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« Script for Self-Empowerment | Main | Ripping the Script »

Writing Your Own Script

You know what happens when you shake up a can of soda just before you open it, but you may not know why.  In the manufacturing process, soda cans are infused with carbon dioxide.  At rest, the gas collects at the top of the can and makes a mild hissing sound when the can is opened.  If you shake the can just before you open it, however, the gas mixes in with the syrupy contents causing the liquid to spew everywhere when it is released.  The explosion doesn’t require new ingredients to be introduced; forces acting on the can from the outside will change the dynamics on the inside.  Think of yourself as a can of soda in need of a good shake-up!  New, different and even radical thoughts converging from the outside creates an explosive impact on you, shaking up the monotony and predictability that has benignly collected on the surface of your life. 

Creativity, inspiration, innovation, fresh perspective—all of this potential exists inside of you.  It is possible that the main difference between you and some brilliant person lies in the fear level.  That’s a discussion for another day, but understand that fear is a suppressant.  While it focuses on external threats, it effectively keeps a lid on your internal effervescence.  I dare to say that you do not really know the potential locked up inside you until it is awakened.  Decades ago, Frank Crane wrote the following elegant piece about the human heart.  (A bit of literary melodrama by today’s standards, but still worthwhile). 

The human heart is a wide moor under a dull sky, with voices of invisible birds calling in the distance.

The human heart is a lonely lane in the evening, and two lovers are walking down it, whispering and lingering.

The human heart is a great green tree, and many strange birds come and sing in its branches;

a few build nests, but most are from far lands north and south, and never come again.

The human heart is a deep still pool; in it are fishes of gold and silver, darting playfully, and slow-heaving slimy monsters, and tarnished treasure hoards, the infinite animalcular life; but when you look down at it you see but your own reflected face.

The human heart is an undiscovered country; men and women are forever perishing as they explore its wilds.

The human heart is an egg; and out of it are hatched this world and heaven and hell.

The human heart is a tangled wood wherein no man knows his way.

The human heart is a roaring forge where night and day the smiths are busy fashioning swords and silver cups,

mitres and engine-wheels, the tools of labor, and the gauds of precedence.

The human heart is a garden, wherein grow weeds of memory and blooms of hope, and the snow falls at last and covers all.

The human heart is a meadow full of fireflies, a summer western sky of shimmering distant lightnings,

a shore set round with flashing lighthouses, far-away voices calling that we cannot understand.

The human heart is a band playing in a park at a distance; we see the crowds listening,

 but we catch but fragments of the music now and again, and cannot make out the tune.

The human heart is a great city, teeming with myriad people, full of business and mighty doings,

and we wander its crowded streets unutterably alone; we do not know what it is all about.

The human heart to youth is a fairy-land of adventure, to old age it is a sitting room where one knows his way in the dark.

The human heart is a cup of love, where some find life and zest, and some drunkenness and death.

The human heart is the throne of God, the council-chamber of the devil, the dwelling of angels, the vile hearth of witches’ Sabbaths, the nursery of sweet children, the blood-spattered scene of nameless tragedies.

Listen! You will hear mothers’ lullabies, madmen’s shrieks, love-croonings, cries of agonized terror,

hymns of Christ, the roaring of lynch mobs, the kisses of lovers, the curses of pirates.

Bend close! You will smell the lily fragrance of love, the stench of lust, now odors as exquisite as the very spirit of violets,

and now such nauseous repulsions as words cannot tell.

Nobilities, indecencies, heroic impulses, cowardly ravings, good and bad, white and black — the mystery of mysteries,

the central island of nescience in a sea of science, the dark spot in the lighted room of knowledge,

 the unknown quantity, the X in the universal problem.


Read, read, read! 

The obligatory place to start writing your own script is with your reading.  If you are not willing to do this, you are not serious about controlling your own script.   It has been said that a man is the sum total of the people he has met and the books he has read.  Expansive knowledge, life-changing ideas, transformative concepts and intriguing stories exist all around you within an arm’s reach.  That knowledge must enter your mind by intentional, directed reading.  Whatever hurdle you need to get over to make this happen, get started!  

Have you ever read one of the really good books, like Moby Dick or David Copperfield?  War and Peace?  Before you snicker at the idea, remember that many of these books have received such acclamation that they have been labeled classics.  That means they were thought to have enduring value, written about subjects intensely relevant to life, and in a style and quality of writing that represented the best of their era.  If you have never read one of these great books, why not?  I’ll tell you the most likely answer: someone (maybe a peer group) put it in your head that you would a) hate reading it, b) find it too hard to understand, or c) be considered weird if people knew you were reading it. 

