“Don’t try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead try and realize the truth… There is no spoon. Then you see that it is not the spoon that bends, it’s only yourself.”
Jim has a new blog post that solidified a few of my own thoughts on the age old saying I hear bandied about over and over at software conferences: “You can change where you work or you can change where you work.” A phrase that has only recently revealed its inner wisdom to me.
This statement illuminates a simple paradox. It reveals the person sharing it to be someone who has decided to change the environment around them in spite of direct opposition rather than to walk the path that they’d like to actualize. It’s rarely imparted in the other direction unless to hopefully reveal it’s inner wisdom from an outside perspective one more time. The paradox in this choice is that while it seems to provide an easy answer to a complex problem it’s really indirection. It’s denial. It’s a solution that lacks balance and reveals the individual making it to be in a state of waiting; not ready to embrace the path they wish to travel; highlighting the lack of understanding of themselves and why they are not at peace with the very task that used to provide such joy. This person and the opposite that they’ve created (manager, organization, team, so on) cannot accept the other and therefore balance cannot be achieved. They believe that fighting the opposite will be rewarded. They arm themselves with the texts and teachings of Software Practice Prophets and hold to these teachings with the fervor of a true dogmatist. Thus resulting in devaluing of the individual as they see their life not as it is but how they wish it could be. Manifesting in shame, loss of motivation/hope compounds like bad debt and as they fight a fight that they don’t even understand, knowing that once the others see the world through their eyes everything with be…perfect. Continually perpetuating the notion that there is a single path to enlightenment. That holding stalwartly, doggedly to the dogma will provide the enrichment of life that they so desperately desire. This if, of course, paradox. The 2 opposing sides must find balance and in this situation they cannot.
This is a choice. If there is wisdom to be gained through the teachings of a guide then that wisdom must be gained through experience. The wise man’s role may be to reveal to you a door to your path that you may not be able to see, to leave footprints behind from their own experience. The wise walk the path, with doubt, with questions, with fear, with hope, with joy, with passion. They walk with the full spectrum of human emotion and experience and they find others along the way to balance themselves and share perspective on the journey.
Jay-Z puts this perfectly in Renegade: “No lie, just know I chose my own fate
I drove by the fork in the road and went straight”
Jay recognizes there is a path, by those that walked it or want to control his experience but chose to forge his own path. The artifacts are, of course, new music and new paths for others to recite back as dogma. Which is, of course, entirely their choice. He made his, others must make theirs.
I wrote down a phrase after a terrible conference experience that I had that I never understood until recently.
“Dogmatist believe. Messiahs doubt.”
It’s not a quote from anything, just a thought I had while reading books over the years where I noticed a trend in both religious, spiritual, philosophical texts and from the messages I was hearing at the many conferences I used to attend. This seemingly paradoxical juxtaposition was of great fascination to me at the time and it wasn’t until recently, as I began to inherit the codebases of some of the very people I have come to respect from afar. My dogma had been shattered. You see, I had come to worship the dogma of idioms like TDD, Test-First, Test everything, patterns patterns patterns and more patterns. At first I was angry. “How could this person who lectured me for an hour at that conference about their clean code practices produce such utter contradictory drivel!?” That anger lead, inexorably, the its only conclusion: I missed the point. I was worshiping the messages of wisdom, seeing the footprints on the path as truth but that’s ridiculous. That’s dogma. They were, in truth, simply how someone achieved their goals repeated back. There was no wisdom inherent to the words or the individual who shared them. They were the living representation of perspective from someone walking their own path. I was using it as a buffer to prevent me from doing the very thing that would be the most beneficial: Making up my own mind.
My choices are my own and the wisdom they provide is only for me. When I am faced with the notion of “change where I work or change where I work” I realize that I’ve already made the choice. Understanding why I made it is the challenge and the only way to gain that wisdom is to simply start walking my own path.
“Don’t try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible.” or as I hear it now: “Don’t copy me for what I do. See past this illusion and realize the truth therein.”
“Then you will see that it’s not the spoon that bends. It is only yourself.”
Of course. There is no spoon.