I want to take a moment to reflect on something simple and universal– our capacity to surprise.
I’m not talking about springing a gift on an unsuspecting friend or colleague, but rather our capacity to surprise in a more profound way. Here’s what I’m thinking:
1) We all have the capacity to surprise ourselves and others, including others that know us really well.
2) Our capacity to surprise ourselves often has to do with uncovering an hitherto unknown capacity within ourselves or some facet of the self that has either been dormant for a long time or never stirred.
3) Our capacity to surprise others often has to do with acting in ways that are uncharacteristic. Those who know us well expect to be able to predict our behavior. They consider us known entities. When we break character, break routine, or break habit we surprise others.
4) Surprising ourselves and others can go one of two ways: there are good surprises and bad surprises. There are times when the hitherto dormant part of ourselves awakens us to a fuller and richer life. On the other hand there are times when we can do nothing but marvel at the horror we’ve just caused ourselves. The same is true in regard to surprising others.
5) Our capacity to surprise has everything to do with the fact that each of us is more than the sum of our parts. The “self” to the extent that there is such a thing, is emergent. It is evolving. It is becoming. It is not fully formed. As such it is both dynamic and still waiting to be shaped.
6) As it turns out, our capacity to surprise ourselves and others ends up being rooted in a conception of human nature that suggests that we are neither wholly good nor wholly evil, largely because because we are capacious and still in the process of being born.