Twisting an Arm

Day 53: Wednesday

Good morning Zak,

There once was a little frog named Josephine.  She had a pet human named Robby.  Every morning, she let little Robby out to play and do his business.  Robby’s favorite toy was a sack of paper.  He took this with him when he went out, wearing his red and blue hat with the yellow helicopter propeller on top.  Josephine spent most of the day playing twister.  In the evening, Robby came back in and Josephine fed him.  He was always naughty at meal time because he didn’t keep his food in his can.  It would end up in Josephine’s room.  She ate it so it wouldn’t go to waste.

One day Robby came home, and his face was bright red.

“You’ll never guess what happened today, Josephine!”

Josephine couldn’t guess.

“Freddy payed me five dollars, and I kissed Gracie on the lips!  It was so funny!”

Josephine couldn’t believe it.

“I told Freddy it was gross, and he couldn’t make me do it.  But then he gave me five dollars, and I thought it was funny, so I did it anyway because I thought it was funny.”

Josephine looked at him.

robby-and-josaphine

Until tomorrow,

Tim

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Relative humor

Day 40: Friday

Morning, Tim!

Isn’t it funny how life is constant change? Not simply in the you were once a 12 year old boy kind of way, though that applies too. Rather, so often life feels in flux. When we are young, it is changing school grades, always climbing to be  the “alpha” grade, head-honchos in the school until we move on to another school where we are bottom rung. Then we leave school – a big change – and start working. We often meet others and start relationships, perhaps move, reconsider our religious beliefs, buy houses, have children, have grandchildren, change jobs, reacquaint with friends, mourn losses…

Each of these are substantive changes in their own right. When compared to smaller changes like a delayed train or a favorite restaurant closed, they are large and highly impactful on our lives. Relatively, all meaningful. We view them as such when they happen, especially when many fall so close together. But taken as a whole, life is full of these macro changes, too. Just depends on the lens, I suppose.


Free will is a funny thing. Whether one believes we have it or not, we act as though we do. Yet even if we do, it’s evident that free will is difficult to act on. We’re coming up on the new year – 2017. Time for many a new years resolution to be made, far, far fewer to be kept. Why is that? We have good intentions – we see what might make us live a “better” life. A healthier diet and more exercise, going back to school, quitting smoking, writing letters to friends, perhaps even blogging. Yet year after year we let ourselves down.

Discipline and consistency are difficult.

I wonder how to keep a new years resolution. Perhaps that’ll be mine this year: keeping a new years resolution.

Until Monday,

Zak

Blessed, with Responsibility

Day 30: Friday

Morning, Tim!

Depending on how you count it, we’ve been at it for a month! I figured I’d count it this way so that I could note it before you did (though you could have made a claim regarding “But February only has…” A missed opportunity…).

[…] Close our eyes and imagine somewhere we would like to be if we could be anywhere in the world.  When we opened our eyes he asked if the place anyone had imagined was room 312 YC high school.  I was the only one who raised their hand.  Maybe I was over thinking things, but if I really wanted to be somewhere else, wouldn’t I just get up and leave?

Decisions are a challenging thing. To be fair to your 14 year old classmates, I wonder if they really did have the power to go where they’d like. Perhaps some thought “man, I’d love to be at tacobell!” (depending on the hour of your class, perhaps Starbucks…). But others probably imagined the word Italy (it’s probably hard to imaging if you haven’t gone) or somewhere foreign – and where was a 14 year old to get the means to travel to Italy? Even getting up and leaving wouldn’t get them there. And so of course they sat in class, for that’s what they were told to do, many with the hope that life would be a long conditional. “If I do this [e.g. sit in school like I’m told], I’ll get to do that [e.g. go on vacation where I’d like, or perhaps even live there depending on my willingness to dream…]”

Or you could be an odd boy, realizing this train of thought, and….suggested that this was the place you wanted to be. I was that boy too…

Leaving your work would be an administrative decision that you make about the infrastructure of your life.  We don’t make those kind of decisions on a daily basis.

