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Step Into the Sunlight, But Don’t Look Into the Sun

This entry is part 8 of 14 in the series Intermediate Angst

“The practice of sungazing is dangerous. Looking directly at the sun for even brief periods of time may cause blindness or severe damage to the eye.” ~ Wick Her Pedia

We don't look directly at the Sun -- even during a total eclipse -- without special equipment.

We don’t look directly at the Sun — even during a total eclipse — without special equipment.

One of my favorite things to do is go to high or wide open places and look at stuff. I love looking at planes, helicopters, far-off buildings, women getting dressed inside said buildings wait…

No, don’t worry. I don’t even like women. Liking women is for poofters.


OK, no, so, I was playing frisbee in the park the other day, frisbee play being interspersed with breaks to look at helicopters flying overhead. And it occurred to me how beautiful the day was and how much I was enjoying and benefitting from the sunlight (I take my Vitamin D intake very seriously). And it also occurred to me how, while I was enjoying the sun and it was (and is) directly or indirectly powering all life on Earth, I wasn’t looking at it. At all.

I was looking at what it shone upon; I was looking at discs and dogs and kids and couples making out. But I wasn’t looking at the Sun.

One doesn’t simply look at the Sun.

You enjoy the sun. You know it’s there. You’re unsure whether or not to capitalize it. You feel it. You’re bathed in its warmth — even at night.

But you don’t look at it. 1

So, yeah, I love looking at stuff. Recently, I even purchased a “fieldscope” to aid in the purpose. The warning label on my fieldscope (which is optical geekspeak for a monocular/portable telescope) reads (in Japanese): Do not look at Sun, may cause loss of sight, you raving poof.

A welcome, if excessively homophobic warning. I don’t know about you, but I’ll be writing a stern letter of disapproval to the poofs at Vixen who manufacture the scope, and tell them to get their act together.

You need the sun. You love the sun. If you’re of English ancestry, you gladly risk chronic illness just to get some more of it. But even then, you don’t look at it.

Big goals are a lot like that. Big goals like, oh, native-like fluency.
Just as looking directly at the sun can cause visual blindness, looking directly at big goals can cause schlep blindness.

It’s nice to know that the big goal is there, but often it’s too big and shiny and 93 million miles away and overwhelming in its awesomeness to be gazed at directly, certainly without safety gear.

The big, central goal, the sun around which our actions presumably orbit, can overwhelm and disorient us with its size and power and magnitude. We wonder, rightfully, “how could we possibly get there from here?!”. It’s just too much to take in. Our minds, our bodies, cannot process it, cannot fathom it. We reel at the mere idea and coil up like a little centipede; we seek refuge in mindless TV, cigarettes and alcohol, because — despite their concomitant disadvantages — these escapes are so doable. They make sense. We can win at them.

The Sun is too bright to look at. It can literally, physically hurt to look directly at the big goal. Looking at the metaphorical sun can throw you into a dizzying tailspin of despair and avoidance.
So don’t. Look, that is. Enjoy the biggie 2, but don’t look at it.
Focus back here.
This one word.
This one action.
This one click.
This is all that exists. This is all that matters.

Do not look directly at goal. May cause schlep blindness. Unless you have special tools (e.g. a lifetime calendar — analogous to eclipse-viewing glasses) and a specific reason, do not look at the Sun. You must not if you want to keep your mental vision intact and thus keep being able to see that paths and opportunities that are right in front of you, right underfoot. Call it the “Solar Principle” 3.

And this “Solar Principle” is probably why you’re better off not sharing your goals with people 4. Not necessarily because you can’t deal with it — although that’s often true ^^ — but because they can’t…handle the (whole) truth. So if you want their cooperation, or simply non-interference as the case may be, don’t blind the poor bastards.

