One phrase that I remember from veterinary school is “form follows function”. I don’t remember whether that was spoken by Dr. Masty in comparative ruminant anatomy, Dr. Greene in Intro to Radiology, or Dr. Krakowka in Pathology and Biology of Disease, but I think I heard it that autumn of 2012. Of course it’s also possible that I read it in a text book, and none of those people ever said it to me. It’s been nearly a decade since that first year and so much of it is a blur now.
Regardless of the source of that expression, it stuck with me and recently I’ve been considering it in other contexts. I think it’s a violation of this principle that explains the internal tension I feel over lifted trucks with wide wheels that never see anything but the highway, the ache of disappointment when I open Instagram, and Holden Caulfield’s refrain of everyone being “phony”.
So much of our lives are filled with impression management. We desperately seek to hide our insecurities through carefully curated profile pictures and vacation highlight reels. We laugh at Dwight’s unfettered ambition to be named Assistant Office Manager (rather than Assistant To The Office Manager), and yet we are doing the exact same thing in our neverending quest for status.
“Just a sliver more of that, and a little less of the other, and I’ll feel all better”.
We’ve become experts at maintaining a form of life without building the underlying function.
I think it was about this time of year, five years gone now, that I sat with Dr. Krakowka in his backyard in Columbus Ohio. Over a beer or two, and the course of an evening, we talked about pathology, and philosophy, and life in general. I don’t remember all of our conversation, but I remember him insisting that I should read a certain book, one I had never heard of, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
There was an abundance of reading material during that time in veterinary school, so I was in no rush to add yet another title to the laundry list of things I ought to read.
Several months later, while collecting my cap and tassel from the University bookstore, I saw the very same book Dr. K had spoke of. I had a few extra dollars left on my school account (useful for paying for printing, but I wouldn’t need much more of that as I was graduating) so I purchased the text.
I at first found it to be rather boring, so I only read a couple chapters and gave up. But because Dr. K had spoken so highly of it, I opened it again and engaged with it.
It seemed disjointed to me, like it lacked direction, because that is precisely the plight of the protagonist. He is lost. He is tired. He isn’t sure whether he can connect to the world around him anymore. Fragmented memories haunt him and he often sees the “ghost” of who he used to be.
It’s been one decade since I first went to The University of Idaho. Ten years can seem like a very short time, but at this point in my life – setting off for the north was nearly a third of my entire life-experience ago, and I’m no longer the same person.
In the last couple years, I’ve had a few of these ghostly experiences. It always happened after some particularly strong memory was triggered. I experienced a wave of emotions, the very same emotions that were with me years ago during the formation of that memory. What made the experience strange, was becoming aware of how much I have changed since then. Not in an overbearing way, but just seeing that the choices Daniel made then, are not always the same choices I would make now, and by extrapolation – everyone else in those memories has also gone extraordinary change in the same time.
Will I even remember writing this in another ten years? What will I think then of how I choose to interact, or not, with my son Ivan, who not able to do much of anything right now at only 2 months old. What about my eldest Katarina, turning 2 years old in just a couple weeks and full of joyful fire? How will today’s choices carry through the next short decade, during which we will all change again?
Pouring of liquids has mildly fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I think it’s the grace that is in the flow of a small stream, the way it bends and bubbles around the rocks, and especially how it maintains a shape as it falls short distances.
I remember one occasion where my chore allotment was to wash dishes after dinner. I was dreading how long it would take (it was always longer than sweeping the floor or clearing the table) and rather than buckling down and washing, I began playing with the water. I poured cup full after cup full of water into the plastic drying basin (looked like this) and watched the water flow from the little holes in the cutlery pockets.
The water at first flowed straight, and fast, from those little holes, but as the tub emptied, the angle changed and the point-of-impact of the three little streams changed as well. I spent so long playing like this that the water grew cool, and dad came in the kitchen and asked if I was ok. It was bedtime and I still hadn’t finished my chores.
I had opportunities to pour more fluids than just dirty dishwater as I grew older, and they all pour a little differently. Cold milk flows quite a bit differently than hot tea. Engine oil and and gasoline are vastly different. And of course, the lip and shape of containers I poured from had a great impact on how the fluids flowed.
