Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The surprise factor

There has been some conversation today about how, over time, one seems to lose interest in the language one uses. I think to a point it might be boredom, or perhaps it's a feeling of "yeah I see how that can be done" because you have a lot of experience... and then perhaps what follows is some sort of disappointment because it's not exciting as the first time used to be.

As if we needed a dose of dopamine as strong as the first one.

I think that if we stagnate because we do not get as excited anymore, it's not because the language isn't as exciting, and it's not because the venue at which we meet isn't as exciting. To a point it might be because the low hanging fruit has already been picked, and the hard problems make more time go by between the dopamine doses that come with success.

But perhaps, to a certain extent, it's because we keep looking at the same tree. So what do we do?

  • We can start a new language where no matter which tree we pick, there will be lots of low hanging fruit.
  • Or we can build ourselves a ladder so higher hanging fruit becomes closer.
I am starting to get a feeling that we need more ladders. We keep fixing the same old problems, and we keep running into the same relatively fruitless spots. Seaside was such a ladder. We need more of that.

And... above all... we need to remain able to be surprised. Here is a small story.

Some guy had been studying the teachings of the masters for many many years. No book had gone unread, no anecdote had gone by, this person knew everything there was to know. Finally, he got to meet one of the masters at the master's house. So the guy started telling the master all he had learned. The master got some tea prepared. The guy just kept talking, telling the master as to how he had learned what things and so on. The master started serving the tea, and... well, he just kept pouring and pouring in the same cup and it started overflowing. The guy kept talking though, worrying to embarrass the master if he pointed out the mess that was quickly spilling everywhere. But finally, he couldn't put up with it anymore, he stopped and asked "master, the cup is overflowing... why don't you stop pouring?". And the master answered "if you are full, you cannot take anything further in".

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