Decisive perception

At the beginning of the class we were asked what we expected to learn in those English lessons. We all wrote unnecessary long list of demands just to stand out – ‘grammar’, ‘improve our listening skills’ etc.

Then our teacher read us a story. Two people were going to Athens. On their way they met a man and asked him about his opinion of Athens. He told them it was unpleasant, noisy and rather dirty. Not a very encouraging description, the two people thought. Further down their way, they met another man and asked him the same. He elaborately depicted Athens as the best possible city one could visit – full of history, spirit and beauty. The Athens visitors-to-be were confused by those polarised opinions. Luckily, they encountered a third person on their way to this Athens mystery. The wise man told them: ‘Athens is what you expect it to be.’

Momentarily before my eyes emerges the concept of ‘The dip’ by Seth Goddin: Being in an abyss where there is the strong probability for your things to pan out if you play your cards right. The Dip concerns relationships, jobs and everything worth doing, of course at the expense of a little risk, a lot of patience and a bunch of very well-developed guts – for the sake of the gut feeling. The latter needed for the daily decision-making when you are in the Dip.

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Is the Dip like the Athens moral story – what we expect it to be? Sure, it does depend on outer factors as well but essentially, when we are in a sort of abyss, do our expectations influence the longevity of our Dip residence and its successful exit?

I think yes.

As discussed in the book, corporations aim premature quitting: not at the right time but in the middle of an either seemingly hopeless crisis or at too late a stage. We are encouraged to give in during the process. It is also a human reflex to let go of something/somebody when it hurts.

However, expectations could beat logical arguments and reflexes at their own game. When one expects the abyss is only a step, a cradle to success and an obligatory gap between start and mastery, the whole misery factor collapses. When one accepts reality and starts dealing with it, rather than chaotically fighting it back, depressing or panicking: The Abyss turns into a Dip – and suddenly there is a way out. One relocates their resources from investing them in various cul-de-sacs into the beneficial energy depot. The high water river of misdirected energy gradually becomes a channeled stream.

My insight from contemplating on the Dip, the Athens story and general decision-making is that the perception of right and wrong could sometimes catch us off guard. Exactly what happened with me and one of my English language students the other day.

We were discussing the difference between present simple and present continuous lying mainly in the progressive action, happening at the time of speaking. After a lot of theory and exercises, I gave my student the following sentence for her to determine whether it is right or wrong:

‘Look! This man over there tries to unlock your car.’

My student told me the sentence was wrong. Immense pride suffused me. ‘So I’ve managed to explain well, and she knows it should be ‘is trying’ – present continuous. Alas!’

‘And why do you think so?’ I asked to fully enjoy this moment of glory.

‘Because it’s wrong! Obviously it is wrong somebody else to try to unlock your car. This is a crime!’

The Dip is what you perceive it to be.

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