Over time this became a game for me, and watching my dad, a chemist with a steady hand pour exquisitely well, I always tried to free-hand it.
I went out to spray some ant-hills yesterday, and as I went to transfer the solution from one half-full container to the other half-full container, I felt like using a funnel. I’ve used funnels many times before, when the costs of spilling solution were higher than a little cleanup of milk or petrol, but this time I didn’t really need the funnel – it just seemed natural to use it.
It struck me in that moment that something has changed in me, and I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened. Maybe it is the influence of the woodworking, and conscientiously taking extra time and effort to use the circular saw “just so”. Maybe it is an effect of fatherhood, and watching my daughter uncannily imitate my motions and words. Maybe it is from owning a business and being aware that seemingly insignificant choices, and changes, amplified over time, can influence a large ship.
Whatever may be the cause, my lifestream will continue to change as it flows through shallow sandy beds, turbulent stoney outcroppings, and quiet pools.
There is no going backward in this flow. There is no stopping of this river.
There is the chance to prepare yourself. The chance to train and be ready for the many rocks that lay ahead. The chance to move lithely through those terrors rather than smashed and broken upon them.
I am finding that most of my decisions are made with enough data, and this is a different perspective on a trend I have been aware of for a handful of years now.
I want more data for my decisions, and I have continually wanted more data since I graduated veterinary school. Honestly it started before graduation. I was working as a Kennel Assistant (caring for dogs and cats, and cleaning their kennels, on Saturdays and some holidays) for a successful veterinarian in Columbus Ohio.
He took time to mentor me, making my work in the kennels much more valuable for me than just learning how to pill cats and dogs, and getting paid $9 an hour. Discussing the bloodwork on a case, and the unknown factors, I told him how I felt.
I felt like I was in a dark room, and I could see just past the end of my nose. I was looking for something, and the only way to find it was to reach out into the darkness, beyond how far I could see, and take hold of it. My mentor’s response suprised me – he said “don’t worry, after a decade in practice I still feel that way”.
Ah, I was hoping that he was just trying to make me feel better about my ignorance of many things. I was hoping that feeling would subside over time, but nearly 4 years into this arena and it hasn’t gone away. It’s kind of like a shapeshifter. Every time I solve a problem, every time I learn a system, every time I grasp the issue, I find a deeper level of meaning waiting to be understood.
So now I am learning to follow the rest of my mentor’s advice and to abide that uncertainty and make the best decision with what I have, and then learn more, and decide again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Iterate.
Don’t let the uncertainty paralyze you. You may have enough data.
What good is a single bucket of water on a house fire?
If you had that single bucket of water, would you pour it on the house aflame? Or would you put it on the wall of house next door, to help prevent it from catching? Or would you offer it as a drink to the other people fighting the fire?
Just don’t despise your single bucket of water. Use it. Then go fill it again and use it again.
Bob Dylan was able to tell an entire story in just a few lines of verse. It’s an absolutely beautiful thing. Take the first verse of The Times They Are a Changin.
A repetitious and technically basic guitar strumming carries the song. It is just fast enough to make you to cause some internal tension, but it never sounds rushed. He calls out far and wide “come gather ’round people wherever you roam” and asks them to reevaluate their position in society and in life “and admit that the waters around you have grown”.
He spends just a little extra time to draw out his question – “if your time to you is worth saving” and follows it rapidly with his own answer “then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone”, but this game of question and answer is just a lead up to what he really wants to say. “The times they are a changin”, which he accents with a blast from his harmonica. This is the centerpiece of all of the song.
That is a truly outstanding level of storytelling. Bob is compelling and leaves you with a chill, and the entire song is less barely over three minutes long.
However, today I also want to talk about another artist, and a specific song that has blessed me many times, and just yesterday I was singing it very loudly in the truck. It has such a well-crafted first verse, that can be written in two distinct, yet equally true and beautiful, ways.
Consider the first verse – “I am weary with the pain of Jacob’s wrestling, in the darkness with a fear” – describing the state of being and then referencing this very famous story immediately gives us an entire perspective on that state. Not just weary, but weary as one would be after years of self-seeking and deceiving family members, years of living in fear, working incredibly hard for a goal only to be conned out of it by his own uncle. And then the next line in the song is magnificently written – because it can be written in two distinct ways and either way is completely accurate.
