The Risk it Takes to Bloom

As any action or posture long continued will distort and disfigure the limbs; so the mind likewise is crippled and contracted by perpetual application to the same set of ideas.

–Samuel Johnson

Several weeks ago, I wrote here about how we get to choose whose influence we allow to shape us, and mentioned that I will often read something that resonates with me and “try on” different  identities to see if they fit who I want to be in this world. Jordan Peterson, in his book Beyond Order, 12 More Rules for Life, lists rule number two as: “Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.” In this way, he is encouraging us to be active creators in our own existence.

Today, I read something from my sociology textbook, The Production of Reality, by Jodi O’Brien that echoes this sentiment and I wanted to share it. She writes:

An important lesson of symbolic interactionism is that humans exist as embryonic potential. We are capable of creating, taking on, and casting off various identities and cultural institutions. Our potential is limited only by our imagination and our ability to assemble the materials necessary to realize our visions. As social beings, the ability to create shared meaning is the distinctive mark of our species,. However, the history of Western consciousness suggestions a somewhat paradoxical acceptance of this ability. We are eager to embrace our creative potential but at the same time reluctant to recognize our own authority as social creators and the responsibility that this implies….

Kahlil Gibran once wrote that pain is the experience of breaking the shell that encapsulates understanding. The implication is that, in the process of stretching one’s experiences, intelligence, and understanding, there will always be the pain of breaking old habits and relinquishing old ways of knowing. Mindfulness requires both critical self-examination and the courage to break step with known, predictable routines. This can be difficult. At the same time, the words of Anais Nin remind us that:

The time came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.


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