My freshman year in high school, I played football. I was a big kid, new to the school, and otherwise deep into nerdy pursuits, so it seemed a good counterbalance. We were all frosh and none of us were much good but I was particularly bad.
I was a lineman, and I had the skills and was willing to work, but I just wasn't getting much done on the field. It never quite clicked for me why this was until one night, in the middle of a game. I was on defense, and I ran over the guy in front of me so hard that I realized I wasn't sure what to do next. All this time, I had been concentrating on beating the guy in front of me, not on playing football. I realized my goal wasn't to beat this guy, it was to get past him and get the ball.
The rest of the season went pretty well for me.
This is a kind of embarrassing story to tell, but I'm suspicious of anyone who doesn't have a "In high school I was so
stupid" story, so I think I can face that. Keeping the story around reminds me of the moment, and that's important to me. In retrospect, it was so simple as to seem almost idiotic, but in the moment, it was such a sense of profound clarity and understanding that I felt it all the way through myself.
I think we all have these "ah ha!" moments, and I think we all strive for more of them. My desire for them has fueled interests in politics, games, grifters, industrial production, programming, magic and goodness knows what else. I keep looking, and I'm fairly successful at finding these moments. I think the reason for that ties back to that football game, and from my understanding that crossing the threshold to that moment of clarity depended on nothing so much as what I can only describe as profound stupidity on my part.
It's hard to learn things that you think you already know. But it's an easy trap to avoid so long as you can remember that you're almost certainly not as smart as you think you are.
- Rob D.