Option 1. “But He met the mourning-wounded with a blessing, so in the night, my hope lives on”. I take this to mean that He (Christ) met the mourning and wounded man (Jacob) with a blessing. As you know in the story, Jacob wrestled all night long and would not let go of Christ, and his (Jacob’s) hip was thrown out of socket and he received a blessing, a new name, from Christ. Therefore the hope of the songwriter lives on because even though he may be wounded and mourning, Christ will bless him in due time.
Option 2. “But he met the morning, wounded, with a blessing, so in the night my hope lives on”. Reading it this way, I can see a focus on Jacob wrestling all night long, and not letting go. He (Jacob) made it all night long, and even though he was wounded, he received a blessing when the morning came. In this case the songwriter takes heart in remembering the suffering of Jacob, now and his hope will live through the night because he has the example of Jacob to remember.
I don’t know which way Andrew Peterson thinks of when he sings this song, but it blesses me as it is.
I thought that, by now, this would be easier. I expected that after a hundred public posts, I wouldn’t feel any more fear sharing my thoughts.
Kind of like preg-checking cows. I thought that the pain was going to go away from that too. My arms were bruised, sore, and swollen for the first few weeks on this job. Early on, every next cow was yet another stab of pain. In the same way, the first posts here made me sweat a little, made me second guess myself at every little sound of an incoming email or text. It was that thought, way in the back of my mind, saying it would be someone angry at me for something I wrote, saying it would be someone telling me how wrong I am.
I don’t feel like I am injured on every cow anymore. Sometimes it still hurts, sometimes my wrist has still ached, and my forearm occasionally tender, but it is manageable. The pain doesn’t prevent me from doing my job anymore. The pain is there. The pain is real. There are even many things I do now to prevent injury ….but the pain is not what guides me.
And also with these posts. The fear must still be addressed. Like a feral dog just outside the light, the temptation to hide, to mince my words, to water down my thoughts, to avoid saying the hard things, to make everything a little softer than I truly believe it should be – is still there.
There is a time for soft words, and there is a time to speak the hard things. Proverbs 27 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. That isn’t a very pleasant picture to my mind – two pieces of iron grinding against one another. I don’t find it comfortable to think about being one of those blades, and yet as I mature, I find good coming from that place of conflict. Not always comfortable, not always pleasant, but good.
I’ve been holding onto a hundred different ropes. Every one of them is a thread running to something in my life – something that I believe has potential. Something wild to be taken and tamed. It’s high time to let go of some of those ropes.
All this time, I am eagerly anticipating that day when I defeat a Bengal tiger at the end of one of those ropes.
Anyone can subdue a lamb. Many have tied up a calf. It is nothing extraordinary to catch a squirrel.
The future belongs to the one who bears the gaze of the tiger, and then binds it.
I’ve been waiting and preparing for that life or death dance with that proud beast.
The myriad of squawking chickens and noisy toy monkeys on the end of my ropes are distractions. It’s time to let them go.
It’s time, with both hands, to take hold of the line that leads directly to the snapping jaws.
I once reviewed some promotional material for LASIK surgery. The video was from a partnership of opthamologists that specialized in that type of surgery. One of their biggest selling points was the hefty years of combined experience of the group.
They went on to even brag that no one on their team had less than some number of years (I don’t remember for sure but I think it was at least 5 years). I thought it was great they could have such an experienced team, but I grew concerned when one of the senior partners said, on the video, that he believed you should never get LASIK surgery performed by someone who did not already have years of experience.
I thought this was a strange thing to say. It angered me.
How could someone ever get any experience, in a world where only those with prior experience get the chance?
How did this fellow talking justify his early days, his first experiences? Should those patients have never let him perform those first surgeries? Taken one step further, why should someone ever let a surgeon with 5 years of experience operate on them, when there is a surgeon with 6 years of experience also available?
Can’t we culturally make room for people just starting out?
Can’t we allow others into the game, even if they are going to make some mistakes along the way?
Where is the novice in our cultural story? Where is the space for the person showing up, failing, and still showing up again.
