risk and delight

Today I had a parent-teacher conference with Lane's third-grade teacher. No big surprises there. She knows he's smart, she doesn't know why he won't demonstrate that in his work. Why doesn't he put forth his best effort, she wonders. The nice thing about having a kid who is so very much like me is those questions are easy to answer.

Putting forth your best effort is scary. Criticism of half-hearted work is easy to take. Criticism of work that you believe is the best you can do is much more difficult to handle. Like me, Lane doesn't want to put forth effort on anything that he doesn't believe he can do well. Not just well, actually, but better than those around him.

It's taken me 40 years to be honest about that particular character trait, and it saddens me a bit to see it manifesting itself in him. It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can push you towards excellence. On the other hand, it can prevent you from enjoying the delights of dabbling.

Bartleby.com definition of dilettante

I was thinking today, as I read through many blog entries written with grace and style, how much like a dilettante I feel in this world right now, and how hard that is for me. But my discomfort with the term was eased greatly as I looked at its etymology. Delight. That's the goal, isn't it? To find delight in what we do, at whatever level of accomplishment we reach. How did the word shift from such a positive origin to such a negative context in today's usage? Superficial and amateurish are not what most of us aspire to. Delighted (and delightful)...that's another story.

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This page contains a single entry published on November 18, 2002 2:27 PM.

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