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Gearing up

(To be revised)

Everyone shapes themselves by gearing up, by selecting and using tools of various sorts to advance their purposes. Humans comprise the tool-making species, not uniquely, but characteristically. What's a rattle to an infant but an instrument with which to make a particular noise? Each person lives life by gearing up, starting very young, and we keep doing it throughout our lives.

Our choosing gear goes on life long. Each does it in a slowly changing pattern, nurturing interests, disclosing style and taste, advancing purpose. A few accomplish great work with the sparest gear; others parade through life, coiffed and bedecked, office and home filled with the every gizmo, creating naught but pretense. Between those extremes, most of us find gear necessary in forming and actualizing our potentials. A great deal of the endemic historical elitism arose because the available gear was scarce, therefore expensive, and difficult to use. The material conditions limiting the use of powerful gear for important cultural purposes are fast significantly diminishing.

But the formative condition of Too much enervates as powerfully as that of Too little. We can and should aspire to choose wisely in gearing up. In some ways the problem of choosing well becomes all the more difficult — not, What can I use? but, Which should I use? And the very calculus of choosing what to use changes, for its cost, power, and ease of use in a world of print are not at all the same in the digital environment.

For each of us, the material ethos of our place and time sketches boldly the stages and features of our gearing up. But for each of us, a succession of accidents and choices, large and small, make the way that each gears up key to the way we stamp our path through life with unique particularity. The given stages and features greatly exceed what we can internalize and use. Hence, the particulars through which a person shapes herself give her life form and meaning. We cannot package these or find some essential plan within them, pertinent to all. We can, however, share insights into the processes as each experiences them, accidents, happy and untoward, and efforts, some of which work out and some of which do not. Sharing our particular experience gearing up can inform, perhaps enlighten, enliven, the choices each has yet to make.

Tell us your story.