Perhaps you now have the mental equipment to look directly at the psychological sun, but they don’t, and you’re hurting them by shining it in their faces 5. And this doesn’t make them bad people. They’re not “dream stealers”; they’re not “energy vampires”; they’re not “monsters”; they’re just…not ready to look right at the sun; it’s too much of a shock to their fragile systems and that’s fine; they can still enjoy the light and warmth. Work them through it, baby steps, like a frog in progressively warmer water, and before you know it, you can have them in a compound in Guyana committing mass suicide with you and their children…

Too soon? 😛

No, but, seriously, like blinders on a racehorse, you can take yourself and other people to any extreme of excellence or lameness if you merely narrow the mental focus away from the debilitatingly magnitudinous core goal and towards productive, forward-moving, helpful minutiae 6. In other words: don’t even try to brush your teeth, just put the toothbrush in your mouth. Let the full truth be something that emerges — something you allow to emerge — rather than something you go out and declare.

It is neither possible nor necessary nor helpful to tell the whole truth. Not to yourself and certainly not to other people (who, I assure you, have immeasurably little interest in you and your life 7). It can’t be done. You don’t even know the names of the chemicals that are in your body. You don’t introduce yourself by your full, government name. When I ask you what time it is, you don’t give it to me in seconds, let alone nanoseconds. You probably even round up the minutes, you mendacious knave, you! 8 Many things are true, but that doesn’t mean they need be said, noted or acknowledged regularly if at all: ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

In politics and espionage and stuff, they talk about things being on a “need-to-know” basis. Well, let me hit you with some knowledge, sister: when it comes to you and your goals, not only do people not need to know, they don’t even want to know; knowing would simply harm and annoy them. Don’t be fooled by the questions. It’s small-talk 9. No one actually wants to know; they want to feel important and included; they want the privilege of being privy, but this is a thirst for love, status and acceptance, not knowledge. If they truly wanted to know something, they would read a book, not ask you idle questions.

To recap: don’t look at the sun unless and until you have the equipment to do so, and don’t show it to other people until they do as well (but feel free to enjoy and share little rays of sunlight here and there). So, you’re not learning Japanese any more, you’re just here learning this one word. You’re just tinkering. Maybe the next word will be a Japanese one, too, but that’s neither here nor there.

Avert your eyes!

Series Navigation<< Intermediate Goals, Mini-DreamsGetting There Is Also Your Life >>


  1. Even though the Sun’s light was instrumental to both my frisbee game and my continued respiration (oxygen, photosynthesis, you know how we do), I unconsciously but assiduously avoided eye contact, treating the Sun as if it were…an ugly girl at a party. Except she’s the hostess, so I was doing this to her in her own house. Very cruel. Sick and wrong.
  2. “Discipline is remembering what you want.” ~ David Campbell
  3. Kind of reminiscent of how, in Greek mythology, mortals would keel over and die like wittle canaries if they saw residents of Mount Olympus and other such beings in their true form.
  4. Although, I have heard the opposite advice from smart, successful people as well, so probably both strategies are “true” in that both work. Indeed, strategies and tactics are never “true” or “false”, they just either work or they don’t.
  5. Although, at the same time, as a man named Jerry Gillies recently put it: “You can’t be afraid to spread your wings just because someone close to you might get a faceful of feathers.”
  6. ((((DO SOMETHING!) SMALL) USEFUL) NOW!). There’s a reason why the people who serve you at McDonald’s don’t see or refer to the corporate business plan. It would just get in the way of their being helpful.
  7. Basically, nobody thinks well of you and nobody thinks ill of you, because…(drum roll) nobody thinks of you, period. “What’s in it for me?” is the perennial human question. You are the top story in just about nobody else’s mind, give or take some rounding error and brief flashes on the order of seconds.
  8. True story: when I was a kid — like 5~7 — I used to think that not giving the exact time in minutes was lying!!! No joke 😉
  9. Arguably, your BHAGs don’t belong in situations where people are “launching the feces“…or maybe they do, I dunno…

  12 comments for “Step Into the Sunlight, But Don’t Look Into the Sun

  1. Dustin
    May 1, 2013 at 11:39

    Excellent. Love all the posts recently, thanks for amping up the (critical) frequency.

  2. フレヂィ
    May 1, 2013 at 23:40

    Dayumn! That was a nice one. Well put.

    ~ fv

  3. sarcasticすみません
    May 4, 2013 at 18:22

    Love all your recent posts, but where has the random article feature gone?
    That was pretty amazing. I spent afternoons using that. Please bring it back, Khatzさま!

