While preparing for the guests to arrive, I was dicing vegetables while my cohost was arranging the charcuterie board. When I was slicing the cherry tomatoes, most were simply squishing from the pressure of the knife squeezing them against the cutting board. My cohost said, "dude, you got to sharpen your knife!"
Realizing what he'd said was true, I pulled out the sharpening steel that had come with my knife set and I did a quick couple of metal-on-metal strokes
He was right, I'd let my knife get dull and now as I returned to cutting the tomatoes, the knife was doing a better job and treating the ingredients with more respect and they looked better as I finished them up.
A little while later, my cohost returned having run home to grab a couple of things from their apartment. In addition to a few more needed ingredients, he'd also brought his chef knife and called me over and pulled out a couple of cherry tomatoes. Without holding them in place, he cut them into small pieces with the slightest amount of pressure. The sharpness of the knife did all the work.
"Now that's what a sharp knife looks like," he said.
I remember getting emotional at that moment and excusing myself to go work on another task, not wanting to openly process the emotion that I was feeling in front of others. Why was I about to cry? He'd been incredibly nice about it, he wasn't flaunting or making fun of me. But here I was, feeling like an immature child.
I didn't know that my knife wasn't sharp. But it was the sharpest knife I'd ever owned. I'd felt pride when I purchased it and had used it for a few years in a phase of life that got me the monicker, Chef Andy. It was the sharpest knife I'd ever used, but it wasn't actually sharp in comparison to my cohost's knife. It was downright dull in comparison. The sharpest thing I knew wasn't that sharp.
And that is what I am learning it feels like for so many people when they get outside of the town or community where they grew up. The biggest house isn't so big. The most successful person isn't so successful. The best bite of food is no longer in their top ten culinary experiences. The understanding of what is possible in this life is expanded and so is the drive to unlock their subsequent discovery of possibility.
My Dad and I have coffee on Zoom once a month. This weekend, he was telling me about a course he is taking online and some of the philosophical concepts he and his friend Bob are learning. He shared Plato's allegory of the cave and reflected on how many people he knows that are settling for the shadows on the cave wall when freedom and real life are just on the other side of their shackles.
The next morning, I was reading The Untethered Soul and opened my book to the chapter on Taking Down Walls in our psyche and the power that comes from moving beyond our attachment to the safety of predictable identity narratives and the freedom that is available to us if we choose our unique Self instead. The freedom to demand more from life and live in expectation of it.
That thinking reminded me of my favorite passage by C. S. Lewis in his essay The Weight Of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
These themes have been swirling around me for the past few weeks and I wanted to share the beginning of what I believe is a much larger conversation that the world is ready to have. We now have access to almost anything everywhere all of the time and we have never been less satisfied. We are encouraged to express ourselves and live in public but we are more fearful and conscious of others than ever before. We live for the celebrity and rock stars that remind us some of us get out of the cave but are equally aware that we're not them and reminded that we'll likely never fill stadiums.
We're constantly exposed to knives sharper than our own. And we're thrown off just enough to not keep chasing that experience and instead tend to retreat to a safer cave where we know what to expect and the range of things that might happen in a day. We kill the exploration of the possible for fear of how we might react to the new.
It is time to see sharper knives as the possibility that exists in this world.
It is time to expect a vacation by the sea even if we're currently mired in the muck.
It is time to get really honest with what we want without the limitations of our past.
It is time to level up to our fullest potential and no measure it against anyone else's.
And that's a conversation I am excited to have with anyone and everyone that is willing to dive in with me.