Friday, October 12, 2012

“The necessary limitations
of our nature”

W. H. Auden:

Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.

From the essay “Reading,” in The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays (1962).
The ages might vary, but it’s sound advice. It reminds me — don’t laugh — of what management consultant Peter Drucker says in Managing Oneself (2008): that we must figure out our strengths and values and ways of working, and be who we are.

[“Peabody here.” Mister Peabody, at peace with the necessary limitations of his nature.]

When I was a much, much younger fellow, perhaps just a tad bookish, my so-called peers bestowed upon me the nickname Mister Peabody. Ugh. But now I celebrate the Peabodily elements of my style.

Other Auden posts
On handwriting and typing
Six lines from Auden

comments: 2

Jim said...

Reminds me of the Serenity Prayer.

"God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other...."

Geo-B said...

I keep coming back to this post. I certainly think it important for 20-40 year olds to discover who they are, what their limitations are, and what limitations to work on. However, as a 63 year old, I seem to be spending a lot of time doing precisely the same tasks. Sometimes 20-somethings speak to me, unhappy they haven't figured it all out, discovered what their work is, and I tell them I haven't either. I guess if I were in Syria looking desperately for food and seeing my neighborhood get blown to bits, I would not have the luxury to be so introspective. But since I work in teaching, writing, and art, I do have the space to keep learning and I hope changing. It's kind of its own reward.