Sunday, June 14, 2009

Oatmeal and Self-Discovery on a Sunday Morning

I'm eating a large bowl of piping hot oatmeal. It's quasi-delicious, I work hard to convince myself it's tasty because I know it's good for me. More important, it is a subtle sign that things in my life are starting to come together, at least a little bit. Oatmeal for breakfast has served as an important litmus test in my life over the past few years. Allow me to explain.

A great book, "The Opposable Mind" suggests we often gloss over apparent trivialities in an attempt to simplify the complex realities in which we must operate. The result is a faster and more efficient decision making process but it is inherently, one that suffers a compromise. Often times, the critical information we eliminate, is that which disagrees with our ingrained fundamental values and beliefs. To discover innovative and more creative solutions to complicated problems we must objectively listen to our staunchest critics. Much easier said, than done. I do think value exists in thinking about thinking. On one hand I might be wasting time postulating about a bowl of dried oats, but my analysis will continue in the spirit of the corollary, that some better understanding may come from the most meagre of cereals.

Taking a jaunt to a whole new world really toys with your priorities. Two months ago, I was in the middle of orchestrating a symphony of intricate social plans with people whom I had only a few weeks left to share. My biggest concern was Jack Daniel's or Coldshots? One month ago, I didn't know where to buy food. I didn't know where the grocery store was, what the grocery store was called or where to buy the oatmeal once I did manage to pinpoint the local dispensary. I'm resorting to sprinkling with sugar instead of the still elusive low-calorie sweetener I would prefer, but I'll take one small victory at a time.

ASIDE: Conveniently liquor and beer are available everywhere here so it's less of a problem. I still do my best to consume it in the most contemporary of manners.

Further reflection upon the last few weeks and what it might mean leads me to maintain that the actual process of obtaining the oatmeal was the tip of this particular proverbial float of ice. The 90% that remains lurking beneath the surface is more interesting if not a little convoluted. Consider for instance, that it wasn't until this week that I've started eating oatmeal again. For three weeks I bought things sporadically, if I ate the most important meal at all. Consider further, that I had had the oatmeal in my cupboard for a week before I started eating it. It takes time to make and is not the easiest food to eat in a rush. In short: I had much bigger problems to worry about.

May 2009 forced me to face a drastic shift in priorities. Oatmeal seemed irrelevant until only recently and certainly my struggles held more consequence than where to get the drunkest and which girls to harass with 140 character instant messages.

In the last month I've started to learn what Robert Martin wrote so well about. Perspective is something we might think we possess but there is always more to the picture than our simple mental models will at first allow us to understand. Embrace complexity, even in the simplest and seemingly most mundane things may clues about the inner workings of our lives lie. Alternatively, a bowl of hot cereal might be just that, but we don't know until we objectively consider what it has to offer.

Do new things. Challenge yourself. Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation in the short term for the notion of long term benefit. You might go a few weeks subsisting on stale bread and spoons laden with Nutella while you worry about if you're going to get jumped by a gang of Neo-Nazis or scammed by gypsies. But you will eventually get your oatmeal. And when you do, it will be the best bowl yet.

As if you just read such a long post about oatmeal.

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