Ultimate Insight Is The Booby Prize Of Life

A variation of the above phrase wandered past me in email today, and I wondered if the writer had made it up, or if it was one of those long-lived Internet-revived quatable-quotes kinda deals.
A review of Stephen Yenser’s “The Consuming Myth, The Work of James Merrill,” provides the title quote:

The est people used to say “Ultimate insight is the booby prize of life.” We would guess that the booby prize for an American poet is to have some scholarly University Press put out a 350 page, closely printed, totally cryptic, highly footnoted, turgid, dogmatic investigation of one’s works.

I wonder if they liked the poetry, even if they didn’t like the book. Richard Stayton’s interview with “writer’s therapist” Dennis Palumbo is interesting:

Now, the thing about writers is that they’re so therapized. They’ve been in therapy for years, and they’ll lay out a lot of their family dynamics for me. But as I always say, “Insight’s the booby-prize of therapy.” That means change doesn’t come from insight. You need insight and awareness to understand what’s going on. But change comes from courage, the risk of challenging those meanings everyday. If you’re someone who believes, for example, that if you get angry you’re a bad person, then you could have all the insight in the world as to where that comes from when you were a child. But every day you’re going to have to risk showing a little anger and seeing that people around you don’t fall over dead. And until you challenge that as an adult and go, “Wow, I got angry, and my loved ones still love me. Nobody thinks I’m a killer, and it doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person.” Until you challenge that in the here and now, you’re not gonna change.

Working on it, dude. Tracy A. Turner has an interesting (and detailed) page on distinctions :

The ability to create and draw distinctions is one of the most powerful and empowering abilities that human beings have. To be able to distinguish does not mean that we separate what we distinguish, it means that we perceive clearly, we differentiate, we discriminate, or discern. The distinctions of transformation are unique and demand rigor. If you’ve ever participated in an arena that creates and supports transformation, from religion to some corporate cultures, you’ll recognize some of these distinctions. Many of these will be familiar to any transformational graduates, including the Forum at Landmark Education.

Insight vs. Breakthrough – 1. The booby prize. 2. A breakthrough is what occurs when you take committed action on an insight.

Abundance – 1. When you experience your experience, there is no lack.

Acceptance – 1. It’s where we start to make a difference. 2. No good or bad, no right or wrong. 3. Being with. 4. Accepting that there is nothing we can do about the past. 5. Beyond acceptance is responsibility.

I can relate to that! Have you heard of The Association of Happiness for All Mankind (AHAM)? I hadn’t, but that’s a great mission statement, encoded right there in the name of the organization. Their page on experience begins:

“Intellectual understanding is not enough, it is only knowing ‘about’ a thing. It is the booby prize. You must experience whatever it is you think you know. Only by thoroughly and completely experiencing your experience will genuine Completion actually occur.” – Arunachala Ramana

There’s a ton of hard-to-pronounce words on their site. Must be serious. Finally, speaker and consultant Richard Thieme says:

Understanding how the system works is the booby prize. Using that understanding to make a difference is the prize – and that requires timing and the ability to enter the system, build trust, and use that window of opportunity to intervene in appropriate ways to shift behaviors in desired directions. So energy and information will flow in a way that’s aligned with the leader’s objectives.

Rock on, he said.