Is Consistency an Awful Thing?
Is Consistency an Awful Thing?
And why does it matter to a 21st century cosmopolitan cool cat like yourself?
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of a little mind,” sang Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Concordian with a knack for deep thought and self reflection.
What did Emerson mean when he said “a little mind”? Why is consistency an awful thing? And why do his hardly-exceeding-vintage-status scribbles matter to a 21st Century Cosmopolitan Cool Cat like yourself?
Well. Because a disgustingly extreme consistency at home and at work is defined as “lifestyle.” Because “job,” in and of itself, implies repetition. Does the American Dream itself not connote litany? Is it not contradictory to believe that devotion to a perfunctory, habitual life will somehow yield an exceptional reward? Yet we cling to that hope. Maybe, just maybe, if we pull through the tedious tedium of repetitive repetition we will be rewarded. How dark and cruel a god must exist if all your hard work doesn’t at least result in peace of mind. You know, that peace of mind you always have returning home after a hard day of work. Or maybe that peace of mind comes later, as you slouch back into your bed, teeth brushed and everything, that tomorrow you will have another, perfectly tantamount day to weakly exact your right to happiness and satisfaction that has to derive from your steady job.
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”, my elementary school teacher would rhetorically ask, “practice, practice, practice.” I don’t disagree with Mr. Brandeis. Nor do I disagree with Plato, Aristotle, Malcolm Gladwell, or any of the others who advocate practice as a means of betterment in a given field. However, when one grows proficient in a task, it is easy to ignore new questions and interests. Why be inferior at something when you are superior at another? So we repeat. We become so adequate at the job we do that our faculty to perceive that which exists outside of our chief practice is impaired. It is as though we are children who have suddenly mastered walking and believe there is no point in running.
Bernard Berenson, art historian nobody, is quoted as saying, “Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.” Combined, Emerson and Berenson affirm that an imprudent consistency can not only result from, but also produce, an unadaptable mind.
Adaptation, growth, and perspective are imperative to success in every field. They are imperative to success of the mind and body; they the mental and physical rewards reaped from new experiences, raised questions, and solved puzzles are a large contributor, if not the sole giver of purpose and satisfaction. Only when the automaton considers its purpose does its nature change. By definition an automaton cannot be an automaton if it stops repeating its repeats. Inversely, minds will grow as monotony ceases, as habits are examined, and as questions are raised. Growth of the highest caliber, solutions of the utmost importance, and reflection of personal significance will yield a clear path to reward. All it takes is reflection to find purpose. All it takes is purpose to find drive. And all it takes is drive to find success and worth.
But we are all still children, learned to walk and brooding over bounding. The silent predator is always approaching. But will you choose to run before it strikes?