Jono Hirt | Week 7

It occurred to me that I don’t really write about what I’ve been doing during the week. I’m sorry to say, I’m not going to start, I find that kind of boring (I can imagine it would be kind of boring to read too). What I prefer to write about is what I’ve been thinking. I have been doing stuff mind you. “Stuff” makes it sound like I haven’t been doing…anything. I have. Although this weeks been a bit slow, well actually less the week and more the Me. Just one of those weeks I guess. But I digress.

This week we (being the fellows) all had to write down what we thought our signature strengths were. I started like this. Signature Strengths by Jonathan Hirt. Which sounds like a cologne. I can imagine the advert in my head. It would be in black and white, I’d be on a horse. Just joking. A boat.

It was an interesting exercise to say the least. Keturah gave me a book to read, “Strengths Finder”. I don’t know how I feel about a book telling me what my strengths are. I’ll give it a read and get back to you. At any rate I find it fascinating having such discussions with people, seeing how people perceive themselves, how I relate my perception of myself to other people, and how people define words like pride and humility. I think (and this is going off something Shane said last week) that you get more out of the process than the end result. We don’t often think about what we are good at. I think most people dwell on their weaknesses too much, which is important as it helps us grow, but I think we need an equal measure of thought committed to our strengths. However if you are not in touch with your weaknesses and tell yourself a false story about your strengths, then you’re in trouble. That balancing act we all struggle with, hopefully consciously – between pride and humility. But I guess that’s life to a tee. A balancing act.

As I mentioned before, it’s very interesting to hear how people define words like pride and humility. Our personal definitions of words are very telling. It reminds me of the very first class of my Masters program. We were all asked, one-by-one, to tell the class how we define the word PEACE. I was at the opposite end of the crescent of desks to where the procession of definitions started, which was good as it gave me more time to think. The class was a good representation of Sydney’s pluralistic culture. Multi-faith, multi-political, multicultural, multi-sexual, multi-colored-hair – a multitude of backgrounds, experiences and perceptions. The wide variety of definitions of peace spoke to people experiences of life, their perceptions of the world and their backgrounds. I defined peace as not having what you take for granted.

This week we also wrote down an issue of pride that we suffered from. There are many I could have chosen, I decided on vanity. One that I think many can relate to. Shock horror, I am vain. Not to the point where I need to join “Vanities Anonymous”, although I may have just completed the first step. Let me qualify, I don’t think I am conceited or all that arrogant and I very much hope I am not an egoist. Just a little vain.

I don’t think it’s always a bad thing, but it is or has been at times (less as I get older) in my life. Vain in the way I look, i.e. how I dress etc, but also in how people perceive me. I think my vanity has, not all day everyday, but has led me to a place where I care what people think too much. I want to be cool, I want to be popular, I want to be liked – I want to look good in the mirror but also in the eyes of other people. I think vanity is a disguise and much as a costume. So I’m going to make a concerted (not conceited) effort to be less vain.

A notion that I learnt about during my undergrad degree in philosophy, is the notion; “The Illusion of Central Position”. It comes from a book on evolution by Robert Ardrey called, “African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man.” I think Freud called it the “omnipotence of thought”. The notion is based around the fact that as infants we all perceive the world as revolving around ourselves, we cannot help but do that – it is in a way our birth right, we cannot possible know any better. Ardrey in his work; calls the Illusion at this point, perfect. Ardrey goes onto to write,

“Self-awareness is a human attribute; and central position, so the theory states, is its primary assumption. But every human being throughout his [or her] entire life span faces an unending series of experiences each of which is a disillusionment affecting the primary assumption. We may accept the blow, reintegrate our personality to include it, and proceed with our Illusion of Central Position slightly dented; in that case we mature. Or we may by one fanciful means or another reject the experience, escape the disillusionment, and proceed with our primary assumption intact. In this case, of course, we fail to mature.”

I think at some, maybe many points in our lives we suffer from the Illusion of Central Position. We assume that our own individual set of stories, our perceptions, experiences, preconceptions, loves, hates, and all our other human traits and characteristics fall right in the middle of the human experience. The Illusion tells us that we are the perfect center of the bell curve. One might argue that people of faith don’t suffer from this as they put God at the centre. Let me tell you, I know some very arrogant Christians. We are of course the central figure in our story – but it is how we tell and modify that story that dictates how we live our lives – how we mature into humbleness, how we grow out of pride. Luckily life’s a journey, because I think we could all do with a little less pride. *Why is the Never Ending Story theme song stuck in my head all of a sudden?* In reflection, I think I fed the wrong wolf this week. If that sounds really weird, read last weeks blog, at any rate I hopefully he’s not so hungry next week.

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