  4. Tyson
    May 4, 2013 at 22:53

    Glad to see this post and this series which I haven’t read before. Very good reading when on the long road of intermediate.

    Strangely discovered that after recently hitting 2700 hanzi (90% done!) it’s leaving me feeling glass half empty rather than glass half full. It’s taken nearly 12 months to get here and I feel like the big goal is still a long way ahead.

    Gonna focus on just doing another 100 a week for the next 3 weeks. Then whatever comes next comes next.

    Also, you linked to a video on TED and I’ve discovered that some of the videos have Chinese subtitles now. Awesome. Can turn the sound down and watch them to my hearts content.

  5. May 5, 2013 at 09:57

    Hey Khatz,
    I’m a new reader and first time commenter hoping for opinions either from you or anyone else.

    Long story short, I live with a Hong Kong family in New York and after reading your site a lot more in depth I’ve spent the past month and a half ACATT (All Cantonese ATT). My learning is speeding up and my previous two years of learning by trial and error is now getting replaced by Anki deck character study, watching movies without English subtitles and listening to way more Cantonese on Youtube whether I understand it or not (about two or three hours every day like this). It was a great feeling when after two or three days my brain just accepted the input and didn’t fight back!!! It was almost tangible pain at first focusing and listening for over 40 minutes, but now it’s just regular background noise.

    Here’s the reason for my post, I’ve noticed in the middle of a movie my mind will just come up with a thought (冇問題, 飛快 or short phrases like this) and then a SPLIT SECOND LATER the characters in the movie will speak them. Is it just me?!! It freaks me out and I know I’m not psychic but it’s happened about three or four times in the past few days. How is my mind predicting what the characters will say in a language I’m not even close to understanding, in a movie I haven’t seen before?

    My only reasoning is that there is a conscious level of thought running parallel to a much-faster subconscious and that the second part is franticly piecing together bits of information. Maybe I listened to one part of a movie for two seconds just in passing, and then I rewound back to the beginning. When the movie continued my mind was still locked on those initial two seconds when they arrived half an hour later (like Deja Vu in a different language)? Maybe certain social situations get repeated and only four or five phrases would suffice, causing my mind to predict them before they happen?

    If this happened to anyone else let me know, it trips me out a bit. Otherwise thank you Khazumoto for looking at language development as a specific lifestyle instead of something out of a book or random audio cd. If anyone is new to this site and questioning the methods, just do it, like Nike. Don’t be a baby and accept everything as it comes, hard work will get you further to where you want to be.

    • Jicheal Mackson
      June 9, 2013 at 22:53

      Because your mind is doing overtime 24/7 and never shuts off. It’s constantly making reference points to link back to, no matter how small or insignificant those points are. It’s how you learned language as a child, without SRS, without even having a base language to build off of, without a Baby to English Oxford dictionary etc.

      It’s part of the reason this process works. Because people believe you have to be a child to do immersion and are to scared to attempt this no one knows that it works. However, obviously you need to be in the “trenches” for it work. It isn’t even requirement to speak Japanese in Japan or Chinese in China, you could get around fine and come back not speaking a lick better. It’s all about exposure, and forced exposure at that.

      • June 13, 2013 at 00:11

        Happens to me all the time in English. (I’m not a native speaker.)
        You should be proud, it means you must be doing something right!

        • June 14, 2013 at 08:02

          Thanks for the support guys. I’m still grinding but now have a new job which cuts into my Cantonese-focus time. =/

          I’m glad to hear I wasn’t the only one feeling ‘psychic language occurrences’ in the middle of a six hour high-speed language binge.

  6. Joelle Godfrey
    May 6, 2013 at 08:52

    I wish you had had this post 2 years ago. This is great advice. Thank you!

  7. May 10, 2013 at 03:02

    With the end of the school year soon approaching, I know of many students who need the kind of mental focus you talk about here. Sometimes it’s hard, yes, but everyone is capable of it. I really like how you compare goals to the sun as well! Good article.

  8. Chandler
    June 1, 2013 at 12:21

    Wow, another piece of art by Khatzumoto – but I must say, this article surprised me most out of every other I’d ever read.

    His links, that philosophy, our comprehension and the all together brilliance.
    Well done Khatz, you’ve outdone yourself this time. ^^

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