Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Sunday musings: An Election, Not a War

Sunday musings…

1) Embedded. How over-used and overblown has THIS word become, eh? I just read an article in the Sunday NYT by a reporter who was “embedded” with 5 individuals with stakes in the Cubs victory. Really?

2) Caveat venditor. Let the seller beware. Kinda interesting twist with lots of ways to interpret. Fail to understand the value of your product and under-price it? Shorry. Sell a product that is dangerous without adequate safeguards and then get sued and lose? Ditto.

This is the new reality in the world of my day job.

3) Boredom. One of the beauties of CrossFit, at least for me, is that I have rarely, if ever, been bored with the workouts. Twas a time when I was programming for Randy’s gym that one of the members complained about repetitive routines. Seems he was bored with several iterations of “Helen” and “Fran” played out over a period of 6 months. Yes…6…months. He was bored. Not enough variance in the basic programming because because roughly 20 out of 130 WODs were variations on classic CrossFit “Girls”.

Boredom, as Beth likes to say, is a choice.

At the moment I am on day 3 alone at home save for a couple of very sleepy canines. There is a certain inertia that sets in when I find myself in this position, especially if I dive into the the black hole of my computer. This inertia–a body at rest tends to stay at rest–feels an awful lot like boredom, but it, too, is little more than a choice, however passive. Last night I roused myself and reached out to a buddy to share a meal and a ball game on TV. While that’s not too very ambitious it did represent a choice to actively move out of the boredom zone.

There is a place for, and value in doing very little. Some of my most pleasant times are those spent simply gazing at the water, sometimes deep in thought and others simply deep in breathing. Indeed, doing nothing is fundamentally different from having nothing to do. If you wish, there is always something to do.

Boredom is a choice. To be bored is to surrender.

4) War. This interminable election season is about to come to an end. It was excruciating when it began a full year before the beginning of primaries, and it has only gotten more objectionable. I confess that the players in this particular election are irrelevant when it comes to my distaste for the process, for it matters not which election we discuss, the behavioral norms are to some degree the same in all of them. Ad hominem, either overt or shade, rules the day in them all.

Of particular concern and creating particular distaste is the constant reference made by candidates of all stripes on all sides to their election as some kind of war. The war for this or the battle over that. Please. It’s as if nothing before us matters, nothing is of any consequence until and unless it has escalated into some kind of open warfare. For Heaven’s sake, this morning I was treated to someone describing our country as being in the middle of a Cold Civil War.

Seriously, this election was described with a straight face and a smug sense of gravitas as similar in horror to a war in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives.

Let’s all take a step back for a moment. Take a big, deep breath. Every four years for hundreds of years now we have elected a President, an entire Congress, and 1/3 of our Senate. At times there has been great consensus regarding whatever issues were at hand, but it’s amazing how few those times were. Most often is the case that we have some sort of schism between starkly opposed viewpoints, and an election shifts us a little closer to one side from the other. From my seat here on the couch the only thing that is different today is our vastly greater ability to hear what our fellow citizens think; something that once upon a time required you to be in the same close geography with your fellow citizens is now available at will, wherever. Heck, even the vitriol between candidates–pick a race, any race–is in no way unprecedented. Historically, shade and invective was hurled with more colorful language, but hurled they were, nonetheless.

This is no war, my friends, it’s an election. We will go on as we have for 230 or so years, doing our best. We will not take to the streets, nor will we face off against our army. There will be no coup. We will see either a continuation of the slow drift left we’re experienced these last few years, or a bit of braking and perhaps a tiny move to the right. There will be evolution, as there should be. There will be no revolution of any kind, however loud the braying may be from both sides. We are not fighters in some epic battle, not warriors for a cause, we are citizens of the country that represents the best of what we have in the world at the moment. Our responsibility is to care enough to engage in nothing more than the effort to propel our nation forward along that path, however slowly it, and we, may go.

“No battle is ever won. They are not even fought. The [battle]field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.” William Faulkner

I’ll see you on Tuesday at the polls, and right here next week…


Three Rules to Guide a Life

Sleep was late in coming the other night. I was up texting with a West Coast friend and professional colleague, thinking and reminiscing about the 3 core guiding principles that helped me (and in many ways him) make it through our training and early professional careers. All 3 have stood the test of time, have continued to inform my best decisions both professional and personal, and over the 30 years now since I first said these out loud I’ve only needed to add one additional guideline.

