, and that there are generally great rewards when you exercise it.

03 /// That I can get by on a lot less than I thought I could.

04 /// That I will probably always be having an internal dialogue with myself about whether to cut or grow out my bangs, and that I will probably always be unhappy with whichever I choose.

05 /// That when it comes to searching for employment, it’s not what you know but who you know.

06 /// That Seattle springtime is a beautiful thing, and reminds me why I choose to call this city home.

07 /// That South Park is one of the funniest shows ever.

08 /// That sometimes it’s more important to honor your own happiness above the commitments you make.

09 /// That people and their stories are my truest passion.

10 /// That trying to overcome old habits without making a clean break from the environments that fostered them means setting yourself up for failure.

11 /// That language is a miracle, and “YES” is a way more fun word than “NO.”

12 /// That I want to be Malcolm Gladwell when I grow up.

To Be Adaptable.

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Sometimes I get hung up on idioms. Sayings like “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” irk me to no end because they’re completely asinine… if you had cake, why wouldn’t you eat it? There’s a word for people who wouldn’t, and that word is masochist. Amirite?

The idiom that’s been floating around in my brain as of late is “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I actually like this one a lot, and it turns up the corners of my mouth to imagine, let’s say, an 8-year-old dog (I’m imagining a Golden Retriever like Shadow from Homeward Bound, in case you were wondering) laying with his head on his paws as his master tries to teach him, in what the master perceives to be a revolutionary and foolproof way, to do something he’s never done before, like flush a toilet or something, and the dog’s eyebrows twitch in the way dogs’ eyebrows often twitch that looks like they’re raising an eyebrow skeptically, and he thinks to himself “That’s interesting and all, but really? I give zero shits about what you’re trying to teach me right now.” Which perfectly illustrates my opinion about the validity of this idiom: I believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, sure, but you can’t make a dog perform a new trick if it doesn’t want to.

That has been my experience, at least. As someone who has worked almost exclusively with people who are significantly older than me, I can tell you with certainty: OLD PEOPLE ARE SET IN THEIR WAYS. And as an underling in most of the work positions I’ve held, it’s been on me, the young person, to adapt to the old person’s way of doing things, even when their way of doing things is bordering counter-productivity. You can introduce more efficient ways of doing things and they can even commend you for your cleverness and your initiative and promise to implement it themselves, but in the end, they will have difficulty adapting and will often revert back to the old, familiar way of doing things.

I’ve often heard it said that employers see the adaptability of young people as an positive quality and an asset, so why is it not an asset for older people too? And at what point in your life do you cross the threshold from being adaptable to being set in your ways?

Adaptability is the cornerstone of Darwin’s theory of evolution: nothing in this life stays the same for very long, and in the face of change an animal has to keep its cool and figure out how to be smarter than nature. You either evolve to adapt to your surroundings and thus stay alive to be able to reproduce, or you die. Obviously there are less dire consequences for humans who are unable to change the way they do things, but maybe an intrinsic aversion to change is what it all boils down to. There is comfort in the familiar, in the routinous, in knowing what to expect when you add x and y. And everyone wants to be comfortable.

I guess this is more an internal dialogue than anything else. I know I’m adaptable now, but I fear a day when I’m no longer able, or willing, to try to do things someone else’s way, when I have resolutely closed my mind to doing things any other way than the way I’ve always done it, or to seeing something old and familiar in a new and strange light. Mostly, I fear being a stubborn old codger that people mutter about to each other under their breaths, saying things like “That Kendall, she’ll never change. She’s set in her ways” as they fling their thumb incredulously in my direction. I want to find a way to retain the adaptability of my youth when I reach 40, and hang onto it until I drop dead, but I’m not sure that’s even possible.

In your opinion, what’s the key to staying adaptable?

The White Stripes and Creative Evolution.

On Wednesday, the music world was dealt a harsh blow. In case you live in a cave somewhere and haven’t heard, the White Stripes announced that they were disbanding after more than thirteen years and would no longer be making music together or playing live together. Here is part of a statement they issued on their website:

The reason is not due to artistic differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health. It is for a myriad of reasons, but mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band and have it stay that way.

Both Meg and Jack hope this decision isn’t met with sorrow by their fans but that it is seen as a positive move done out of respect for the art and music that the band has created. It is also done with the utmost respect to those fans who’ve shared in those creations, with their feelings considered greatly.

As a fan of the White Stripes’ music, I feel grieved knowing that there will never be another new White Stripes album or another opportunity for me to see them perform together. But as a person who takes creative work very seriously, I totally understand their reasoning and think that they made a really considerate and mature decision in breaking up.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that humans are predisposed toward evolution, especially evolution of their autonomous personhood. It may be less overt in some people, but I feel that there’s an underlying desire in most humans to grow and do things that they’ve never done before and to take on new responsibilities and to push the boundaries of what they thought they were capable of. This desire seems to be especially heightened in people who commit themselves to creative work (i.e. art, music, writing, or anything that depends less on formulas than on innovation and imagination), and I have such a deep admiration for the creative minds of the earth because they can recognize and embrace this inherent desire to evolve, and use it to create something beautiful that will resonate with people and potentially outlast their physical existence. It’s just amazing, isn’t it?

That being said, I always have a hard time talking to my friends about a new album put out by a band that has previously recorded music that they loved. They usually say something along the lines of “Have you heard (band)’s new album? It’s so weird, it doesn’t sound anything like their last album! Why can’t they just replicate and re-replicate the sound that made me like them to begin with?!” Okay, maybe that last statement was more an inference than anything else, but you catch my drift. I’ve thought often about why the evolution of a band’s sound is so off-putting to the bulk of their fans, and I think it probably has a lot to do with comfort and expectation. We can latch onto a band’s sound and use that to define them, and then we expect them to always sound that way because definitions don’t change. There’s comfort in the familiarity of what a particular band is meant, to you, to sound like, so when they change it up a bit it can throw a person into a tailspin.

Which brings me back to the White Stripes. I think there is more to Jack White and more to Meg White than what defines them collectively as the White Stripes. And I think maybe they’ve realized that where they each want to go creatively is beyond the bounds of what the White Stripes can do. They’ve made incredibly innovative music within their genre, but maybe there comes a point where they’ve gone as far as they can go without turning into something else completely. Musicians go through sonic transformations all the time as a matter of course (Madonna, anyone?), but I think when the transformation is too much of a departure, it kind of takes away from the good music that they’ve made before, kind of cheapens it. I think ‘tis a far, far better thing for the White Stripes to disband now and preserve the magic of their music for the rest of time, than to keep churning out what is expected to be “White Stripes music” without any heart until their entire catalog of songs loses their meaning completely. As the White Stripes themselves said: The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want. The beauty of art and music is that it can last forever if people want it to.” Isn’t that an incredible sentiment? The White Stripes are not just Jack and Meg, but rather a collective consciousness of all the people who love and support their music. I think it shows such care and affection not only for their fans, but also for the music they’ve created together over the course of more than thirteen years, to want to preserve the integrity of their music and not just keep doing it to make money, or to keep their fans happy, or even just for the hell of it. And that, in my opinion, is the sign of a true artist.