All In

OK. Here’s the thing. This is a picture of my son’s plate as he helped himself to dinner. I have noticed that children consistently put their plates only halfway on the table. This phenomena extends to other activities as well. For example, when working on a project, the object under development will often be balanced precariously on the edge of the workspace, with screws, spare parts, and other potentially valuable or messy things rolling around, scattering, and dripping to the floor.

Why is this?

At first I thought it was because they were short. That is what they have claimed, at any rate. But the oldest, and the villain who set the very trap in this photo, is now taller than I.

No, I think something more fundamental is at work here. Something… elemental.

I think the reason that people balance the things they love precariously on edges is because they are treading lightly. Too lightly. They instinctively hold back. They don’t want to fully commit. They are not all in.

And while I am now, at this stage of my life, a firm plater, confidently centering myself over my own stable dinner, there are aspects of my life that I still set up for failure. That I rig for fragility.

Why would any of us do this?

I see this especially in creative endeavors. Writing students tiptoeing into a scene. Dancers apologetically letting their minds steer their bodies like student drivers attempting that first halting merge into traffic.

It is the same for me performing music. If I am not fully committed to the performance, if I hold back, then the rhythm is shaky and unstable.

Only by going all in do we reach that stable center.

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