I saw “The Man in the Arena” - and he wears LED-tipped gloves and a snazzy hooded boxer’s robe.
At a fratty bar on the UW-Madison campus, I saw him. Sitting alone and drinking a beer, gloves powered-off and resting at his side, waiting for the right song. I was unsure what to think, and went back to chatting with my friends. A bit later, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Turning, I saw him donning his gloves, like a knight heading into battle. With a silent flash the gloves came on, he flipped up his hood, then strode forward to dance and become a maelstrom of LED glow. His fingers flashed as he moved, lighting up the crowds of 20-somethings hovering in small bored groups looking disdainfully at him.
At first, I felt second-hand embarrassment for this man. As expected, the people in the bar were taking videos to show their friends and post across social media, chuckling and pointing at him from their small groups before going back to standing around with their over-priced drinks. I cringed, imagining myself in his shoes and how I would feel knowing all the people around me were sending judgmental glances – yet in spite of this, he danced on. He gave not a single glance to the people mocking him. With a constant look of concentration, of fulfillment, he became one with the music, and danced on.
My friends eventually said their goodbyes and we all went back to our lives, and I thought nothing of this night until months later. Through luck, or whatever power lets your brain make connections long after an event, it hit me. I realized my empathy had blinded me from seeing reality: a man choosing to act on his passions shamelessly in the face of judgement. Just like “The Man in the Arena”, encouraging us to step outside our comfort zones, despite the possibility of failure or weird looks.
“it is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles… who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”.
May we all find our own version of glow dancing in a crowded bar.
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