Procrastinate

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I started writing this almost a week ago… 🙂

Very straightforward for Latin, I have to say, it actually means to defer. It is more specific than the current usage as it actually contains reference to “tomorrow” but otherwise perfectly understandable, if annoying.

I am not very fond of procrastination, even though I do it so well Others are even less enamoured of procrastination and have outstandingly explicit and eloquent things to say about it.

But this is an apology so I looked at what good can procrastination do. I am talking only of procrastination, not of time management difficulties. Those are not choices, procrastination is.

Let me make it clear: it is not a character flaw, it is not a difficulty, it is not an accident. It is a choice, and as such it is a consequence of a process that involves a lot of the individual, some of the system and most of the environment in which it happens.

Most people that I know of (including myself) do not procrastinate out of malice. It may be a passive (or is that passive-aggressive?) protest against circumstances we do not agree with. It may be a sign that more rest is in order so we can make better decisions. It may also be too difficult in which case it becomes again a passive way of saying it

What it can help with is timing. It’s a delaying technique but it may also be triggered by waiting for another piece of information needed to complete our knowledge. Or waiting for just the right time to do something. Or the right space in which to say something difficult.

Sometimes I am so tired that anything past breathing is way, way too much. So I procrastinate.

I don’t like it. I don’t think anyone does. But saying (and I have heard them all!) that the above are “just an excuse” is the same as saying “I don’t care why, just do it my way/the accepted way/the right way” despite what (I believe) are valid reasons.

And that makes me more, not less likely to continue to procrastinate.

Vicious circle, much?

Lately I have procrastinated sadness, if such is even possible. But I can’t let it overwhelm me during the day. And sometimes even nights are out of bounds. So I defer it. There is romance reading, pop music listening, cartoon watching – light hearted fun that nonetheless allows another hour to pass.

I can expect that much of myself, indeed. For sadness will come, and will not be denied entry.

I might as well make the decision when to open the door.

Atonement

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People live in many ways, in many places, in many times. But they live together and it seems to be a pre-requisite of togetherness that there are rules of behaviour towards those others near you so that you may live as one. The meaning of the word atone (for once an English term!) is linked with that togetherness. It has been on my mind for a while.

Atonement is also linked with morality, although it is more often found in religious texts. If a moral compass is assumed (those behaviour rules that allow us to live together add up to a compass of sorts) then sooner or later, sooner if my life is any indication, there will be a ping of distress from your conscience, an unpleasant feeling to be sure, advising you of a transgression against your fellow humans or other entities that we attribute human traits to (animals, environement).

One thing about your conscience – it has staying power. That unpleasant feeling won’t go away easily, although time, a lot of time, may mute it. So it stays with you and sours your mood and won’t let you enjoy life etc. It is difficult to ignore, too, and you end up wanting to act to neutralize it. That is the way I see atonement, an act that balances things out again. It is not a payment as such, although there are analogies. I say that because sometimes those you have wronged have no idea or are not in a position to demand atonement. It is all in your head 🙂 (well, really, where else would it be?). Payment implies an exchange, too, and atonement is anything but! You atone by your acts, and atonement works on you and for you, not for the entity you have wronged.

But the good thing is that the atonement IS an act. That one is not only in your head. It requires being made manifest. And people love and understand actions a heck of a lot better than, say, ideas or feelings.

So atonement is subjective, actual, temporal. Sometimes it is repetitive. It has a link to the wronged because your conscience will demand it. If you have wronged against the environment, then praying and pilgrimage will probably not make it better, although those acts may have a place depending on your religious affiliation. What will make it better will have to have a link to the environment, say, volunteering to clean up the beach. Or becoming vegetarian. Or planting a forest. You have to give of yourself. If payment is involved, you are making the payment. Your conscience will not be appeased if you get paid for it. It has to be extra to your usual activity (if it is your usual activity, it counts, but you’ll have to do it for a longer time).

If you have wronged a person, you can make it up directly. If that’s not possible, it’s time to get creative: donating to their favourite charity. Being loyal to their family. Learning how to act in the future.

Atonement is intensely personal, but even while you benefit by quieting your conscience, it is really for others, for that is the balance we need, getting back to living with others in a better way. The forest you planted will rarely benefit you, but the oxygen and shade and yummy mushrooms in it may just be enough for someone else to say, later, “ah, that’s better!”

Versus

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Hm, Latin makes an appearance yet again… why is it that the interesting words almost always come from Latin? This one hasn’t even been changed much! It means turned to face something, opposite. And today, from two different areas influenced by religion (Christianity in this case), the duality it implies demands a bit of analysis.

The first area that brought duality on my mind is the environment. I remember being a very young student, taking the environment for granted but starting to realize the extent to which humans change it. I had heard about an organization that protected animals from excessive hunting and I happened to talk to a devout Christian about it. He disagreed with that organization because he thought they interfered with his fundamental religious right to do what he pleased with the environment, as said in his Holy Book, right at the beginning (Genesis). It had not occurred to me at that time that people considered themselves lords and rulers of the Earth. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up around and among people, in the world of people. I was aware from books and TV of animals and plants that exceeded human abilities by magnitudes. I suppose I just saw us as very different, sharing the same whole world but with humans interested only in the domesticated species, while leaving the others alone. I know, naïve, huh? I hadn’t thought that there might not be enough space for everybody – there are no trees in a wheat field, are there? And once we domesticated sheep, well, wolves really had to go, right?

