What Was Your First Epiphany?


At the age of 6 when in one day I thought reading was an impossibly complicated idea, and then three days later, after just tortuously tryig to read books, because I was embarassed that a girl in my class could, that almost like a light switch, I started being able to read.  Doing hard stuff is hard. You just have to suffer a bit for the reward.  Best lesson in life.

At age 7 when I understood that foreign languages weren’t ciphers (codes) but completely different words with completely different meanings, sometimes with completely different characters with completely different sounds. And thinking I was a completely hopeless idiot for thinking that they were systems of codes. 

At the age of  9 when I understood that most adults really have no idea what’s going on, or what they’re doing, but they’re responsible for us, and we know even less than they do, so we children have to help them be successful, otherwise the whole world will fall apart into chaos.

At the age of 12 when I understood that it was now possible to possess an original thought, and that I must remember to treat children of that age with patient respect.

At the age of 14 when I understood that induction didn’t exist, and couldn’t exist, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand who could think so.

At the age of 15 when I understood that mythical religion was actually a valuable thing given that you can’t explain anything very complicated to almost anyone – but religion is really easy to understand. It’s good enough for government work so to speak.

At the age of 16 when I realized girls don’t think ANYTHING like us guys, and that it’s a hopeless, unbridgeable difference that you just have to deal with.

At the age of 17 when I realized that despite wanting a career in science, that we don’t really understand that much more about the universe than did newton, and that experimentation was really expensive, and that I had better ways to spend my life than trying to solve that problem by spending most of my time trying to raise money for experiments that had very little chance of success. I’m not that patient.

At the age of 19 when I realized that there is nothing in a university education that you can’t get out of books on your own, and that all universities do is sort people. They don’t really teach you anything. So allow them to sort you, and then just read what you want and need to.

At the age of 22 when I realized that people aren’t bad to each other on purpose: they are actually clueless, and worse, there isn’t any way for the clueless to determine the difference between those who are slightly less clueless and someone who actually understands something that you should listen to.

At the age of 24 when I realized that each of us has particular talents, and can’t all work the same way. So I let other people worry about details and I work on really big problems further out in time that they can’t work on. Cooperation is also a division of labor in time with people who cant understand each other’s jobs.

At the age of 25 when I realized that it doesn’t matter how smart I am, if the guy I”m competing with has twenty years of experience.  It’s not brains. It’s just knowledge. And knowledge is much faster than reason.

At the age of 26 when my health failed, that I was indeed mortal – very.

At the age of 29 when I realized that entrepreneurship is largely a willingness to endure deprivation, pain and hardship more than other people are willing to, and its not so much about being all that smart and creative. It’s just hard work to do hard things, and that’s more than most people are willing to do.

At the age of 30 when I realized that success and money aren’t really very useful if people are afraid of you, don’t like  you or don’t trust you. Money doesn’t keep you company and doesn’t get you access to people you want to keep you company. Ruthlessness is overrated. It’s much more profitable to have people love you.

At age 31 when I realized that people will love you if you try to help them. So I started trying to help every single person I talked to in some way no matter how small. It is much better than spending most of your life trying to convince people to do something differently.  And they love you for it.

At the age of 32 when I realized that reason, logic, fact and science are pretty unnatural to man, and that western civilization developed them for totally accidental reasons.  They just happen to work pretty good, and so we keep them.  But no one actually WANTS facts. They’re almost always unpleasant.

At the age of 35 when I understood that there are maybe 1500 total ‘ideas’ in the human conceptual lexicon, but that each one of them is subject to errors in relation to every other. So the minds and libraries of the world are pretty much full of errors, with the few things that aren’t errors pretty hard to find among them.  Humans are smarter than everything else, but we’re actually pretty dumb. It takes a whole lot of us a long time to figure out even the simplest thing.

At the age of 40 when I realized that I had made a my only really regretful mistake by not studying philosophy and going into it as a profession because I didn’t know how to earn a living at it. (You don’t. Philosophy is an avocation, not a vocation. It just happens to make you pretty successful no matter what you do.)

At the age of 50 when I realized that after many years of hard work, I had solved a significant problem in the history of thought, but it was entirely due to all the people smarter than I am who came before me, and my achievement was just luck, timing and spending more time on it than anyone else. It was humbling.

At 53, after two bouts of cancer, three related illnesses from a compromised immune system, divorce and a down economy, that I might actually want to slow down, and get my writing done before I run out of options on the durability of my northern european genes.

Just a few of them. There are plenty of others. There will be plenty more I assume.


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