General28 Dec 2008 01:11 pm

At each moment of our lives we are making a decision of what to do, think and feel. We can choose to do something new or decide to do something we have done for ages. Some of these decisions are highly limited or even decided for us because of our need to make money and survive. Much of our day is routine and we basically function on autopilot as we execute repetitive tasks such as walking, eating and driving. Even more thoughtless repetition goes into chores, tasks and the execution of most people’s jobs.

Yet, despite this inbred repetition there are thousands of moments each day when we have choices in our life. We can either go deeper in an interest or do something new and different. Going deeper into an interest or hobby or gaining furhter mastery of a skill we have is vertical growth. Delighting in a new experience is horizontal growth.

Some individuals have very few interests that they hone and master, while others like to dabble in a multitude of things finding joy in the novelty of new experience. No human being is devoid of new experiences and, likewise, no person’s life is free of some level of repetition.

There is beauty in both mastery and novelty, in depth and variety. Something new today could easily become an  area of interest worthy of discipline and mastery tomorrow. There is beauty, and potential satisfaction in both vertical and horizontal growth. Many people spend countless hours regretting the choices they make either feeling their lives lack depth or diversity. Either tendency can be  rewarding or empty. The important thing is to find what balance  between depth and novelty provides your life with the greatest sense of satisfaction and meaning.

Our society seems to over reward vertical growth and dissuade one from horizontal growth. Very seldom is obsessive/compulsive behavior rewarding and satisfying. Most often compulsive behavior is a feeble attempt at covering up a sense of emptiness or dissatisfaction. Yet, those who do things to an excess end up doing that specific thing better than others and that is often the definition of success in a competitive capitalistic society.

The person who works the most hours or spends each waking moment playing their instrument is most likely to succeed in a society based on competition. People with no variety in their lives, no sense of family, friendship or relaxing reflection have an advantage over those who have  rounded diverse lives.

This is why our society is rather harsh on those who are not driven and compulsive. People who are not driven are often referred to as lazy or lacking direction. They are looked at as being  common and unworthy of attention and respect.

The shame of this is that our society rewards and honors the driven compulsive people whose very natical ure makes them depressed or at least empty.

This is not to imply that there is anything inherently wrong with vertical growth, for each person will find their own blend of the old and the new which they find pleasing and satisfying.  Yet, their does seem to be something wrong with a society that fosters and rewards a style of life which is empty and unsatisfying.

A sense of meaning seems to be most easily gleaned from things mastered and with the longest history. Yet, there is a certain kind of joy only offered by the new and refreshing. Both experiences seem to be necessary for a cocktail promising a satisfying existence. A new love or discovery has us feel competent, alive and young while the familiar and the mastered gives us a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

Each of us has to find our own mixture of the old and the new, of depth and novelty of vertical and horizontal growth. Like the old song said, “make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold”.

Jim Guido

PS My site is currently being updated. In the short term some of my lyrics have disappeared. I hope to have them restored soon.

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