Thursday, March 21, 2013
At the health club where I go in search of youth (my own--don't be nasty), the locker room walls feature, here and there, some framed motivational posters. Near the locker I often use is the one you see above. It shows a golf green, an umbrageous tree, a water hazard reflecting said umbrageous tree, a blue sky, soft sun. Nice place.
Below the image, the message: ACHIEVEMENT ... The achievement of your goal is assured the moment you commit yourself.
(A word, by the way, which the OED tells us comes from a Dutch word meaning doll's excrement.)
I guess if you're checking yourself in to a mental asylum, then your goal is assured the moment you commit yourself. Otherwise ... are you kidding?
This morning I am going to commit myself to becoming the principal violinist for the Cleveland Orchestra. And guess what? That ain't gonna happen. I could buy the finest Stradivarius, commit myself to years of lessons with the finest teachers (who, of course, would never waste their time with me), practice for endless hours every day (driving down local property values), audition with the finest orchestras. And guess what? The achievement of my goal is [NOT] assured .... I don't have the talent, the ear, the fingers--none of it.
What the saying should add, of course, is this: The achievement of your sensible goal ... But even then, of course, nothing is certain. It is possible, even sensible, for example, that I could read the English translations of all the novels of Balzac (1799-1850). I've done this sort of thing before. I've read all of Dickens, Trollope, and Thackeray, and I've begun Tobias Smollett.
But let's consider Balzac. His masterpiece--The Human Comedy--comprises some ninety-five titles (novels, stories). Possible, right? Reasonable, maybe? Gonna-do-it, probably not? Wanna-do-it, kind of? Wanna-have-done-it, definitely! But I'm galloping toward dotage right now, and as my sturdy steed accelerates, and as he sniffs the finish line, he's not going to slow to a trot because I whisper in his ear, But I'm not finished with Balzac!
And, anyhow, I've got a problem with "motivational" stuff--books, speakers, recordings, videos, courses. Posters. I'm too ... unmotivated ... to check the research, but my sense is that motivational whatevers have very little effect--and what little effect they do have is evanescent. You know, you hear the speaker and are animated by his energy, his message, his hopefulness, and you dance out of the session, energized, determined ... hopeful.
Or you look at that locker-room poster on the way out to the parking lot; you figure it's time to commit yourself to whatever. You bounce out to your car, your mind awhirl with airy visions of the New You. Out on the road, some asshole cuts in front of you. Your imaginative energy begins generating new, non-transformative scenarios. You picture trailing the asshole to his asshole house. Where you confront the asshole in his asshole driveway. Where the asshole either backs down--or you kick his asshole up into his brain, where it will find fraternity with his asshole neurons.
So by the time you get home from speech or health club, the transformative passion has faded, the venom of vengeance has dissipated. And you pretty much settle for a nap instead.