Courting Failure

I can trace our falling out
To the day she failed to hear me
When I said, “I am afraid of failure
But the prize is worth the risk,”
And, said she, wholeheartedly,
“I agree, that nothing’s worse
than failure.”

I failed to hear her first, of course,
As she had not heard me,
And so I blundered on and said
I needed her beside me
To push me on, despite the chance
That I might stumble and collapse
Into the mire of failure.

She took my hand and smiled at me
And said, “Of course, I’ll do anything
To keep you from the airy paths,
To pull you back when you come, free,
To the precipice of failure.”

And so our road divided when
We faced a choice of cliff or fen:
I said, “Well, push me on,” and she
Cried out, “no, wait, come back to me!”
We curse each other still, and wince
At failures that have followed since
From follies that could not be seen
For fear of courting failure.

Click

I am extremely envious of my wife, who is able to achieve a moderately high level of productiveness, constantly, all day long.  She gets up at seven and works steadily all day, and then crashes precipitously exactly twelve hours later, leaving me at my own recognizances for putting children quietly to bed. The next day, same results.  My own productivity runs more like those Halloween costume stores you see in October.  No one knows where they came from, but they do a bang up job for an extremely short period of time before disappearing into the night.

I have to wait for the click.

Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is a surprisingly useful piece of literature for reflection.  In it, Brick Pollitt spends the majority of the play drinking, in pursuit of “the click,” a certain peaceful state of mind.  Fortunately, alcohol has nothing like that effect on me, but I find I am only really productive after a similar click, where I enter in to a flow where I become insanely productive for several hours.

What gets me there is quiet meditation, so it’s something like a Zen state.  Only thinking about nothing is not a valid kind of meditation.  Prayer works, and singing.  But mostly for me it’s reading.  Especially when I’m stressed, I wake up and it hurts.  Nothing physical, but my mind is out of joint.  Mentally, I’m thirsty.  I need to read.

Reading scripture is best; it leads to praise and prayer, but I usually start with popcorn text: Facebook, Twitter. Thoughtful articles on various blogs.  Long-form investigative reporting. Then scripture.  Then Bible commentary.  Slowly inching up, widening my aperture for thought.  Then: click.  I can think.  Widely, broadly, productively.  Occasionally, practically.

Under stress, from a hard start, it’s a process that can take 3-4 hours.  I don’t usually get 3-4 hours. But I get what I can with the time that I have, hiding in a makeshift study somewhere, building up reserves until I’m interrupted by some event, called upon to react.

I don’t like being reactive; much better to wait for the click; ten times the productivity.  But so hard to get together the necessary blocks of time.

Caffeine helps, of course.  It kind of jump starts the entire process.  With a sufficiently large dose of caffeine, I can skip straight past meditation into 2-3 hours of reactive productivity.  Very useful in my line of work.  But there are diminishing returns.  Too much caffeine and the mind is dizzy the next morning.  Always better to wait for the click.

Sometimes I think that I might get similar results from a few hours of intimate conversation, but it’s been a very long while since I could test it.  So many conversations are… reactive instead of meditative.

So there it is.  Is this introversion?  I’m not really hiding from people.  The need to be kind draws me out.  But I’m thirsty for the flow state, always waiting for the click.

Guaranteed income

 

Swiss proposed bill for guaranteed income

I’m actually in favor of this. It’s a pretty big improvement on a network of programs you have to qualify for and which have to be administered by bureaucrats. It’s also a lot more fair, because it goes out to everybody, whether they need it or not. The big mistake here is that they’re shooting too high for an initial program. A monthly income of $2600 is just a couple of kilocreds more than the Swiss median income, which means the proposal will shock people into opposing it who might be interested in supporting it at a lower dollar amount. Why not start with a guaranteed income of $50?

