Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?

School

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In a time and place when philosophy and lectures were apparently leisurely (I am talking about the ancient Greeks, you know) there might not have been discussions about what is best for the children… then again, maybe there have been, knowing parents.

But I had (in the modern world) a discussion with a friend about education in general and schools in particular. I was enthusing about the Montessori method as usual, as that is, to my mind, the way I would have loved to be educated when I was the little one’s age.

My friend quite rightly pointed out that the little one is part of a very small group of people, selected at least three ways out of many: a parent who lives in the vicinity of, who can afford and who chooses to send the little one to such a place. Sounds privileged, doesn’t it? And given how Montessori actually started, that is beyond ironic!

Both my friend and I also know of children (way, way too many) for whom books are a rarity and life at home has infinitely bigger stresses than not being able to watch “one more and no more” cartoon.

And we know well that by the time a child goes to school some things cannot be fixed, some things cannot be learnt and some things can never change. So school methods should really be late developments and the focus should be on the first three years. Which means that school begins at home (Philosophy? Lecture? Leisure?). And that’s when I trotted out that big fashionable statement that my friend arched his eyebrows at: it’s a systems fault – only I didn’t use the term fault 🙂

I can’t help it, truly! There are very few things I see as not systems faults – professional bias, you could call it! The way I see it we are the only species on Earth who doesn’t know how to raise their young anymore. So we have to substitute cultural imperatives for natural ones… but cultural imperatives change a lot quicker than human nature. We are overcrowded so crying babies are discouraged (from apartments, planes, cafes). We work industrial hours, so we train babies to sleep. We praise independence so we raise isolated, lonely children. We lose contact with our families and communities so we raise children who do not know where they belong.

Then we treat the consequences (attachment issues, sleep and eating disorders, anxiety) while still demanding resilience, good behaviour, hard work and achievement. At school. Which is not set up for the above.

What to do though? These children will raise children of their own one day – and choosing our rest homes, too 🙂 What will they teach their children?

Educating future parents helps. Child care and human development should be in high school curriculum, alongside sex, relationship and civic education. But that is a band aid. If this is, indeed, a systems fault, it is our lifestyles that need changing. The feedback loop doesn’t sit still just because “we’ve always done it that way”…

Quaint

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It’s one of those words with changeable meaning. Originally it meant clever, ingeniously unusual, something to marvel at. Nowadays it is used in an almost derogatory way: obsolete, old-fashioned. Sometimes though it goes further and means simply unobtrusive, nothing to write home about, and if relating to décor, to be changed to something more modern.

Kind of like us, then 🙂

Even if the Chinese didn’t say “may you live in interesting times” it remains a favourite wish of many to do so. Craving adventure, out of ordinary events, escapism, forgetting perhaps that we also need solitude, peace, a roof over our heads sometimes, security even. Not to mention the money that must be made somehow, relationships that need sustaining, books that are too heavy to carry in a backpack.

I am one of those people, you see. Railing sometimes at the routine I am told will make my life easier. Watching jet planes tracks across the sky and wishing I was on one of them. Wanting to go with the retreating wave.

It doesn’t mean I am forgetting the above. The small pleasures, the gratitude for so many things, the safety routines can bring to everyday life. Just that sometimes I am also aware that there is more to life than just the small circle in the sand I have been marking. That’s where the envy comes for those who travel, who create, who explore.

If I remember correctly, those anti-suffrage used to say that women who go to higher education will no longer be content with the life prescribed for them. It was true, too! 🙂 Whole systems needed to be changed to accommodate those women.

So what to do when life is prescribed and I am no longer content with it? When the soul demands that the eyes witness what documentaries present? When the spirit rebels against bedtime as night dreams can’t hold a candle to daydreams? When the body aches from sitting in the office and asks to be allowed to roam at will?

Reading remains a staple, sometimes to the point of obsession, but fiction can’t hold me anymore. If I am to be stuck on the couch then I want my brain to fire on all cylinders. I can find emotion and feelings elsewhere! Music, especially live, is another good way to escape routine. Walking, while useful, is no longer enough in the weekends, so gardening will have to take its place, especially permaculture where the brain is involved as well, not just the wonder at life appearing out of seemingly nowhere.

It seems to me then that the brain is the culprit then, so it’s the brain that needs to be pleased until the time will come for an escape from the routine. And stubbornness will have to suffice, until freedom is at hand. And if there is a sacrifice… well, I assume it will be sleep!

Pride

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What a conundrum this is, from definition to meaning! How did we get from a Latin expression “to be useful” through to “brave” (all those knights!) to a deadly sin? And how come everybody seems to have an opinion about pride and they are all at loggerheads? Don’t even get me started as to what “conundrum” or “loggerhead” mean, or we’ll be here all night! 🙂

But pride, ah, that is a beauty of a concept, so debatable, so ambiguous! I think I already said once that if a deadly sin is mine, pride it is!I can’t really say I am repentant about it – that would deafeat the purpose of the exercise, wouldn’t it? So even the hard way to correct a sin (do the opposite until it becomes second nature and the first nature is defeated) is a no-go. Because I am still to be persuaded that it is a sin to begin with.

It is linked with individuality and ambition in many ways, and personally I strive for that feeling. Because if I learn a lot, and apply myself, and practice incessantly, then I am likely to succeed. And if I succeed , then I feel proud, and I don’t see why I should give credit to anybody else. I can be grateful to my parents and ancestors for giving me the good genes, I can be grateful to my education that I have developed certain abilities, but the combination of gene and ability and the effort are mine alone, the goal is mine alone, and without that effort or that goal, the best of genes and the soundest of educations are pieces that will never become the whole.

A small example, and a bit of a block of mine. Seeds. The bane of my gardening existence! I can (and have done!) take a half dead plant sold for peanuts at the shop. I can plant it and take care of it and it will survive and produce and re-seed with gay abandon. But I have lost count of the number of packets of seeds I have scattered that failed to show even a tiny plant as a result. My pride has been impugned or some such thing! So I will do it right this year! I have bought or received the seeds. I am doing it by the open book that is my tutor. I am nurturing them and chase away the cat from them. And I will wait (oh, no!!!!). I wish to succeed. Nothing to do with survival, life or death or any of that. If I don’t succeed then I will go as I usually do to the shop and buy the half dead darling seedlings cheaply and do what I’ve done these past many years, get them to live. But ah, I can just imagine the feeling if I do succeed. I will feel so proud!

So why shouldn’t I feel proud? I am likely to believe in myself a lot more if I feel justifiably proud, and thus will try harder next time for an even better result.

Maybe the operative word is “justifiable”?

I will not attempt to fly, I cannot do it. I will not attempt to crawl through a mouse hole either, I cannot do it. But I can do human things in a human world in the human way and do it so that they serve the world, too. I believe we can and should be proud of that!