Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I do not want my job today

Today I want my job to be breaking things. I want to tear down walls with hammers. Break windows, crush rocks with a sledgehammer. Tear apart fences with my hands.

I do not want to energize my colleagues. I do not want to build alignment with my team and my clients. I definitely do not want to create insightful strategies for customer engagement.

I want work that leaves my muscles sore, and my hands bloodied and broken. Work that flows from fire and rage, that creates clearings where other people can go build things. I want to sweat and move. I want to demolish.

I do not want to plan and worry. I do not want to think things all the way through. I do not want to reframe anybody's problem.

I don't want to go home and feel like I've made a difference, no matter how small. I do not want the satisfaction of helping unlock the potential in a business or product. I do not want to relax will a well-earned glass of wine.

I want to go home exhausted and aching, barely able to move. I want to fall/crawl into bed feeling near death, with the sweat and grime of violent, angry work still clinging to my skin. I want to drop into sleep during the fall, with nothing to reflect on and nothing to plan.

That is what I want today.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let Me Tell You About This Dream I Had...

Publication date edited to reflect time of actual writing. Posted much later on 6/24/2022.
Wow - am I really doing this? Okay, yes. I’m doing this. 

I had a dream last night (wait, sit back down…sit…) that kept me awake the rest of the night. Now I am not typically the type to give much attention to dreams - I’m not someone who believes in crystal healing, or Astrology, or messages from beyond the physical plane, or most supernatural stuff (I eat it up as fiction, though). So the fact that a dream actually affected me the way it did is itself unusual. We’ll get back to that though.

I do however, have a somewhat complicated relationship with the idea of God. I grew up in a pretty religious family, went to church and Sunday school, went to confirmation at 13, took communion until I was about 25. In my adult life though, I have for the most part lost any real belief in a personal entity that goes by the name of “God.” But old reflexes die hard, and occasionally I still do a kind of praying, if you can really call it that - it usually starts with “Hey, I know that if you are there I’m the last person who should be asking for things, but just in case…” So after another day that had me in a pretty conflicted place with respect to the work I do, and after a workout class which left me so lightheaded that I could barely stand, while trying to catch my breath I reached out silently to my whatever-might-be-listening-but-probably-isn’t version of a higher power and asked for one of two things - inspiration for the infuriating powerpoint slides I needed to create, or direction on what I should be doing instead of creating infuriating powerpoint slides. Then I went home, ate a pork chop, read a chapter of a novel about a menacing other dimension that is encroaching on our own (see? what did I say?), and went to sleep.

So the dream (sit…siiiiit back down…sit…) The first thing I remember was that I was supposed to be giving some kind of talk or running a workshop (probably involving infuriating powerpoint slides) that for some reason was going to take place in a church. No significance there necessarily - my kid’s piano recitals used to take place in one. The group was assembling outside, but there was a problem - the actual congregation was already in there, and waiting for a service. Which for some reason I was going to deliver. Now how I was going to handle two events at once, both of which expected to use the same space and one of which was distinctly outside my wheelhouse, was causing my dream-self some pretty heavy anxiety. In the back of my mind I was thinking “well, maybe we can move the workshop to the other building…but then how am I going to be in both places…? damn damn damn…” In that weird advancing-without-logic way that dreams have, the next thing I was doing was, well, giving the sermon to the congregation (all the while aware that the workshop group was waiting outside the sanctuary). The first thing I find myself doing is showing a video of Mickey Mouse - the sorcerer’s apprentice version - channeling “winning energy” into the Los Angeles Chargers (who were a basketball team in my dream - not really a sports fan). It’s wearing him out - he’s got guys holding him up, and lightning is flying out of his fingers into the team. Somehow the point is that he’s a conduit blah blah doesn’t matter because the congregation is eating it up. They love this! It’s Mickey Freakin’ Mouse, and they are going bonkers. 

My dream-self is now conflicted because clearly this is what this crowd needs and wants - someone to channel blessings/power/what-have-you into them. I of course don’t really believe in this, even in my dream…but it seems to be what’s needed. So I see this little girl, like 3 years old, and tell everyone that SHE is going to bless them all. I realize that at some point the workshop folks have joined the congregation, and they too are totally going with it. The little girl is psyched, because she’s the center of all this excitement. I’m thinking “well, if this is what they need…I’ll give it to them.” 

