I believe in tabula rasa. Tabula rasa is Latin for “blank slate”, but it represents a theory about the human mind. Aristotle mused on the concept, but an eighteenth century philosopher named John Locke polished it much later. His idea was that everyone enters this world as a blank slate and their personality and mind are then molded by their experiences.
I didn’t even speak until I was two. My older brother always got whatever I needed. He’d get ketchup for my french fries or retrieve a toy I’d thrown, all without any request or complaint from me. I hadn’t had an experience that would make me talk, so I didn’t.
My mom always tells me how I used to have big blue eyes. I was an anomaly, my grandpa is the only other person with blue eyes in my entire family. I was and am the epitome of tabula rasa. A big-blue-eyed baby soaking in everything around him. My eyes have become more proportioned to my body as I’ve grown, but they’re still adept at soaking everything in.
When I was a freshman at my high school Judge Memorial, I entered a different environment that, in turn, brought its different influences. As a football player, there are certain immutable taboos that exist. Number one on that list: the freshmen do all the dirty work. This includes wrapping your lanky pre-pubescent arms around five or six tackling dummies and scaling the stadium stairs on your way to the bus. Or in this case, hoisting a jug to the shower faucet and filling it with enough water to potentially maintain a decent sized aquarium.
I was running late, definitely not a good way to impress future varsity coaches. I hustled over to the showers with one sock on and got the water jug. The varsity players filed out of the locker room on their way to a scrimmage. Except one. Lewis Walker was a captain and senior; he had no business with the likes of me. “Dang” he said as he saw my task, “that’s gonna take forever. Here I’ll help.” My big blue eyes popped out of my head when I saw him take two water bottles and fill them in the sink, walk back to the shower, and dump them in the jug. He made about fifteen trips by the time it was filled, then he helped carry it down to the field before slipping his cleats on and warming up.
Sure, it seems insignificant, but it showed me what kind of an impact an older kid can make on a younger teammate. The all-state star made me want to do the same for younger kids. In this way I have realized we are blank slates all our life. We are canvasses awaiting the splatter of an artist’s brush, but we can also be the artist. The concept of tabula rasa should make people think about what kind of paint is on their palette. I’d recommend blue.
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