Why Create? and how to avoid the black hole of “productivity”

When I first came across _why‘s tweet on PerlBuzz, I thought it was so profound (by which I mean, anti-consumeristic), that I told dvfmama right away.

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

This is why I would rather listen to my three-year-old belt out show tunes than watching American Idol. This is why I would much rather see my daughter practice standing on her head than watching America’s Got Talent. This is why I can only zone for so long while I idle away hour after hour in solitary web surfing or late night TV watching. This is why I was so happy to give the Ugandan Ministry of Health something that they would use. I hate being a consumer. I fall into the “entertain me” trap more often than I want to confess, but I hate seeing myself there. I hate the thought that my children will be passive participants in culture rather than creative, engaged people. This doesn’t mean that I want them to go out and get a degree in the Humanities. (dvfmama wouldn’t allow it anyway.) So I’m probably already diverging somewhat from what _why originally meant. But who cares? Do not wait for other people. Get out there, do things, be engaged, and tell others about it. (By the way, my co-worker-at-a-distance, Shannon picked up on the Why Create? theme.) But that last bit (“tell others about it”) is a key I’ve been missing for some time. And, for someone who spends 90% of his time working 400 miles away from his co-workers, this is a real shame and, worse, a real impediment to good work. I’m good communicator when I need to be, but till recently, I haven’t been in the habit of communicating regularly with other people that I’m working with. Sure, a lot of this was the physical distance, the lack of face-to-face time — the fact that I abhor teleconferences. But a lot of the problem (and the problem shows up even when I’m working down the hall from people) can be fixed by just sending out a regular email, making sure that everyone who might be concerned knows what I’m doing. Sure, a lot of times it’ll get filed in the bit-bucket, but (and I’ve begun to realize this and put it into practice more since my trip to Uganda) communication isn’t optional, it isn’t overhead; it’s a necessary habit. Of course, it was really helpful that I had this epiphany about communication and started putting it into practice in the past couple of weeks. Today, I met with some IT auditors here in Chapel Hill and told them what my role was in the organization. Before this, I probably would have been much more resentful of the very idea. But for now, at least, I’m feel like I’m on top of the world and I’m happy to tell them what it is I do.

Parenting Guilt ain’t Real Guilt

Jim pointed to this article on Mommy Guilt and wondered if mothers in his own church would concur. Well, I’m not a mother (but I’m married to one) and I’m not in Jim’s church, so what I say will be absolutely meaningless.  Still, I can’t shut up.  So here goes. There is so much in the Ms. McCleneghan’s piece that I want to take issue with.  Where to start? First, I should point out that fathers have guilt, too.  We don’t have a cute name for it, at least I’ve never really heard other fathers complain about “Daddy Guilt”, but, all the same, I imagine most dads from the last 20 years feel a little guilty.  For me, I wonder “Am I spending enough time with the kids?” (I work at home, for pete’s sake!) or “Am I providing enough stimulation for the kids?” And lets not get started on the unfortunate fact that I accidentally broke my 11-year-old daughter’s nose this spring.  So, yeah, dads get guilt. But you know what?  Most of it is bogus. If I feel guilty about repeated physical abuse of my children, that’s one thing.  That is valid guilt.  I should feel guilty. And the guilt should be my sign that I need to turn around and do something differently. But disposable diapers? Formula vs. breastfeeding? The world isn’t perfect and we can’t live perfect lives.  And we shouldn’t feel guilty because of that.  But I’m sure I don’t need to tell an ordained minister that. Which brings me to my second point.  I’m gonna go out on a limb a little here, but I feel it is a sturdy one. Prayers of confession should not be done corporately. If the only time for you to practice confession is in a corporate setting, then you’re doing it wrong.  In the Orthodox church, everyone is encouraged to go to a spiritual director and (perhaps separately) individual confession. The spiritual director will tell you “Why are you beating yourself up about this?”  And then your confessor, if you really feel the need to confess your guilt about disposable diapers, will patiently stand with you and listen to you confess your guilt over disposable diapers to God. And then he’ll tell you Now, having no further care for the sins you have confessed, you may go in peace. See, corporate prayers of confession are wrong because they’re generic.  They don’t address my guilt or the things I need to change.  No wonder Ms. McCleneghan is tuning out.  It should be her sign that something needs to change. (Of course, I had to go look up the Methodist Prayers of Confession and I suppose that in some ways they are similar to the prayers prayed during Forgiveness Vespers so you can see I’m even more full of nonsense than usual, but I still maintain that the missing piece — private confession — would be a great way to get rid of silly parenting guilt.  Guilt needs a release valve.  Confession is meant to be that valve.)

There are crazies out there

In this excellent little message to baby boomers and gen-xers, Steve Olson writes:

When I mention that you refuse to let your kids ride their bikes to the park, you say, “Things are different today. There are more crazies out there.” Yep, and the crazies are us. Middle-aged people are so riddled with anxiety we are eating Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac like Copenhagen at a rodeo.

He points to Mike Males op-ed on risk-takers:

Today, the age group most at risk for violent death is 40 to 49, including illegal-drug death rates five times higher than for teenagers.

I knew this generation was more protected from risk than those before it. I didn’t realize that the older generations were still taking (and losing) such big risks. (via) Now, don’t misunderstand me. I think people should take risks. I think young people and children should be allowed to take more risks. I think my children should be allowed to take more risks, but I’m not the only one who has a say in that.