You don’t state it explicitly, but your discussion of decisions, infrastructure life decisions in particular, seems to lean toward an inability in at least some cases to truly make these changes. There are people who can make them (e.g. Jim Koch founded Sam Adams brewery after being fed up with consulting – but it was precisely because he was a management consultant that he was in a position to quit). In cases such as these, he describes them as scary but not dangerous; not dangerous because the other option was dangerous – looking back at 65 and wondering why he spent his whole life doing management consulting when that’s not what he wanted to do. I can appreciate this line of thought – I have been blessed with opportunities; while I work hard, I also know I’m lucky to be in the position I am.

In other cases, though, it is dangerous to make those infrastructure changes. For a single mom with three kids, there isn’t much room for adventure in the job market, nor to simply “get up and leave” because the consequences mount so high – hungry kids, an unpaid mortgage, utility bills mounting. Or, much worse, someone in a war-torn country who can’t leave because they literally can’t. They have nowhere to take refuge, no country to take them in.

Obviously you know all of this; I’m merely reflecting on decisions, infrastructure choices in particular. Reflecting on the choices I deliberate over…

I feel blessed to be able to even have the options I have in my choices. I also wonder what responsibility comes along with those options…

Until Monday,

Zak

p.s. I hope you chose to join the choir. Also if you do, I’ll anticipate a good picture of you doing some handshaking…

Decisions

Day 29: Thursday

Good morning Zak,

When I was in high school, I had a philosophy teacher who asked the class one time to close our eyes and imagine somewhere we would like to be if we could be anywhere in the world.  When we opened our eyes he asked if the place anyone had imagined was room 312 YC high school.  I was the only one who raised their hand.  Maybe I was over thinking things, but if I really wanted to be somewhere else, wouldn’t I just get up and leave?

Zak, I know Thursday is a work day for you.  Maybe this letter comes to you over your lunch break.  In fact, I’m willing to bet a strong majority of our readers join us here on Thily Fin from cramped little office spaces.  Zak, I know you love your job, but many people don’t.  My question to those who don’t like being at work is this: why don’t you just leave?

Another one of those moments when I picture my future employer coming across this blog of ours…

I enjoy going to classes at the music conservatory here in Milan Italy.  Most of my composition classes here begin with the Maestro asking me a question: hai lavorato, “have you worked?”  This is a very routine way that we begin.  I answer him with a si and then hand him whatever I’ve written that week.  But our conservatory is the kind of place where other answers would probably be equally acceptable.  I get the feeling that I could come in one day: “have you worked?” “No, I didn’t work this week.  I just sat in the park and listened to the sounds of the people walking by.”

Leaving your work would be an administrative decision that you make about the infrastructure of your life.  We don’t make those kind of decisions on a daily basis.  Most of life is about finding beauty in the mundanity of a fairly regular routine.  Of course, the option to change that routine is always available.

My Maestro tells me he once had a student who would visit other eras.  She’d come in: “have you worked?” “No, I couldn’t work this week, I was in the Middle Ages.”  The student was supposed to write three minuets, but week by week she would show up with nothing.  Finally my Maestro told her, “spend this week in the eighteenth century, and you’ll write me three perfect minuets.”  And according to the Maestro that’s exactly what happened.

Some decisions are made for us.  The other night I decided to go to a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass at the little parish down the street.  This was another one of those times when bad music was better than good music.  I’ve never heard the Coronation Mass quite like that before, but I doubt if I’ve ever felt quite that much spirit in a room either.  Everyone was beaming afterword, including this one lady:

“do you go to our church?”

“who me?”

“do you like to sing?”

“um…”

“will you sing in our choir?”

“I…”

“you don’t have time?  Oh you must come sing with us.  Here I’ll show you where we have rehearsals.”  She brought me around the back of the Church, and told me to come there the next day at 9 in the evening.

She was just beaming.  If that old lady were a piece of music, she’d be written in F sharp major—a sharp for each ridiculous impulse that pops into her head.  “And now this is where you find out I really have a screw loose.  Every time I pass this statue of our Lord and savior I give him a nice little greeting.  ‘Good evening Lord.’” She shook hands with the statue.  “It’s just that he has his hands spread out like that, and I don’t know…

“This way you make some connections.  Life in the city is, can be very cold sometimes, and…” She looked at my jacket zipper.  “You’re freezing!  Button up.  Life in the city is very cold, all the people walk around with their noses in the air.  This way you can make some nice friends.”

Until tomorrow,

Tim