“Knowledge is power.” One is at such a profound disadvantage if there is asymmetry in the amount of information they possess relative to those with whom they interact that at a certain point those with less knowledge cease to be independent entities. Without knowledge, awareness of the ground as Sun Tzu would say, you are at the mercy of another and must depend upon their kindness for, well, almost everything.

“Perception is more important than reality.” The explanation of this, of course, is that perception is the reality of perceiver. While you could say that this is simply an extension of the first guideline–creating the perception is in some way controlling the knowledge–I would simply say that one need only look at the deeply held worldview of some of the U.S. voting public, their perception of what is real and what is important, to illustrate that perception comes from within. Indeed, two individuals can be presented the same set of facts, or have the identical experience, and have a perception 180 degrees apart. Understanding this should inform your approach to any situation whatsoever. What does this individual perceive at this moment? That becomes the reality with which you will deal, your version notwithstanding.

“Evolution is better than revolution.” This was first written as Sunday musings; funny to state something like that on CrossFit.com, the home of a truly disruptive revolution in fitness, eh? Again, this CrossFit that I have so wholly embraced must be the example that renders this guideline moot. Here is where my conversation with Dave last night was so helpful, for Dave was (and still is) a man in a hurry to effect change for the better: evolution involves a conscious attempt to minimize unnecessary collateral damage. Sometimes that damage is directed at oneself, and thinking more along the lines of the “long game” is also sometimes a very reasonable approach to self-preservation. The fire of revolution burns brighter the nearer it gets to the revolutionary. My friend Dave now seeks change in the cool contemplative glow somewhat removed from the fire, conscious always of the need to care for, and be careful for, the growing flock that surrounds him.

These 3 guidelines have served me well lo these 30 years or so. They may or not work for you; they may be nothing more than tinder to light the fire of your own guiding principles. Some day perhaps I’ll share the epiphanies of 9/11 and Heinlein that underly the tactical application of these 3 strategies, but there’s plenty to think about in these simple suggestions. “Knowledge is power.” “Perception is more important than reality.” “Evolution is better than revolution.”

The Coda (Adopted from Sunday musings 3/1/15)

A friend from my post-grad program recently reminded me of the coda I shared with him some 25+ years ago. It turns out that, for the most part, I’ve continued to make most decisions using the same three simple concepts.

Knowledge is Power. Pretty obvious, that one. The guy in the know always starts every encounter with a huge advantage. The more you know the less likely you are to be ambushed, knocked on your heels. Foreknowledge begets forethought, which while not foolproof, at least should inoculate you against being fooled or looking foolish. One should not only try to have the most knowledge but also to be aware when one does not.

Perception is more important than reality. You could say this one also takes into account bias, both yours and that of others. What is the reality of human influence on the global climate, for example? Your perception of this along with any biases you may have is your version of reality. Being open to this phenomenon in yourself allows you to maintain a more critical view of your own reality. Knowing this about others around you should help to keep you from being surprised by their reactions to you and what you do and say.

Evolution is better than revolution. Slow, steady, incremental movement toward better is generally better tolerated by both participants and spectators. Face it, there’s an awful lot of carnage in any kind of revolution, and it seems as if the more disruptive the revolution the more collateral damage there is among spectators and bystanders. The violence inherent in revolution is not necessarily physical; economic disruption can feel an awful lot like a punch to the throat, eh?

This last one is kinda tricky, in part because it rides both alongside and astride the first two. Every evolution begins at some point with the equivalent of a revolution. A single genius idea launched into an entrenched system upends intellectual, economic, or some other established orthodoxy. Whether it’s a revolution or evolution depends on when you became aware of its existence and how it is changing you or your life. I’m sure the good folks at Radio Shack look at what happened to them as being trounced in a revolution, but Amazon probably barely rose to yawn.

Sometimes life is not much more than “read and react”. Like a linebacker. Maybe most times for most people. Three simple rules, a coda if you will, have helped guide me and a few folks I might have mentored once upon a time to make what feel like better decisions for us and those around us.

What’s your coda?