“You’ve got grit,” she told the cowboy, “I hate grit.”
(I don’t know which movie that came from, but I think it was Katharine or Audry Hepburn.)
“Grit” has its’ purpose in the world. I’ve walked uphill in a sandstorm, done that last impossible chin-up, pulled into traffic from a gravelly road, and put extra hours and energy into a job to turn out a product.
I am unpacking my feelings about “grit” and “flow”. As they both lead to an end but seem to take different psychological paths.
Grit seems to have a very American aspect to it. Perhaps a lot of this is from the post-WWII movies where John Wayne or someone like him (as a cowboy or soldier) bulls through all obstacles to win the day having risked life and limb (both his own and others). At any rate, it requires a semi-suicidal, dogged determination to get what was set before him. Note: this has most often been a male orientation in common culture.
Yes, I am ambiguous about the concept of “grit”. I have known too many who have ground themselves down to one or two dimensions with grit. I’ve even ground bits of myself away by trying to maintain focus and pushing on an unyielding world to achieve some goal. Needless to say, I have seen very few good examples of people with what I interpret as grit achieving something that I consider worthy. (But that may just be my interpretation of the concept.)
Grit and Flow may be two sides of the same coin. I can only give my point of view, but grit has a…well…gritty, solid feel to it. Maybe when we start something, it is necessary to get the grit out of the gears to achieve flow.
Flow has the feel of water and air and Life
Flow is, ideally, effortless. It requires awareness, but not trying to be aware.
(A short aside: Alan Watts once said, “Zen is as easy as falling off a log. But have you ever tried to fall off a log?”)
There is possibly grit in learning a skill. When the skill has been learned well, there should be a diminished effort for a greater accomplishment. That is the state of flow.
This is the aim of many of the Oriental philosophies, often de-emphasized by Western culture. Though, “flow” has become an element of positive psychology.
Flow is based on an active mindfulness or moving meditation where effort is invisible and unfelt. Movement of mind and body are natural and unstressed. There is a holistic, integrated system in which everything comes together. Wu Wei, the Taoist concept of non-action or “purely natural way of behaving”, is flow.
Where does all of this lead?
CREATIVITY, INTUITION, AND SERENDIPITY.
These terms are often more felt than intellectually defined. As are “grit” and “flow”. Books, papers, and articles have been written on all of these and related, indefinite ideas. Such is the problem with science and philosophy.
This is not meant as a full essay on complex terms. We each know what we feel if we use them. I hope that I have stirred curiosity more than bewilderment.
Unpacking ideas sometimes means just rearranging them in a box.
Thank you. I welcome your thoughts.