Wonderful, a state of being and becoming

For the past few weeks whenever people ask me how I’m doing, I stop what I’m doing, look them in the eyes, smile, and say enthusiastically, “Wonderfully”.

I know, it’s strange. Most people just say things like “Great”, “Fine”, “Living the dream”, or “I’m well”. Then, of course, they follow with the customary, “You?”

Wonderfully….wonderfully, to me, this isn’t just saying, “I’m doing especially great”. What I’m saying to them, and more importantly to myself, is that I am literally “full of wonder”. I am full of the child-like amazement that the weight of life presses out of most adults. I am to the brim with curiosity, hope, and faith. I am conquering my inner cynic.

People tend to be literally taken back. Notably and somewhat tangentially, they tend to be taken back with my appreciation as well. If you take a look around at, say, a local coffee shop, it’s surprising how thankless people are – especially at a college campus where youth often feel entitled.

Another book I’m wrapping up is How to Be Yourself. This work in addition to the immense amount of work by Brené Brown I’m reading is slowly allowing me to express my most authentic self.

This Kyle is sometimes awkward, sometimes a little too much, and sometimes intensely passionate. He’s also occasionally insecure. Because it’s hard to be yourself. You can’t open yourself up to experience the best things in life like empathy, joy, and meaning without opening yourself to judgment and mistakes.

Luckily, it’s come to me relatively easily. But I’m convinced it will be a while before it’s perfectly natural and I’m completely confident.

In this sense, as the title says, the kind of wonder I’m cultivating is becoming.

Brene Brown’s marble jar story

I have attached a video of one of my favorite lessons from Brene Brown. I heard it first when I read her book Dare to Lead. It’s told better there, so I encourage you to check it out. The lesson is about who to trust.

Here is the gist of the video:

Her daughter had a bad day at school. She told some “friends” some very personal things and everyone laughed at her in class. She was so upset she said, “I will never trust anyone again.” But Brene cautions her against this and tells her trust is like a jar of marbles. When someone does something good to you, they get a marble; when someone does something bad, they lose marbles. Eventually, some people fill up your jar and these are the people you confide in when you are your most vulnerable.

I’ve applied this to my daily life. I tell people in my life this story and when they do things I don’t like I let them know. I say, “You know, when you do this it makes you lose marbles with me. For example, when you say things that aren’t nice about others to me it makes me wonder what you say when I’m not around.” And when they are nice I let them know they get a marble.

It’s cheesy, sure, but I’m convinced sincerity is life’s most savory sweetener.


Henry David Thoreau and the disdain of vanity

In “Economy”, Henry David Thoreau’s opening chapter to Walden, the esteemed author says of fashion trends,

We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcæ, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveller’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.

In this statement, he captures what marketers know today: that people crave contemporary status.

They want to fit in.

Someone decided that Paris was the icon of trendy, so they who surrender to common acceptance – who need external validation – shift their tastes to be in accordance not with individual self-expression as they should but with what “high society” has decided for them.

He goes on, scoffing at historical trends,

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new. We are amused at beholding the costume of Henry VIII., or Queen Elizabeth, as much as if it was that of the King and Queen of the Cannibal Islands. All costume off a man is pitiful or grotesque. It is only the serious eye peering from and the sincere life passed within it, which restrain laughter and consecrate the costume of any people. Let Harlequin be taken with a fit of the colic and his trappings will have to serve that mood too. When the soldier is hit by a cannon ball rags are as becoming as purple.

Brene Brown in her book Dare to Lead talks about how her pre-speech routine is the simple repetition of three words: people, people, people.

Because we are all just people.

The only thing that matters is character.

Underneath the tailored suit of the c-level executive is a person who, if they are like most, feels like a fraud.

Clothes are symbols, but when cultural norms breakdown such as in times of war, we realize they are merely cloth – the magic has vanished from Aladdin’s carpet.

In closing, he casts a light on the fickleness of the fashionable. A modern example of this is the rise in chokers.

Just think, one day parachute pants or the mullet might make a comeback.

The childish and savage taste of men and women for new patterns keeps how many shaking and squinting through kaleidoscopes that they may discover the particular figure which this generation requires today. The manufacturers have learned that this taste is merely whimsical. Of two patterns which differ only by a few threads more or less of a particular color, the one will be sold readily, the other lie on the shelf, though it frequently happens that after the lapse of a season the latter becomes the most fashionable.

His points might be extrapolated to highlight the nuanced flux in design that drives capitalism, and therewith, the constant need to consume the novel.

They express important and serious lessons about Western values and the frequent senselessness of cultural norms and patterns, which have become exasperated as marketing has advanced as a field and evil geniuses have grown smarter at manipulating self-perception.

Think also for a minute how this relates to modern technology. So many wait hours for the latest and greatest, indulging selfishly in something unnecessary at the detriment of another’s well-being, the people who have to work with suicide nets to keep pace with American depravity.

Out of sight, out of mind. 

Just be good people, and please, don’t succumb to fashion trends.