What It Means to Understand

A quote that is usually attributed to Albert Einstein goes like this: “If you can’t explain something to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

You could pretty easily get caught up in the weeds of enumerating what six-year-olds can and can’t understand, you could debate whether nine or twelve or fifteen is more accurate an age for this quote than six, and you could even insist that this statement was misattributed to Einstein in the first place.

However, in a general life-truth-kind-of-way, these simple words ring true.

Let me explain why.

The Basics:

To begin with, think of something that you understand really well, and let’s forget about the specific audience for the moment. Maybe you excel in your knowledge of a particular musical instrument, a particular technical area, or a particular historical period. If you were asked to describe such a topic in thirty minutes or less, would you be able to? Would you be able to describe it in such a way that the basics, at least, would be made irrevocably clear? All things considered, this seems like a reasonable task.

Consider this, though. What if you only had five minutes?

Or even just one minute?

What if you only had twenty seconds?

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Where Our Shoes Take Us

The clothes we wear tell a story. They tell our story.

Let’s take shoes as an example.

For those of us who tend to find ourselves in a shoe-clad state, we busily go about living our daily lives, balancing our work and play, while below us our indefatigable shoes roam the earth, striding where we stride, stumbling where we stumble, idling where we idle. They hang out on our feet, waiting to uphold our next bidding, as we wait in line at the store, or take our twenty-minute walk to work, or run our first 10k.

The soles of our shoes meet the rainy ground on the day we hurry through the streets, our minds elsewhere. Or the gravelly hiking path on the day we linger at the breathtakingly majestic view. Or even the carpeted floor where we proudly ace the challenging interview that really gets our career going.

All those times, our shoes are there with us.

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Skills – Lost and Found

To me, the primary reason that we lose once-mastered skills is simply a prolonged lack of application, and with focused effort, we can get them back.

Let’s say, for example, that you are performing a speech, completing a graded school assignment, or even overcoming your body’s tiredness by staying out late. Once, perhaps, you did those well. And now, not so much. What has caused this change? Is it age? A permanent loss of skill? Or is it something more?

Here are three stories to wring this topic of its secrets.

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Change

Have you ever had something you loved and couldn’t live without turn into something that just…wasn’t? Maybe your environment changed. Maybe your life changed. Maybe you changed. You’re not really sure. What you do know is that something changed, and it makes you sad. Because that thing you used to do – a hobby, a passion, an activity – has lost some or all of its fire, and you feel lost without the spark. You can’t even find the drive to locate the match and strike it. So you let life go on, wondering what happened and reflecting about what could have been. Because that, and the dreams, and the living present and the laden past and the empty future, are all you have. So life goes on, and you think in passing about what changed. And then that, too, you forget about, because time dampens memory, and people change and adapt. That thing is gone, only a part of the past you, and it hurts. But, slowly, that pain goes away too.

And then you move on.

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Ah, change. Some people love it, some people hate it. As for me, I am definitely in the inertia crowd, but I make a huge effort to recognize that. I think that being aware of our weaker tendencies, so to say, is a good thing. Continue reading “Change”