Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fear and loathing in 10 minutes

It's nice to tackle new things. It makes one humble and adds to an experiential resume.

Fear of failure is silly. Everybody fails. Do it spectacularly, with gesticulating panache. Failure is the key to learning. It keeps you humble and aware of your place in the scheme of things.

I'm looking at a shelf full of Chilton auto repair manuals. In the spring I'd like to tune-up my truck by myself; replace all the belts and hoses, change all the fluids, rotate the tires, etc. I'm not the least bit mechanically inclined, like my brother Bob. He has a natural aptitude for that sort of thing. I'm more abstract, able to weave through the various webs of information to glean interesting and useful bits. My natural aptitude is for mental constructs.

But I'm willing to take on this truck project because, in spite of self-image I have of being a thinker, I am in actuality a very physically restless doer. But I'm a doer in the vein of my mother. She creates so many things, food, quilts, craft projects, etc., but get out of her way when she's in the process. She makes a mess when she's working. I'm just like that, stumbling and bumbling my way through the physical world, seeking some sort of physical grace and elegance, but in full knowledge that is my natural state.

How does one balance this physical restlessness with the mental acuity and organization required to work in academics. Easy. I impose an order on the operations that gives elbow room for flights of fancy and the chance to go down various side roads. When I take on a project, be it a lesson plan or long-distance hike, I leave ample room for improvisation and inspiration. This approach has served me well because I love stepping into the void with an end goal in mind and then seeing what's uncovered by the various perambulations of thought and deed.

This tendency to impose a loose structure (but a structure nonetheless) makes me incompatible to control freaks. Unfortunately, control freaks are rife in the teaching profession. I have to fight my tendency to rebel against them which I need to quell if I'm to continue in this profession. Or, I need to be hired by someone who has the same educational philosophy I do. But people like myself don't make good leaders. We don't inspire confidence with surety of action. We're always rubbing our chins, pondering the situation. We tend to have great, spontaneous adventures.

This is a case in point. I started 10 minutes ago with no idea what I was going to write about. And here we are...

Have a great day!

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