In the US, of course there are other complications. No not socialism. We’ve already got that, with the earned income tax credit, and the standard income deduction. I mean, federalism, what little there is left of it. It’s bad enough having a personal relationship with our savior the IRS, in which they giveth and taketh away, and nobody can say to them, “what have you done”. At least most everybody knows the tax man is scary: He can garnish your wages, put liens on your property, and freeze your bank account (abolish the 16th amendment!). What happens to poor federalism when Uncle Sam starts moving in from his avuncular role and starts applying for custody? Do the kids want him? Well, yes. He gives them candy. But where does he get the candy? Well, he steals it from the states.

I’d like to see a rudimentary guaranteed income. It’s an interesting idea. But let’s have a city try it, a county; maybe a state. The fed doesn’t have to adopt us for everything, does it?

Oh for Hands That I Might Draw

Coming home from work, just down the street from my own church, is a little Disciples of Christ church with a single word on it’s marquee: “Indeed.”  Now, of course, we just passed Easter, so that is the final word of the famous Easter greeting:
“Christ is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”
Probably what happened is that they had the full phrase up on Easter morning, and that since then either wind or hands have taken down all the other letters.  But it occurs to me that, in the right context, one word is enough.  Is Christ risen?  Emphatically: “Indeed.”
Now, if if I had hands that could draw, this would be the time.  Otherwise I can only wish for a T-shirt: One large image in a line-art style, of the empty tomb, dust still rising from a cracked and fallen Stone. Below, in bold letters, just the word: “INDEED.”  If any clarification is needed, the image could be on the back, with two lines of text on the front, above the heart: “Christ is risen./ He is risen”
I know I have friends that can draw…. ?

Love vs. Comradeship

Both sides are essential to life; and both are known in differing degrees to everybody of every age or sex. But very broadly speaking it may still be said that women stand for the dignity of love and men for the dignity of comradeship. I mean that the institution would hardly be expected if the males of the tribe did not mount guard over it. The affections in which women excel have so much more authority and intensity that pure comradeship would be washed away if it were not rallied and guarded in clubs, corps, colleges, banquets and regiments. Most of us have heard the voice in which the hostess tells her husband not to sit too long over the cigars. It is the dreadful voice of Love, seeking to destroy Comradeship.

– GK Chesterton, What’s Wrong With The World 

CS Lewis says similar things, but I think he uses friendship instead of comradeship, to oppose to romantic love.

None of that sort on our side.

Today I found this passage strangely comforting:

They looked suspiciously at Caspian, but in the end the eldest of them said, “If he is against Miraz, we’ll have him for King.” And the next oldest said, “Shall we go farther for you, up to the crags? There’s an Ogre or two and a Hag that we could introduce to you, up there.”

“Certainly not,” said Caspian.

“I should think not, indeed,” said Trufflehunter.  “We want none of that sort on our side.” Nikabrik disagreed with this, but Trumpkin and the Badger overruled him…

“We should not have Aslan for friend if we brought in that rabble,” said Trufflehunter as they came away from the cave of the Black Dwarfs.

“Oh, Aslan!” said Trumpkin, cheerily but contemptuously. “What matters much more is that you wouldn’t have me.”

“Do you believe in Aslan?” said Caspian to Nikabrik.

“I’ll believe in anyone or anything,” said Nikabrik, “that’ll batter these cursed Telmarine barbarians to pieces or drive them out of Narnia.  Anyone or anything, Aslan, or the White Witch, do you understand?”

“Silence, silence,” said Trufflehunter. “You do not know what you are saying.  She was a worse enemy than Miraz and all his race.”

“Not to Dwarfs, she wasn’t,” said Nikabrik.

It occurs to me that Nikabrik is very… angry.

Tempest in a Saucepan

We have a few pots in the house, from our wedding gifts, from the brand Calphalon, which I understand is something of a snooty piece of cookware.  But all I can think of whenever I see that label, is poor Prospero, and how badly he fared at the hands of the Bureau of Sabotage.  But then I remember that it’s all right, because at least Captain Kirk got away, even if the doctor didn’t.