Yesterday I spent most of the day working on a feature for Method Draw, the feature involved a pet-peeve of mine: bitmap clipboard paste. I was quite advanced in the implementation, but the code I produced was messy and repetitive, and it left me with the sense that it could be done much better. At the end of the day, I reverted my changes and undid an entire day of work.

There have been many times in my career (especially in the pre-OSX days) when my work has been lost because of computer crashes. Most people throw a tantrum when this happens, I usually shrugged, because the conclusions I reached were still valid, and these had not been erased from memory, and I could replicate what I had already built in a fraction of the time, and since I was rebuilding it, I could improve on what had already been designed.

It seems that the difference between creative people and efficient people (though these two are not ends of a single spectrum) lies in the willingness to “waste work”. In creative endeavors, no work is wasted work, because creativity requires exploration, and though one may reach dead ends, the value of work resides in the territory explored, not in approaching the destination. Efficient people want to take the shortest route, creative people want to understand the map.

I see a parallel in spiritual development, where a person may seek instruction by a teacher, or instruction from the world. The teacher may find you off the path and tell you to get back on it, when the teacher is the world it requires you to attune to the environment so that it reveals where the path is.

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast with Daniel Schmachtenberger in which he was discussing spiritual development. He said that the great danger in spiritual development is that it is trivial to mimic, not only to fool others, but to fool ourselves. If we think of a spiritually developed person—well, let’s drop the “spiritual” moniker, and simply think of a developed person—how would he or she be? Would they be compassionate? Would they be healthy? Would they be creative?

In the post-modernist conception of reality, there would be no such thing as personal development. The hobo, the gang member, the pimp have the same development as a statesman, the head of family, or the healer. I think the differences between the examples that I chose are that the people in the second group put their gifts into the service of others.

Coming back to the mimicking example by Daniel, it could be argued that “putting your gifts into the service of others” is easily mimicked, or the egoic impulses can be concealed and dressed as altruistic action, when it reality it serves the person. But it can also be argued that every action eventually traces back to our own sense of worth: we help others because it eventually benefits us, even if it is simply because it helps us think highly of ourselves.

I am reminded of a dictum that a developer friend told me: the measure of seniority in developers is how much the senior member helps other team members become better. This seems to resonate with the essence of becoming a “developed” person. In humanistic psychology it is said that the natural impulse—despite all of our misgivings—is to become better people. We don’t yearn for conflict, poverty, or hardship, we might desire pleasure and the things that take our mind off our struggles, but deep down the spirit knows when there is alignment in one’s actions and in one’s vision of a better world.

When these spontaneous mini-essays sprout from my writing activity, I wish to find an actionable task to put into practice. Putting myself in the position of helping others—I wonder, would be development mimicking? People don’t want to be saved or rescued, even offering help can sometimes backfire. The secret to this conundrum seems to be: support the direction in which the person is heading. If a person is happily exploring off the path, support the exploration. Don’t tell them to come back unto the path. Every one of us is unfolding in different ways, assist the unfolding.