Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Self-Invention

Morgan said the most interesting thing to us the other day. It was something like this:

"There are three people who can invent me--you two [pointing at me and Brendan] and ME!"

That statement led to a fascinating conversation about how, yes, we created her, but she is primarily responsible for inventing herself.

Because she is. We gave her the raw materials, but she must learn and figure things out and integrate concepts and make decisions, all things which will shape her mind and sense of self and sense of life--each of which will in turn affect future decisions and her thinking (and even the decision to think).

I've been thinking about that statement ever since, and our response to it. And I hope she has been thinking about it, too (and I hope Ryan, who witnessed the conversation, is thinking about it, too).

This idea of self-invention relates to my parenting principles in that I deliberately try to stay out of their self-invention as much as possible. And when I must interfere with their decisions (because they are doing something that violates or will likely violate rights), I do so deliberately and openly and with the minimal amount of interference/force necessary. It's important to be clear and completely honest and open about why I need to get involved (no "Because I said so!") so that they have a chance to learn from what happened, that they will then take that experience and use it for more (hopefully rational) self-invention.

One thing I wish I'd mentioned the other day, and will certainly mention the next time the topic comes up, is that self-invention isn't just the business of childhood--it's something we do all of our lives. Each day, with each decision. It's kind of a fun adventure, really, this self-invention. I'm rather enjoying the process myself. :)

There never was such a perfect set up for talking to our kids about this idea:

"Man is a being of self-made soul." Ayn Rand


Jim May said...

Self-invention carries with it the moral responsibility for that invention, i.e. for who we are. That thought scares the hell out of conservatives and Leftists alike; it's why variations of determinism, "nature versus nurture" and assaults on free will are so universally popular over there.

David B said...

That is just all kinds of awesome. I live for moments like that! :-)

Sara said...

What an insightful observation. Morgan sure is a smart cookie.

Jenn Casey said...

Now I'm thinking about the difference and similarity between self-invention and self-discovery. There's lots of talk about discovering oneself, and I do think people need to do that--for example, learning about one's temperament is super interesting and often useful.

But the notion of self-invention takes this a bit farther--from data-collection to creation. And as Jim points out, there is a responsibility for this, too, that goes along with that "invention." Responsibility is scary, but it's also exciting and thrilling, if you view it the right way.

It feels great to be independent, to use your mind and be productive and virtuous. Responsibility is part of this--if you weren't responsible for your actions and thoughts then who gets the credit when you do something amazing? :D

So taking responsibility for invention oneself is really pretty awesome, because when you do it (and this is a difficult thing to achieve I think, like any worthwhile endeavor), you feel GREAT! And there is some risk involved, and certainly no guarantees, which contributes to the scary part.

I used to be more scared than I am. I think of all the opportunities I allowed to pass me by because I was scared. And now I've invented myself in such a way that I'm not scared to take risks and responsibility, and I am so much happier than I ever used to be.


Jim May said...

Self-discovery sounds to me like it means: to discover facts about your own nature, both as a human and as an individual. That includes things from sexuality, all the way to simple things like "hey, I'm good at this!"

I liken it to finding out which cards you have in your hand, versus figuring out how to play them.

Where self-discovery and self-invention meet, is in people who are "re-inventing" themselves, who must engage in introspection to identify *why* they may feel a certain way. That's more like self-rediscovery, I imagine -- revising one's own "stale thinking" as Ayn Rand put it.