The second area that brought duality on my mind is art. I love reading about art, especially figurative art (where I don’t have to wonder what the artist meant by it). Just as an aside, one of my friends brought home to me how Eurocentric my education really is (well, with good reason!). I remember talking to her about European history and I realized that, not being European herself, she had an idea about what I was talking about, but not necessarily the time and the significance of the time for the history, the art and even the religion. Ultimately though, being a devout Christian herself, I was able to use the religious timeframe to put it in context for her. Truly, I know much less about her timeframe than she knows about mine, and that is a sobering thought!

But back to art, this book I was reading covered very thoroughly the period on time in Europe (and neighbourhood) after Christianity became a lawful religion, therefore it could begin to truly influence art. The intensity of feeling around this new religion was quickly evident in artistic expression, even though this remained essentially figurative. Even though it was not doctrine, the conflict between Christians and non-Christians started to be assimilated to the perceived conflict between body and spirit, between Nature and Heavens. Nature and body and non-Christian (believing maybe that one god controls thunder and another the sun) needed to be subdued, conquered, put in their places. In art, it means that perspective all but disappeared, important people took front stage with stiff bodies and huge, intense, disembodied eyes and nature only took the symbolic place that showed the spirit’s purification.

Seventeen centuries later some are still struggling with this duality, still try to impose a hierarchy with people at the top, even evolutionists 🙂 We call it progress.

Maybe we need to look beyond?

Revolution

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There have been, there are and there will be revolutions. A lot of research has been done around the world and across time in regards to the reasons for revolution, a blow by blow account of the misery that people have perpetuated on other people (to my knowledge there have been no revolutions in countries where people felt safe, listened to and free – I could be mistaken, please put me right if you do know of such an event). The trigger seems innocuous most of the time, critical mass is reached suddenly and a small revolt quickly becomes a revolutionary bonfire. Violence is threatened and most of the time happens. If the revolution is successful it is called so, if it is not successful it serves to increase prison population and/or death row. It is called by many names, none of them complimentary.

Let’s say a revolution has been successful. The mere fact it is successful seems to imply huge popular support. So the entire country is aflame with revolutionary spirit and a new government is chosen, who promises fast, sweeping reforms that will negate everything that the previous government did. It comes as no surprise to anybody but the revolutionaries that it doesn’t work quite that way.

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So I am writing now a list of things I would like to see after the first post-revolutionary month. My biases will soon become apparent 🙂

  • A technocratic dictatorship is instituted. The only needed qualification of the person should be a master’s thesis (not a doctorate, they get bogged down in irrelevant details) in comparative economics. The point of the dictatorship is to keep the country going and institute reforms based on the economic system of the dictator’s choice. Reforms should really be informed by engineers, doctors, educators etc. not anyone who has a managerial position, the ones who actually work!

  • Term of dictatorship is 5 years, he (general use, a woman is as good) can be named by binding referendum once more and that’s it. You can suspend democracy in name for that time, but any longer and you get even bigger problems.

  • Every week, said dictator will meet for the afternoon (walk, eat, drink, play bowls, whatever!) with 10 people. Five of them can apply for the audience. Five will be invited randomly from the different regions of the country (urban, rural, major industry, stay-at-home mum, high-school/university student… you get the drift).

  • The dictator does not make speeches, he presents facts. He doesn’t wave at the parades, he rules. He represents the country. He is not military. At the end of his term/s he gets free exit from the country if he chooses to. He is paid in money, not property. The money should be very, very good.

  • Speaking of military, the army is on high alert but deployed to the various regions of the country and rotated once a year. The last thing you need is a military dictatorship. They are to serve and protect the country, not lead. Border security is increased.

  • Unless you simply don’t have any other choice, IMF is banned from entering the country. I can’t say much about the pro’s and con’s as I am not an economist, but selling national assets is way, way beyond the pale! In fact

  • Assets of national importance (electricity, transport, health, education, justice, corrections, environment, oil/nuclear, history – in no particular order; have I missed any?) remain national or are nationalized. Private transport, education, business and health are permitted under conditions best specified by someone who knows what they are talking about.

  • Speaking of education, civic duty classes continue weekly from primary school onwards (what do you mean you don’t have them?)

  • Community development is the absolute goal of the country. A country that looks at its government instead of its communities is in serious trouble. To help there

  • UNESCO, the UN, the Sallies, Unicef, Amnesty International, PETA, MSF and their equivalents have free entry.

  • Anybody who preaches extreme capitalism, communism, nationalism or any other “ism” is to be given a choice: submitting a paper to a national newspaper, with the understanding that it will appear on a quarter of a page, the rest being occupied by three alternative points of view; being thrown in jail or deported for treason; surviving on the minimum wage of that country.

Given my upbringing, I assumed working for the people, state-church separation, equality, freedom, patriotism, universal rights, vote, health and education, protection of the environment and a few other things as fundamental. If you don’t have these, then I want to know the date you will start a revolution!

Please feel free to add your thoughts, keep it human! 🙂