We need a retelling of Rocky, of someone going the distance, irrespective of whether they win or lose.
When I had only 17 years to my age, almost half a lifetime ago for me now, I spent a day volunteering at the District 4 Headquarters for The Ohio Department of Natural Resources. There were three of us, and we were taken in the employees’ only section to an empty conference room where several boxes sat full of papers on the large wooden table. Our supervising officer showed us how to take a paper from box 1, fold it into a paper from box 2, slip them both into an envelope from box 3 and then use the little sponge to make the sticky stuff sticky and close the envelope.
For the next several hours we did just that. Fold, stuff, seal, repeat. Those little envelopes would be picked up later by the postal service and sent all across the state to former patrons, asking them all once again for their money and support to the ODNR.
There was no glamour. There was nothing exciting. It was simply something that needed done, and we were willing to do it in order to make the connection with the district officers. I even felt like I was contributing to a distasteful part of our society (junk mail) but I convinced myself these letters were much less junky than all those that were simply selling something. Yes we were asking for money, but it was for a good cause.
At one point, we took a break and spent a few minutes peaking through the nearby rooms. Its true that we were “in the back” in the employees’ only section, but we figured we sort of classified as temporarily in the employ of the ODNR, plus the rooms were on our way to and from the bathroom.
Well my friend Jerrod noticed a coat rack in the one of the other rooms, and hanging up on that rack was that unmistakable symbol of the Ohio Wildlife Officer, a forest green jacket. This one was the winter model, complete with the fur lining around the neck. We stood in awe for a second and then Jerrod took it and put it on. One by one we tried it on, the coat worn by those select few who had achieved what we all dreamed, to be a game warden.
I was suprised at how I felt when I put it on. I immediately knew that it was too large for me. I wasn’t ready to wear that coat. I was just a kid, and someone in that position had a heck of a lot more experience, wisdom, and age than I did. I was an imposter. Now at 31 years old I am learning more and more that I can never, ever, be ready for every situation.
I am learning the art of navigating troubled waters. I am learning to live with the flames close by. I am learning to walk in the light that I have, even when all else is dark around.
In the last few months I have been reading novels again. I read the first three of the Dune series; Dune, Dune Messiah and finally Children of Dune. I was surprised by the third installment and found it quite a bit more compelling than the first two had been for me. This post isn’t really about the Dune series though. This is the about the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child Pendergrast novels. I’ve now read several of their books; Reliquary, A Still Life of Crows, White Fire, Cemetary Dance and The Cabinet of Curosities, and I am just now beginning to read Brimstone (the first in the Diogenes trilogy).
I thought that The Cabinet of Curiosities was fantastic. It kept me guessing right up until the end, the pace was enjoyable, the characters had heart. The experience of reading it was a pleasure. And yet, what I find most fascinating is that it was nothing exotic. The characters were attainable, the environment was not extravagant, and the names were (mostly) common. They didn’t have to create intercontinental political systems (G.O.T.) or a myriad of new kinds of creatures and experiences (H.P.), or a carefully constructed theology and thick plot (L.O.T.R.).
Preston and Child took the pieces of life we already experience, and simply looked at them in a new way. Maybe you could say that is what all authors do anyway. Relationships, values, virtues, vices…all those things we are already familiar with we look at from a new perspective when we read. Even so, I thought it was impressive that they could tell a good story in The Cabinet Of Curiosities without ever getting too exotic.
Further, I don’t know authors maintain the multitude of elements in their stories, and yet remain consisent. I have tried to organize my daydreams into an acceptible form for a novel, but they have always seemed to fracture and splinter within my mind, creating a plethora of frayed-strands and disjointed fragments.
Maybe it is the memory trip that Agent Pendergrast so often relies on. What if Preston and Child are actually telling us about their creative process when they describe Pendergrasts deep meditation.
When they weave the novel together, with the feints and intertwined characters, do they let Pendergrast himself show them the way the story unfolds?
Finally, the question that I have often asked myself. In the creative process, how much effort should I place on structure and method, and how much should I “let the block of wood tell me what it should be carved into”?
I’ve listened to many hours of Tim Ferris (@tferris), and read one of his books. He has liked one of my tweets about him once.
