Friday, August 17, 2012

On Protection and Purpose

Wie viel ist aufzuleiden!
How much suffering there is to bear!

I am getting to the second half of "Man's Search For Meaning" by Viktor Frankl.  It's a weird book written by a holocaust-surviving psychoanalyst, but the part about the meaning of life really resonates with me.  There is no meaning of life.  I realized that the process of evolution basically precludes a meaning of life.  It's like learning the code you've been writing for 16 years isn't actually compatible with the operating system.  It took a bit of a nervous breakdown, but over the years I have patched the system.

Frankl makes a lot of supposition in the book, and assumes what worked for him was also what worked for all the jews who survived the Holocaust, that it will work for anyone, and that survival is paramount above all else.  He uses a lot of fuzzy logic and asserts a lot of stuff that I don't believe in.  One big concern of mine is his focus on the future and past, rather than the moment.  He touches on, but in my mind misrepresents, meditation.  But I like this paragraph:

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. 

Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

That's beautiful.  Life is so richly full of such opportunity.

The last time I wanted to rush to the defense of my lady, I was living in Williamsburg, illegally, in a house with my girlfriend. When Lindsay interacted with the landlord, it was terrible, with harassment and many other issues.  But she managed to mess up the lease badly enough that there was little recourse, and of course me living there illegally didn't help her case because  the landlady had spies checking on us and ties with local government.  So my hands were pretty well tied.  It sucked to feel like my suggestions, to help our situation, were falling on deaf ears, and to not be able to get enough information to do anything but blindly trust Lindsay to figure the situation out.

Eventually, Lindsay and our housemate Emily were in this huge one-sided feud where Lindsay seemed to be having some sort of nervous breakdown that only involved Emily and none of her other life activities.  It was an awkward spot to be put in for me because Emily was also crazy and so it was hard to tell the stories apart and have any idea of what was going on.

Fast-forward.  Now I have a lady with a proven track-record of maturity and responsibility.  No one is perfect, but she seems eminently qualified for the things she feels she is qualified and recognizes her weaknesses willingly.  She is being manipulated by a person who is trained to recognize psychological weaknesses and yet cannot seem to influence or manage anyone in a positive manner.

My lady is in danger of being fired because she has a hard time showing this person their cognitive distortions of the situation.  This person is seeing things wrong, and has for many years, and it's ridiculous to expect a first-year farmer to be able to teach clarity of mind to her manager. I want to rush to protect her, but I also know this is her battle to fight.  I don't want to be like my father, coming in to school to make things go my way.

So how do I support Jules without being overbearing?  How do I express how much more I trust her than anyone else in my life, without overwhelming her and without giving up my autonomy of understanding?

Of course, I know she will read this, and so I will get that answer from her, hopefully.

But in the meantime I can speculate a little bit on my own weaknesses.

I get passionate and hear what gives me glimpses of understanding, not necessarily what the other person is trying to tell me.

I insert myself into situations to "micromanage".

But that one is hard.

Sometimes, an important situation requires micromanagement, as in mountaineering with a novice.  Other times, it's less critical...

At work, someone, let's call him D, and I were tasked with arranging the technical presentation at coming tradeshows.  Big money involved, a big chance to make big impact, present an image.  We decided to go with a very slick 60" smart-TV.  So we divvied up tasks and one of his was: find cases to fit the monitor.

Several conversations later, numerous iterations, we both have a much better understanding of the problem, which is good, but he is getting a 42" monitor to fit the case he had decided on, rather than the other way around.  I suggested he think about the larger cases, which I went out of the way to find for him, but he had already contacted the shipping company about the standard size.

So I don't think we will ever get the info we needed to truly make the decision which is: what is the cost of the case and shipping for a 42" versus a 60" monitor?  What is the impact, at a tradeshow, of a 42" versus a 60" monitor, and what is the ease of setup of a 42" versus 60" monitor?

Then we make our best decision on the information.  But a lot of people around me, they don't know to look for that information.  And D is better than most.  So I don't want to push it, I don't want to say look here, look here, look here, do that.

He is receptive to my ideas and he understands what I am trying to do most of the time- that's valuable support when I'm trying to push through a technology project that other team members might be scared of.  But still, do I just let it slide?  For now I am letting it slide.  This is my first time working with D and I don't want him to feel it is a grindstone to be avoided.  I like working with him.

I think Frankl hits on something that is very Jewish, and also maybe key to other religions as well.  Not only does religion offer a sense of place and purpose, but, Judaism in particular, offers a unique sense of service and fulfillment through simple service to oneself and the community that is possibly a happy uniter of the protestant work ethic and buddhist

I guess the bottom line is this- My life has plenty of calls to rise to the occasion.  I have lots of opportunity to find the right (or wrong) answers in life, and to fulfill the tasks life sets for me.  I only hope I am up to the challenge.

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