How to Not Be a Distracted Puppy – The Myth of Atalanta and the Golden Apples

Sometimes, I feel like a new-born puppy; it feels like I’m seeing and experiencing everything for the first time. From an outsider perspective, I probably look like this:

puppy

In a literal sense, it’s entirely accurate because everything is constantly changing – familiar but continually renewed. But the problem with being consistently sensitive and aware of my surroundings is that I start developing a love and interest for many things. Coupled with the desire to dig deep and master each one of these interests, I often find myself not having enough time to do everything I want to.

My choices may appear to lack coherence, but below the surface, all my pursuits link to the desire to understand and taste life through my own senses, my own experiences, and my own body. More specifically, to be able to communicate effectively is one of my primary (though hidden) motives – whether through words, visual arts, or movement. If I cannot feel something or understand something within my frame, then I’m not sure how I can portray the same sentiment and understanding to someone else. All that is to say, there is order to my madness.

Still, I have troubles finding a way to reconcile my seemingly divergent interests. I often reflect on the Greek Myth of Atalanta and the Golden Apples for perspective. The (very short and brief form of the) story goes, Atalanta was abandoned by her father because she was a girl and raised by a nurturing bear. She became a huntress, a great runner, and a breathtaking woman. The suitors came running, but she refused to marry after an orator prophesized that marriage would be her downfall. Atalanta may or may not have developed the best rejection method: any suitor can challenge her to a race. If they lose, Atalanta kills him (yes, slightly dark), but if the suitor wins, he marries her.

The Race between Atalanta and Hippomenes by Nicolas Colombel

Apple so shiny

None of the suitors won, until Hippomenes. During their race, Hippomenes would throw golden apples in Atalanta’s path. Atalanta, intrigued by the golden apples, slowed down to pick them up. In this way, Atalanta gained three golden apples but lost the race and the life that she imagined for herself.

There are so many ‘Golden Apples’ that get thrown on my path. When choices and opportunities bloom, it’s important to be able to say ‘no’ to good ideas that do not fit or serve the final goal. An indispensable part of building a cohesive life is to reject otherwise good ideas that do not contribute to an integrated whole. Just like decorating a room, incorporating every cool piece of furniture and décor into one single room does not guarantee a well-designed room. On the contrary, a room needs space and only things that contribute to its function – just imagine a stove in a washroom.

If you don’t have an ideal future that you can imagine for yourself, then it’s perfectly okay to say ‘YES’ to the ‘Golden Apples’ that come rolling your way; it’s okay to be like a puppy. But once you can imagine a good future for yourself – and this can include anything from a nutritionally healthy lifestyle, to how you connect to people, to finding work that’s coherent with your beliefs and interests – remember Atalanta and her Golden Apples. If you have your mind set on a particular future already, why strive for something you don’t care for and can still loose? Fear disguised as Practicality, as Jim Carrey says, and we all find ourselves there sometimes.

I will end with this quote:

A good designer isn't afraid to throw away a good idea.
 Just because an interesting idea occurs to you doesn't mean it belongs
 in the building you are designing. Subject very idea, brainstorm, random musing, 
and helpful suggestion to careful, critical consideration. 
Your goal as a designer should be to create an integrated whole, 
not to incorporate all the best features in your building 
whether or not they work together. […] 
Save your good but ill-fitting ideas for another time 
and project - and with the knowledge that they might not work then, either.
- 101 Things I Learned from Architecture School, Matthew Frederick
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