October Update

The new cover is looking good, the manuscript has been submitted for a content edit, and I’ve begun to seek auditions from audiobook narrators.  Progress!

In the meanwhile, I thought I’d offer some thoughts on human conflict that have been dancing about my brain lately.

Conflict is everywhere, in political, social, and interpersonal realms.  With social media it is has also become more accessible, and we can engage (and suffer) more profoundly as a result.  Not necessarily a good thing.  Our buttons are easily pushed, and we can react quickly, often before we think on it much.  I like to understand things, so I'm going to try and understand this, if I can.  Perhaps the genesis of such conflicts is quantifiable, or at least understandable: it's how we've trained ourselves.  Maybe we can un-train ourselves as well.

Human beings are distinct creatures, and despite our need for contact and interaction, we are almost entirely occupied with serving our own interests.  We feed ourselves, we clothe ourselves, we get our own water, ride our bikes, drive our cars, and read our books.  If you counted up all the things we do in a day, how many are purely for the benefit of someone else?  2%?  5% tops?  If you’re a parent, this number might be higher, especially if you care for very small children, but most of us don’t change diapers or feed little ones regularly.

Have you heard the 10,000 hour rule about how much repetition is required to master a skill?  Malcolm Gladwell coined this concept in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success. If Gladwell is correct, and 10,000 hours of practice is required to master a skill, then at what age did we become masters of taking care of ourselves?  Masters of providing our own needs before those of others?  Masters of selfishness?

Let’s use some math to find out:

If we assume that small children sleep ten hours a day (oh, to be a kid again!), we can assume that they are awake the remaining 14 hours.  It’s reasonable to assume that ten hours of that is spent doing something for themselves: playing with friends, toys, or sitting on someone’s lap watching them make goofy faces and baby talk.  Children are entertaining themselves, essential practicing the, ‘skill’ of self-interest for ten hours each day.

10,000 hours divided by 10 hours a day = 1,000 days = less than three years.  We have all become expert selfishers (?) before we are three.  Heck, if my mom is right, I mastered selfishness much earlier than that!

It’s a tough thing to unlearn, and it’s going to take practice to train ourselves better in generosity than we have in selfishness, to undo the habits we have formed over so many years.  The task might might require more than 10,000 hours, but every hour would bring a smile to someone else's face.  We could make a difference, and maybe the world would calm down just a bit in the process.

We should try.

-David A. Willson