I regularly listen to an ex-attorney, now-excellent-interviewer, Jordan Harbinger (@JordanHarbinger). Jordan tweeted at me. Once.
I have listened to almost all the episodes of EntreLeadership with Ken Coleman (@KenColeman). I wrote Ken a physical letter once, and he read it on the show. So that’s cool.
I listen, and reslisten, to Seth Godin on his podcast Akimbo (@ThisIsSethsBlog). In fact, I’ve listened to one of his Akimbo episodes at least a dozen times now. Seth doesn’t even know I exist.
I am a patreon for Bob Crawford and Ben Sawyer (@Road_To_Now). They have my name on their website, but they don’t really know me either.
How is it that these fellows and their guests (like Nilofer Merchant (@nilofer)) can have such an impact on my life when they don’t even know me? How queer that they occupy the same place in my mind as many of the people I have physically known, and yet I am nothing to them. That I know much more about them than I know about my nextdoor neighbors.
It is unbelievable to me that they can interact with me by their voice through the medium of a podcast in such a personal, real time, way. I suspect this is the same way people have always felt about their favorite authors, or newscasters, and more recently YouTubers, that in some way they know them. What queer relationships there are through the internet.
A client told me this past Thursday that luck was the moment “ability meets opportunity”. One of my old professors used to say that it was preparation and opportunity. I think ability and preparation are often married together when we feel lucky.
There must be a measure of ability given before that ability can be grown through preparation. It’s your starting stats in this adventure of life. For example, if I weren’t given the gift of life, if my parents hadn’t so generously given of themselves to care for me, I wouldn’t even be here at this moment. Therefore, we each have some ability. Just the fact that we are breathing, that you’re connected to the world wide web and reading this blog right now, you have some ability.
Ability seems pretty straightforward, you can (e.g. learn, listen, love, grow etc) or you can’t (e.g. be someone else, change the nucleic acid sequence coded in your every cell…).
Opportunity gets more complicated, because we often control other people’s access to opportunity. We don’t mess with their ability too much, but oh boy do we have influence on opportunity. To think of it from the perspective of Harry Potter, are you even invited to Hogwarts? What about the quidditch team? How about the Slug Club?
Am I the only one that felt the pain of Petunia when she didn’t get a letter and Lily her sister did?
Anyway, we can go a long way to making others feel lucky when we give them opportunities. And, just maybe, they will have the ability and preparation within themselves to match the opportunity. When that happens, when they get lucky, they rise to the occasion, and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
I’ve heard it said that the night grows darkest just before dawn. In the nights I’ve spent entirely awake, and outside, I felt that was the case. I’m not sure why it feels that way though.
I frequently rise before 3AM with my current job, so I see many beautiful sunrises from their inception. The deep blue begins to fill the eastern sky sometime before is any easier to see the surrounding. There are quite a few times I’ve stayed up past three, but I think there are probably less than a dozen times in my entire life that I’ve been awake all night long. Most of those were in a pickup on I-70 and even then, I frequently napped for an hour or two at some point in the night when I “drove all night long”.
In thirty years of living I’ve only experienced a handful of entire nights with my conciousness. I sleep deeply, and often, these days. That wasn’t always the case though.
When I was a boy I spent countless nights awake, and crying, in my bed for the fear of monsters. The monsters I feared weren’t real of course. I knew that they weren’t real. I knew they were only in my mind. I knew they couldn’t touch me. The monsters were only imagined, but the fear was real. The pain of laying awake was real. The shame of carrying that fear was real.
That shame was lifted. Those fears shown to be what they were, just wisps of smoke. Now I sleep well.
Don’t let fear and shame steal your sleep as they did mine. Reach out to a friend. Ask God to give you peace. He will lead you on a path of peace, and that path may take you to deeper places in your own soul than you ever thought possible.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord , make me dwell in safety.
Psalms 4:8 ESV
Sleep well tonight, for you are safely in your Father’s arms.
In my very limited coding experience, core function designs are passed downstream and they show up many times over throughout the code. Again and again, aspects of those core functions become important to the overall production.
The assumptions that are at the heart of a relationship make themselves apparent through our interactions all the time. Our assumptions about how someone wants to be treated, about what they expect from us, guide our choices. Assumptions are foundational.
