Friday, August 2, 2019


Henry David Thoreau said that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." Whether he meant foolish to particularly modify the noun (#not-all-consistency) or whether he was being redundant for emphasis, people often incline to the latter interpretation. The same sorts of people who tend to like Thoreau, for example.

It's Friday, which is when I post blogs, which I've done uninterruptedly for nearly two years, and most of three before that, so here I am again, even though I'm not sure I've got anything to say worth saying. But there seems to be value in being consistent nonetheless.

When I go for runs I always sprint at the end no matter how tired I feel. Training myself to do that in all circumstances is probably why, when I ran my first half-marathon some years ago, despite feeling completely out of gas and having no energy whatever as I rounded the last turn, I began to sprint anyhow. I couldn't help myself. Even when I saw the clock over the finish line and realized I was going to make my goal time by enough seconds that I could probably slow to a walk and still make it in time, I sprinted on, wondering how in the heck I was managing to do this in the condition I was in. It's about consistency. A baked-in response.

You can say the same for character. If you tell the truth all of the time when it doesn't matter that much you just might still do it when it does. Manners are the same way. Sometimes please and thank you comes out of me before I've even thought about what the situation calls for and before I get distracted or forget. It's on automatic. Some things need to be.

You could also argue that great things are often built out of continued showing up and doing what you can no matter what. Mozart wrote some compositions that are frankly not all that terrific. But it is entirely likely that he gained something from each and every one of them no matter how mediocre. I mean, it seems hardly coincidental that most great composer's best works fall near the end of their lives, and then they come more often. There must have been learning going on in all of those earlier works. How? By constantly doing it. Even when the immediate yield was no masterpiece. Maybe they were sick or tired or just not feeling inspired.

It's possible that some of these masterpieces wouldn't exist without a conscious decision to write something that wasn't so terrific but ended up teaching a vital lesson for later. I can't absolutely prove that. But I choose to believe it.

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