You must read, but be sure to read a book that seems too hard for you.  Don’t waste your time with the pabulum of pop culture or rehashes of rehashes.  If you read the title and chapter headings of many books, you’ve comprehended the author’s entire message.  (I could mention a few that are currently making the rounds, but discretion forbids it.)  Instead, struggle (if you must) through a book that engages concepts unfamiliar to you, uses words you’ve never heard of and forces you to crank up your own intellect into an RPM range you’ve seldom visited.  Your head may hurt for a while, but you will grow as a person.  

In the last few years, I have been intrigued with Nassim Nicolas Taleb’s books, The Black Swan and Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder.  He is one of the most difficult authors I have ever read.  I will not pretend that I understand everything he says, nor do I condone every belief he espouses, but he makes me think.  In fact, one way I measure the worth of a book is whether or not it makes me think.  Taleb attacks conventional wisdom, pokes holes in institutionalized ideas, and uses obscure words in a way that you know no other word would fit.  Other authors that fall into this category are Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus; James Gleick, Chaos: Making A New Science; John Eldridge, Wild At Heart; and Tom Peters, Re-Imagine.  A great author will lead you into neighborhoods of ingenious people you never knew existed; explain formidable concepts of which you have always been paranoid, and use metaphors and examples that convey his unique thoughts in amazingly precise ways.  

Eat.  That’s right, eat! 

Growth is growth, and it doesn’t have to be all intellectual.  Some of it needs to be experiential.  It should involve your sensory perceptions that you think are non-negotiable—signed, sealed and delivered, off the table, out of the realm of possibility and a few other clichés that I can’t think of right now.  Nonsense.  I’m talking about food.  It’s time to try a food that you have never liked.  Your taste buds need to be stretched.  It’s a safe realm to experiment with your daring side. 

Few experiences fit the scripted definition for humans better than our reaction to food.  We either hate a particular food or we love it, and not much exists in between.  In addition to the four basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter), we have a sensitivity to food’s flavor, texture, smell, spiciness and even color.  But there’s more.  We also recognize a psychological dimension to food that sometimes contradicts our more intuitive responses.  For example, some cultures consider certain foods as delicacies (insects, worms, decadent flesh) that would make people in other cultures nauseated.  Food can also be confusing in that some foods that are good for you taste terrible and other foods bad for you taste wonderful.  

Okay.  What does food have to do with ripping the script?  Because what you eat is intimately aligned with your identity, your sense of self, and your essential self-perception.  It’s the reason young people traditionally have wacky eating contests in which they dare each other to eat foods that they consider disgusting.  It’s not about eating; it’s about proving who they are. We use food as a standard to measure the macho factor, i.e. extremely spicy foods like jalapeños, habaneras and Naga Viper pepper.  An American pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, devised the Scoville Organoleptic Test to chemically determine the piquancy or “hotness” of chili peppers.  He discovered that a chemical compound capsaicin was the active ingredient that made peppers hot.  The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) specified how much capsaicin was present. Capsaicin stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes.  The more capsaicin you can take, the more manly you are! 

 And in case someone thinks all this talk of food is silly, I submit to you the description of a course offered at no less an institution than Yale, entitled, Psychology 123: The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food.   The synopsis says, “This course encompasses the study of eating as it affects the health and well-being of every human. Topics include taste preferences, food aversions, the regulation of hunger and satiety, food as comfort and friendship, eating as social ritual, and social norms of blame for food problems. The politics of food discusses issues such as sustainable agriculture, organic farming, genetically modified foods, nutrition policy, and the influence of food and agriculture industries. Also examined are problems such as malnutrition, eating disorders, and the global obesity epidemic; the impact of food advertising aimed at children; poverty and food; and how each individual’s eating is affected by the modern environment.” 

Your eating habits reveal far more of your character and personality than you might imagine.  When I urge you try something new, then, I am jumping on a vital nerve that defines your very psyche.  That, in turn, raises the prospect of eating different foods to a highly significant level.  Your acceptance or your refusal both speak volumes of who you are. 

Nevertheless, some people may think the forgoing challenges of reading and eating are somewhat superficial.  In that case, let’s venture into some other areas of jobs, assignments, relationships, confrontations, problems and personal politics.  There are miles to go before we sleep.

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