My most life-changing decision

A little time ago, I tweeted this: “>50y ago, I was fixated on symmetry; decided to seek out beauty of asymmetry. Turned out to be most life-changing decision I ever made.” A couple of people suggested I expand this, and blog about it, which surprised me, but here goes:

I have no idea when I made this decision, but it must have been when I was quite young. I could’ve been 3 for all I know, but it seems unlikely. And, given the known shortcomings of human memory, the memory I have may not be what happened. I.e. what actually went on in my mind.

Anyway, I became aware that I was too fixed on symmetry. I loved squares, but only liked rectangles. I shied away from asymmetry, as an almost emotional thing. I recognised this too-fixed mindset as something undesirable, and decided to school myself to appreciate non-symmetrical things too.

This was a literal and metaphorical thing. I opened my mind to quadrilaterals without even one right-angle, but also to chaos and uncertainty. I broadened and opened my mental outlook sufficiently that, in time, I was able to become a software designer. I would’ve been too rigid otherwise; the Gods know what career I might’ve ended up in.

I have remembered this decision maybe half a dozen times in my life, but only this last time did I give it any serious thought. I have no idea what prompted it. It may have been something somebody said, or something I heard on the radio or TV. I have even toyed with the idea that it never happened at all, that it is just a reflection of my mental growing-up, as I began to entertain notions that didn’t originate with an adult. It seems possible, but I don’t think so….

The memory seems real to me. The effects of my actions enabled me to listen to (and enjoy) Indian singing, which uses notes that Westerners typically hear as dischordant. That’s just an example, but it illustrates the importance of the change in me as I sought out the beauty of asymmetry, and similarly scary concepts.

I would not be – not even in the smallest way – the man I am today if I had not had this realisation, and done something about it. Having spent a few days wondering, the most interesting thing (to me) is whether this really happened, and when. I think it did. By ‘feel’, I estimate my age to have been 5 or 6, but I don’t really have a clue.

P.S. One thing I am sure of: when I first had these thoughts, I did not think of them using the sophisticated and mature terms that hindsight gave me to write the above.

My most life-changing decision

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