Apparently things went well, because the next thing I know I’m walking away from the church feeling pretty good about things. I’m walking across this field that has some sort of sitting area at the other end, and there’s this older (late 50’s?), heavy-set woman all in black sitting there, looking disapproving but with that kind of “okay, you pulled a fast one - but it’s the last one” kind of smirk. She says she’s from some government oversight agency that had a name I can’t remember but certainly doesn’t exist, and tells me I won’t be doing that again. “What’s the problem?” I ask, “We were just having a meeting.” “Well, from now on you can only meet for one minute, and can’t talk about any of that stuff” “I think we can, and will - we’ll talk about whatever we want!” “Oh really?”

And then I woke up feeling like a conversation had just been interrupted. A conversation I wanted to continue, but don’t know how.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Mudville Odyssey

Something like 25 years ago, in what I think was probably 1993, I had a rare treat of a conversation with a friend. I think it was 1993 because I somehow recall that we both had beers at the table, and that would have been the year we both turned 21. My friend Geoff and I were both back in our hometown of Clayton, CA for the summer. We were sitting on the patio at what was at the time a place called "Mudville Grill" in what is now "the old downtown."

We talked about where people were from our high school graduating class - who had gone away to college and where, who was still there in town just working a local job, who had already disappeared entirely. At some point, we shifted to the nature of humans in groups, and specifically corporations. I had a model in my mind that cast the corporation as a living entity. To me, it did all of the things that organisms do - it grew, acted to protect itself, and tried it's best to survive and reproduce. Geoff was pretty unconvinced by any of it, believing as I recall that it was actually just the individuals acting in those ways that created the appearance of a real living thing.

We bounced around on the topic for a good couple of hours before moving on to I-don't-remember-what, but the way that one topic had fully occupied and engaged our admittedly young and pretty naive minds has stuck with me ever since. Neither of us had any background whatsoever in organizational psychology, or sociology, or any other thing that might have lent credibility to the discussion. The fact that, in recent years, the debate on whether corporations should be treated not just as living things, but as people - the living things to which we accord all the highest rights and privileges (well, some of them, some of the time) says nothing about any wisdom or knowledge that fed the conversation - there certainly was none on my part. But it stayed with me - and maybe with Geoff too.

I feel at times as though I've been trying to get back to that place of ideas ever since - conversations that stretch minds, that break brains a little and then reassemble them in a way that is able to contain this new thing that it couldn't before. Conversations that are unafraid to go to places that don't feel safe, and that perhaps the participants are not "qualified" to go. Spaces in time, place, and mind that aren't cluttered with expectations or appearances of expertise. Places of play. Places of discovery. Exciting and even dangerous places.

Where are those conversations now? How do we have them? How do we connect to that place? All of this technology that has promised it has delivered mostly frivolous, gratuitous, and deadening self-reference - the opposite of the space I'm describing. Face to face, most of us are either too afraid, or too distracted, or too caught up in what we all like to call "busy-ness" to allow these spaces to form. We get together to "catch up" - but we don't connect with any real depth. We voyeuristically listen to podcasts and talk shows to hear other people connect, their conversations having become more entertaining to us than our own. We are treating the resource of thought the same way we treat our other natural resources - what has been built up over millions of years must be consumed and turned to profit as quickly as possible, without ever putting anything back.

And we wonder why we are becoming intellectually lazy. We wonder why we've become so polarized, politically and socially. And we don't seem to notice that the quality of what we're consuming is diminishing as it becomes more and more a set of monocultures that we choose off of a menu of available options. We tie together ideas, values, and feelings into monolithic rafts - liberal, conservative, democrat, republican - and then spend all of our energy trying to keep our chosen craft afloat and sink any others. We look to cultural icons and personalities that have the appearance of greater qualifications or insight - who ultimately lead us to consolidate further, because that is how they keep THEIR rafts afloat.

We don't need to choose this. We each have the capacity to evolve the culture, to challenge our own minds and beliefs. We can find the courage to let our rafts float if they will - or sink, at which point we will build a new raft, or climb onto a more seaworthy one.  Or learn to swim, for pete's sake.

We can get back to Mudville. We can rediscover our capacity for thought and conversation. We can get off the wheel of polarization and division. All it takes is a bit of courage and humility, and a willingness to be vulnerable while being passionate. And we ALL can do that - we don't need to wait for a new captain to arrive while we continue to bail out our leaky boats. We have everything we need.