Those foundations can be changed. They are not permanent. They are in fact moldable.
You can revisit and rework the basic pieces of the core code, the assumptions in a relationship, or even the foundations of a home. Just remember, if you decide to change the foundations, be prepared to have a shift in everything built on them.
Most of the physical pains in my life are only for a brief time. They don’t stay around me very long at all.
Hunger and thirst I feel every day, but before a couple hours are up I am able to get clean water and good food every single day. It’s never a question for me of whether or not I have to go one more day hungry. Sore muscles and aching joints have been common with my job, but a couple days away and I feel brand new.
All these are temporary and I expect the pain to be relatively short-lived. Just like my cold feet and runny nose today that felt ten times better when I got a warm shower. I don’t expect these uncomforts to linger.
But what if it did last?
What if I was cold like that every time I went to sleep, and still that way when I woke up?
I truly can’t imagine what the feeling must be when you believe you’ll never escape the pain.
When I have finished a project, be that a woodcraft, a block of code, or an event, I have always had the thought of what I would do differently next time.
For example, when hosting a breakfast just yesterday, I thought how I should have counted the number of available full size plates beforehand – even when I didn’t know the amount of guests attending. At least that way I could have shrunk the number of unknowns down by one. Honestly, who wants to solve a multifactorial equation when you can just plug and chug a single variable?
Anyway, I often have these thoughts but rarely have I written these thoughts down. I think I will learn more from them if I start writing them down. So here goes some thoughts on last week’s plumbing project
Two people would make this job at least four times easier. Passing equipment into the crawl space would be handy. Being able to check apposition and alignment without physically crawling out would be absolutely golden. I had to clean off every time I entered the house, and in the end I still brought a lot of dirt up into the house.
PEX is very cheap per foot. I should have been more liberal with my cuts and pieces. I was too careful with my cuts, so I ended up with too much pipe to work with, which was awkward to handle.
Wrapping the new joints and fittings before taking the new pipe to it’s installation location. Very simple one here, but after crimping around a fitting I should have wrapped that end to keep it pristinely clean.
Here is a thought on yesterday’s code project.
Get a rough draft of all necessary functionality before starting. I mean knowing ahead of time a more comprehensive picture of the functionality I will want. That way I can build one function, and use it twice, rather than building an only slightly different function later.
They aren’t always the same. The verb can take on a meaning of supplying something to someone, but the noun happens with a very special form of giving. A gift happens when the giving is pure.
I believe there are some qualities of pure giving that are all together forgotten in most of our “giving” today.
Pure giving is marked by cheerfulness
It happens even when feel the receiver actually owes you
It does not demand payment
It does not seek any recognition
It does not wait for a return of any favor.
Pure giving does not ask “what’s in it for me”
In essence, pure giving is all about the receiver. You’re secondary to the whole situation if you’re giving purely. Pure giving is loving.
Love suffers long and is kind;
love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV
Some examples of modern gifts that I don’t believe are really gifts.
Holiday gift exchanges
Cleaning the house for your spouse, so they make time for sex
Bringing treats to clients, in order for them to feel better about you
Buying someone a wedding present because it is socially expected
However… I don’t think any of those things are wrong either! I think those can be good things.
I think it’s completely fine to participate in exchanges. I think it’s ok to give someone a token of appreciation for their business, hoping that they continue their business with you.
I think we just need to be explicit in, our own minds, about what we are doing when we give something.
When giving a gift, do it right. Make it about them. Make them being at their very best, your biggest desire. Lose yourself.
When giving for anything at all in return, a behavior change on their part, recognition from them, continued business etc., don’t call it a gift. Call it what it is. Call it a transaction.
And finally, for what it is worth, beware of creating implicit social contracts, they can lead to fear and resentment.
I’ve been recently listening to the lectures from an MIT open course, Introduction to Psychology. I’m astounded at the complexity and organization within the brain.
We have an uncountable number of processes running deep in our minds, routines that are far beyond, or perhaps below, our consciousness.
And yet, even with all the influences we aren’t conscious of, we still have a choice. We have the wonderful privilege of being able to choose. In fact, that choice is really all we have. A single choice right now to love, or not to love.
