Reflection 324: My Day, again

September 26, 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Steve Perrin.      [Including two photos.]

What am I talking about when I mention loops of engagement? Basically, it’s how I direct my attention in everyday life—how I make myself happen. Let me count the ways. Take yesterday, for instance. Here’s a summary of my engagements that I can remember:

  • lay in bed thinking about what I was going to do
  • showered and got dressed
  • edited two posts to my blog before breakfast
  • made and ate breakfast, washed dishes
  • answered email, printed handouts for upcoming housing commission meeting
  • worked on two Powerpoint presentations for October 6
  • scanned and Photoshopped three photos
  • read article in Newsweek
  • got mail at PO
  • deposited check at bank
  • bought cheese, bananas, rice cakes, sugar, at grocery
  • made soup for lunch, washed dishes
  • drove 18 miles to Ellsworth
  • checked with surveyor about headings shown on a chart from 1983
  • consulted builder about patching roof
  • planned reroofing job with son Ken
  • hailed Sophie, asked about her father
  • bought yogurt to get me through meeting
  • attended 2.5-hour listening session with John Bullard, new head of National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
  • drove back to Bar Harbor
  • made supper
  • went to sleep listening to Romney at GOP convention

I made two points at the listening session:

  1. Times are changing in estuaries up and down the coast. As shallow, sheltered, sunny bays, estuaries are particularly productive, but being warmer than most coastal waters, they are showing the impact of global warming before more open waters. Mussels are spawning earlier, lobsters are molting earlier, horseshoe crabs are breeding earlier. These changes will drive changes to fisheries in federal waters farther out in the Gulf of Maine.
  2. My sense of the meeting is that the arrow of time heads in one direction and never makes a U-turn. In my lifetime the human population has risen from 2 to 7 billion people. You can’t go home again, or follow traditions set by your father and grandfather. Those fisheries won’t “come back” as many in the audience hoped they would. Fishermen have to innovate as Steve Jobs did at Apple by focusing on the world of today, not sit around longing for yesterday to repeat itself.

This was the most civil meeting between fishermen and a fisheries manager I have ever attended. Bullard did an excellent job stressing that he was there to listen, not lecture. As usual, my engagements included taking pictures. Here are a couple of examples from the NMFS listening session. The first is of John Bullard responding to a question from a fisherman, the second shows a portion of the 25 people having fisheries-related interests that he came to meet with in Ellsworth.

P1030256_John-Bullard_NMFS_8-30-2012P1030235x_NMFS-mtg_8-30-2012 In retrospect, it all sounds so routine. But that’s how engagements often run. We do many of the same or similar things day-after-day. We get up, wash, make breakfast, run off to school or to work, take breaks, eat, read or watch videos/TV, answer email, go to bed. We are verbs on the run from one engagement to the next.

Which is exactly my point. We make it all happen from the inside, not because we are on some kind of treadmill. It is our personal attention that is engaged, our personal sensory impressions, our personal situations, our personal actions—all directed toward making ourselves happen as is our custom so we remain familiar to ourselves and know who we are.

Think of the culture we have built around ourselves as an extension of our personal urge and ability to engage:

  • going to school to learn new skills
  • getting a job to bring in a paycheck
  • learning to talk, read, write, swim, drive, cook, garden
  • forming relationships, going on dates, getting engaged
  • having children, a career, a car, a house, an exercise bike
  • fighting, serving in the military, taking tours of duty
  • walking, running, flying, sailing, rowing, kayaking
  • painting, dancing, singing, sculpting, making music
  • cutting wood, digging ditches, panning gold, sewing
  • investing, saving, gambling, squandering, consuming
  • these, and a thousand other activities we perform

Our culture illustrates myriad possibilities for engagement, which we use as foils in defining ourselves in particular ways to reflects the influences and choices we have personally experienced in our families, social groups, schools, neighbor-hoods, and communities. Out of the possibilities all swirling around us, we choose activities that make sense to us because of examples so familiar that we unwittingly or deliberately pattern our interactions upon them (or against them) and become who we are.

Engagements are the core upon which our psyches—our minds and inner identities—are built. They are more what we are as individuals than what we do in society. We all engage our worlds and surroundings in particular ways as farmers, artists, musicians, athletes, teachers, soldiers, lovers, entrepreneurs, adventurers, parents, and all the other roles we learn to play in one life.

I offer the streaming round of personal engagement as a kind of everyday psychology based on life as we make it happen rather than on any sense of “normal” or “deviant” behavior, trauma, neurosis, or pathology. I am not a medical man out to cure humanity of its ills. I think on the whole we do better by accepting one another as we present ourselves, and develop relationships (or not) from there. We grow into a kind of dignity by growing up as we do, and I believe each of us is entitled to a certain amount of respect for having survived as well as we have under difficult circumstances we have faced on our own.

The point, I think, is once we become aware of the personal uniqueness of our styles of engagement, we have the option in each case to strive toward making our engagements as effective and productive as we can to avoid abusing others inadvertently by inflicting ourselves on a world without regard for the consequences. We are all one-of-a-kind specimens of humanity, and look on the world from perspectives uniquely our own. As such, we have no right to inflict harm on others who look back at us through eyes of their own because of how their rearing and life experiences have shaped them.

Rather, by striving to be gifts one to another in our engagements, we first must become gifts to ourselves by dealing with the circumstances of our own development, recognizing our strengths, weaknesses, and failings, and accepting responsibility for improving on the ways others have shown us how to be ourselves up till now through personal example. We do that by paying particular attention to how we conduct our own engagements, deliberately avoiding doing harm. That is my translation of the golden rule.

Focusing on engagements in terms of work, Christian Science Monitor Editor John Yemma writes in his editorial for the issue of September 3, 2012:

Work is the difference we make over a lifetime. Each of us accumulates a body of work that is more than bullet points on our resume. Our work includes what we contribute in the home, in the development of our talents, in the refinement of intellect and growth of character. Work is about improving ourselves and helping make the world a little better as a partner, parent, friend, or citizen (page 5).

More inclusively, every one of our engagements makes such a difference because it is an example of how we make ourselves happen in the world. As we engage, so goes the world—that is, the world we entertain from our perspective on the situation we are in at the time, the only world we can know.

That’s what it means to be responsibly conscious—of yourself and your view of the world at the same time—to rise to the occasion as navigator of your personal destiny.

As always, –Steve from Planet Earth

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