Remember the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock?” It starts like this (leaving out the excerpt from Dante’s Canto 27)
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
The poet, T.S. Eliot asks us to join him. Should we go?`Maybe not! Maybe he will lead us astray! Maybe he will take us to a place where we cannot return from! But who could not read on? The next stanza is more reassuring
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
Women? There is an odd sexual implication as well as — perhaps — an association between sex and art.
We need not go through this poem line by line – you can have that pleasure on your own. But we jump here to the question
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
Indeed. But the ultimate question is what do we dare do in the interim — in those spaces of time where we are not doing what we think we should be doing? Here Eliot is doubtful one can find satisfaction. Later he would try to do so with religion — an intensely personal style of religion.
But why do I dwell on Prufrock? There is a reason. It is a simple reason. Eliot was troubled by a lack of meaning beyond the urges of the self. He found those urges to be tempting but ultimately superficial. And he was right to be troubled. He saw the self as a fixed thing — an aging man, who has lost his youthful attraction. Seeing the self as a fixed thing, he could not help mourn its demise. And indeed, those fixed things are part of the self. But they are as large or small a part as you choose to make them.Eliot did not dare admit to this type of choice.
In other words, you can gamify the self. We can, and we should learn this. It is at the core of strategic thinking. Or we will be trapped along with Prufrock.