The sun might warm your face today, or the icy winds could cut at your skin.
You may be in a season of bountiful harvest, with overflowing abundance and provision. You may be facing hunger and emptiness.
You might find pleasure in every step, or your close companions may be pain and loss.
I have typically been highly sensitive to decision making in small sample sizes. A single day’s outcome doesn’t matter much in a year’s worth of results.
Parts of Popper’s philosophy of falsification were thoroughly engrained in me during college, and my common exposure to research, statistics, and significance leaves me very wary of the single case of surprises. Anything to avoid a Type 1 error.
However, I think there is an area of study where a single aberrant finding can mean much more than it would in chemistry and physics. Undesirable behaviors.
I don’t yet have this thought fully fledged in my mind.
I just know that I have experienced, now multiple times, the significance of a single event when investigating problems on dairies. A single observed expression of a bad behavior; undue aggression, cutting corners, carelessness etc. has later been shown to be only one in a long list of transgressions. It has been just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Moving forward, I think I should consider longer those be single actions, and not chalk them up as anomalies.
We could be talking about a housing unit for chickens, or we could talk about my favorite type of video (and board) game – wherein you play with a friend instead of going solo. Instead, let’s consider “CO-OP”s, organizations explicitly arranged around cooperative action.
My family was, as many other homeschool families were, part of a food purchasing co-op. I can remember, on occasion, helping sort hundreds of pounds of bagged bulk-grains into each families pile per what they had ordered. This co-op gave us access to resources and prices we could not have easily obtained from other methods.
But that’s not even the co-op I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the $50,000 lecture. You see, I heard a lecture in undergrad that the prof called his fifty thousand dollar lecture, and he hadn’t even given it that name. It was the same lecture he had given to land and resource managers within the USFS, FWS, and BLM sometime before. After delivering the speech, a gentleman approached him and asked where he had been 5 years ago, because that talk would have saved him fifty grand and years of wasted time.
The essence of the lecture was teaching us to find sustainable solutions to conflict. Public lands are used in as many ways as their are people who want to use them, and as future managers of those land resources, we need to find solutions to ongoing deep conflicts over the lands. The best way to do this – CO-OPs of the stakeholders, the people who really care about the lands. No matter how far they seem to be divided, user groups that respect each other can actually agree on many things as good for the land and the future, and finding common ground can get people off their accusative rhetorics and onto beneficial solutions and teamwork.
It was an absolutely beautiful lecture, and I’ve carried the thought with me when I’m looking for solutions to any kind of conflict.
Unfortunately, respect seems to be rapidly draining from our public conversations. Outrage is the new norm. We feel the need to silence all dissenting voices, and disagreement is perceived as equivalent to hate.
I rejoiced when I recently heard about someone bucking this trend, and pursuing meaningful conversation from all sides, and real change. Not only a positive example of this kind of co-op, but one that bridges two places of my own experience and passion that are deep to me. Two separate societies, of which I am a committed member of both, that don’t see eye to eye, and often think the other has done little more than given them a black eye. I long to see them married to one another. Conservation Biology and Modern Agriculture.
When I ask myself, “what’s in that cookie”? My mind replies with the tangible components, that we would physically put into the mixing bowl, when preparing the cookie in question.
Flour, sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon and all those other precious things, commonly quantified by their calories, which our bodies will use for fuel and structure. Made of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, on a molecular level, we will burn them and/or rearrange them into the building blocks of our cells.
This morning I got to visit my grandma-in-law for a morning cup of coffee. We stayed over an hour and that seemed still too short a time. Princess Katarina snuggled into her great grandmothers lap and contentedly fell asleep within minutes of arriving.
Thinking again of the cookie, grandma told me those cookies were the recipe from her mother Babetksi, who made cookies that way when she lived in Poland around the start of the 20th century.
She left the old world shortly after World War I and was fortunate enough to catch a ride on a steamer to North America. This refugee lady left much of her family and set out for a better life. It’s lost to history when, or from whom, Ms. Babetksi learned to make these cookies, but over a hundred years later her grand-daughter Julie carries on the tradition.
I never thought a cookie contained so much history, so many meta properties, until today.