I shot this photo the other day while visiting the Boardwalk area of the tiny coastal town of Kemah, Texas. I happened to notice, just a short distance away, a set of wooden posts out on the very edge of the shore.
Usually posts like this are covered with seagull poop seagulls. What kinda caught my eye was the fact that this time there was only a single bird there.
Now, if you click on the photo you’ll see it more clearly (it’ll take you to the Flickr page). It appears as if the seagull is checkin’ out those two sailboats as they zip off into the distance. On noticing that tiny detail, I was struck by a thought (sound of dull thud).
I thought it somewhat ironic how we humans, with our big giant brains (mind you, I’m speakin’ figuratively, not necessarily personally), can be so proud of our accomplishments. I mean, here are these two guys who, with a little diligence (not to mention a little cash) managed to learn how to spread a sail, capture the wind, and use it to drive themselves across the sea in an exhilarating fashion. (Hey, I’ve done it, and I can tell you it’s quite a rush!)
In the meantime, this little bird, with a brain no bigger than your average pea, simply spreads his wings and, with virtually no effort, sails up into the skies with nary a care in the world. And all on a budget of free-for-the-taking sardines, too.
But wait, you say, that’s not a fair comparison. It’s in the bird’s nature to fly. After all, he has wings. And if a bird spreads ‘em while the wind is blowing, well, physics happens, y’know?
We humans, on the other hand, have to learn everything for ourselves – ‘cause when we’re born, we got nothin’! I mean, we got no wings. We got no instincts. Alas, we got no aerodynamic shapes anywhere. In fact, if I were to jump off a cliff with only the things I was born with, the only physics that’ll happen is somethin’ along the lines of drop-like-a-sack-of-overripe-plums. Kinda excitin’ for a while, but then there’s that pesky sudden stop at the bottom.
OK, fair enough; birds can fly, and human-types can’t – at least, not without a lot of help. So what?
It’s About Potential…
The thing, I think, that makes the difference between the bird and the sailor, though, is the difference in their potential. See, a bird, bless his little pea-brain, is just a bird. He’s born a bird. He lives as a bird, and he’ll pass on to that great sky in the, er, sky, as – yep, you guessed it – a bird. What’s more (and here’s the nub of the gist, if you get my meanin’), he can never be anything but a bird (no matter how many times you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull). It’s just not in his nature.
Ah, but a human being, now – well that’s a whole ‘nuther pile o’ potatoes! Hey, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most amazing things about us human beings is the tremendous potential there is within every one of us. I mean, think about it (sound of grinding gears).
As I mentioned earlier, when we’re born, we have pretty much nothing. No instincts, no innate knowledge, practically a clean slate. We’re nothing more than a cute little squirming bundle of potentiality. (For the sake of expediency, I’m assumin’ that “cute” bit is always true.)
The fact is, given the opportunity (and the means, although that certainly doesn’t stop some folks) any baby can become pretty much anything they eventually want to be – subject to the laws of reality, of course. (Shame about reality, ain’t it? *Sigh* That’s pretty much why I had to give up on my childhood dream of, y’know, bein’ a spaceman.) All throughout our lives, we’re constantly besieged by all kinds of influences. Family, friends, information, you name it – it all goes into the mysterious mix that is us.
… And It’s About Choice
On top of that, there’s the matter of choice. Practically every moment of every day we’re faced with the need to make decisions. Sometimes big ones, sometimes little inconsequential ones, but you might as well face it; you’ll never be able to avoid them for long.
Admittedly, as a kid I rarely gave any thought to any possible long-term consequences my choices would create. Hey, that’s just the way it is when you’re a kid, y’know? Lack of experience, I know.
However, there’s no avoiding the fact that some of those choices did, indeed, form the basis for what I’m doing – and indeed, who I am – today. Do our choices limit who we can become in the future? I’m gonna say – most certainly. But is that necessarily a bad thing? Well, in my humble opinion, probably not.
That innate ability to become something we’re not, now that’s an exciting prospect, wouldn’t you say?
So What About You?
So lemme ask ya; do you think you’ve reached your full potential? What makes you think so? And if you still have one or two things on your horizon, how do you plan to get there?