Curiosity is terminal

Friday, 30 December 2011

Right and Wrong and The Imposition of One's Will on Another

A thing  I wonder about/struggle with is the right or wrong of our opinions. I have always tended to skew left in my beliefs- I'm good with taxes that pay for us to all have roads and streets and schools and libraries, fire and police protection. I'm okay with socialized medicine so that we can all have medical care, and socialized education. It seems to me that these things are equalizers, which strikes me as a good thing. But one can't help but to hear a lot of opinions to the contrary, that we should all just work harder and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and we should individually pay for everything that we use in society and not have to pay for things we don't use. And I frequently feel like these opinions sound... well, stupid.  But the people with whom I disagree are just as convinced of the rightness of their opinions as I am of mine.  And from the slagging that goes back and forth in the comments sections of news sites and blogs alike, it is clear that the people who don't agree with me think I am... well, stupid. But I don't think I am stupid. And I notice that lots of  'them' are not stupid either. So is it a question of right or wrong? Can we both be right? Both wrong? Are we all both right and wrong? And how do you know? Is it an answerable question?

I recently was listening to a radio program on Skeptically Speaking called The Paradox of Choice, an interview with Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of book by the same name. In it he describes two kinds of people, maximizers, who are always looking to make the best choice, and satisfizers, who are just looking to make a choice and can go with it once they have done so. Maximizers agonize over choices, and Schwartz gives lots of examples of mundane, trivial choices we are forced to make daily- such as which pair of jeans to buy or which checkout line to join at the grocery store - that people really do agonize over. He says, in general, maximizers tend not to be as happy as satisfizers. He talks about how the difficulty of making the right choice can paralyze people into not really making decisions, letting what I call the default happen. This used to plague me. I always had terrible buyers regret, and I often would waffle. Then one day, I read a line in a book that went something like this: "There are no wrong decisions. You make your decision and you make it right." Now obviously that is somewhat too simplistic for some decisions, but for most things, I think it helps a lot. The program got me thinking about our career choices, and I thought of a good friend who has a job in a hospital, doing something called sterile processing, which I understand means she cleans the various tools and instruments used in surgeries and other procedures. She is perfectly happy and is not troubled  by the notion of a job being more than just a job. It is a complete means to an end for her. It is not her life. It is the means by which she lives her happy and productive life - if asked to define herself, I am certain that her outdoor activities - hiking, biking, running, camping  would figure large in that definition, and her work would not enter into it. On the other hand, I define myself first as a carpenter. I love construction. I love having my hands in the raising of buildings. I love being able to pour a basement, frame a skeleton and then do the drywall and finishing to make a house out of the project. I get a lot from my work, both physically and mentally. It is satisfying to me, and I personally need to feel satisfied in my work. There are a zillion things I could do for a living that would drive me batty in half a day. My friend is able to separate herself from batty/not batty and just get a job done. I don't think my friend is either wrong or stupid, and I am sure she does not think those things of me. We are different, and perfectly able to tolerate one another's differences in this regard.
I have a couple of people in my life who make decisions based on their expectation that others will comply with all their requests. They make plans based on the assumption that their suggestion for an activity will be accepted without question. I think of them as imposing their wills on others. Now, not everything they want to do is unreasonable or even unattractive, but I find myself resisting sometimes, based more on delivery than actual message.
Is there a connection here? Perhaps the sometimes visceral disagreement I feel with people of other political and philosophical views is that feeling of the imposition of one's will over my own? And am I trying to impose my ideals on a world not really interested? Is it a question of delivery rather than message? Are some of us maximizers, assuming there is one answer, and trying to make us all fit into that mindset, while some are satisfizers, able to just take a path and make it the right one?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

So that was all very nice and it was how I felt at 4 in the morning when my exams were but a memory and I had the pleasure of three weeks break from school to look forward to.

But honestly? I am mad a lot of the time.

Mad that our government has become a strong stable dictatorship.

Mad that we are destroying the planet for the sake of a quick buck. Did you happen to see  or read David Suzuki's Legacy Lecture? Take a few minutes to listen to what he had to say about growth:

I'm mad that we have the ability to feed and shelter and educate and care for everyone on this planet, but we don't.

I'm mad that the playing field is not level and I am really mad that the advantaged refuse to see that it is not level. I am furious when the mechanisms for leveling it are removed and derided.

I want a different world. I want in on the conversations about solutions.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

"It's Crowded, Living Inside This Skin"

Words and music by Kevin Quain whom I heard on the CBC for the first time a few years ago. I had an overwhelming urge to send him some of my hard earned bucks and he kindly sent me some cds. If I ever actually go to Toronto, one of his performances is on the absolute top of my list of things to do.

My skin feels more and less crowded, obviously, with circumstances. Two weeks ago, with two papers, three final exams and a job all hanging over my head, it felt pretty stuffed. With all but the job and a final, I feel like I have some breathing room.

And so. Introductions. This blog has existed in my imagination for nearly ten years. I would talk about blogging something and my child and partner would laugh and nod at each other knowingly. Why do I finally do this? Largely, I think, to get in on the conversation. I like blogs. Lots of people are really interesting. They say and do interesting things, and then other people say interesting things back, and I often want to do the same, but then I think, if I have no blog on which to offer my self forth, am I really joining the conversation? Or am I just throwing my 2 cents in on  my way by, with no context?

What is my context? I am a terminally curious woman. I spent 14 years in the food service industry and I love to cook and feed people. In the last 2 years of that, I began a carpentry apprenticeship and I earned a Red Seal in 2002. I mostly did commercial and heavy construction. Pouring concrete and the dinner rush have the same intensity of adrenaline. I like them both. Don't make me choose. I took up scaffolding in 2002. I live kind of south and east of the middle of nowhere, there are a lot of pulpmills nearby and most of them shut down for maintenance every so often. For several years I just worked the shutdowns when I wasn't doing real construction, and then a long project at a local refinery lead to being on steady. Three years ago,  my boss decided the scaffold training in the province was inadequate, and asked me if I was interested in writing and teaching a scaffold training course. So I learned  about curriculum development and lesson planning and evaluation, and I wrote a small book about scaffold erection. (Go ahead and make a joke here if you like. One of my co-workers taught me that it is way more fun to be four than it is to be forty-four.) Sometimes I teach scaffolding and safety, which is pretty cool and gratifying. I loved those first few classes of my co-workers who were defensive and antagonistic at first, asserting that they had done this for years, they didn't need this course, and by the end they were thanking me and my fellow instructor, telling us they had indeed learned things and that the projects we had used for training were interesting and cool.  I am the person in our company who does the things that no one knows who does them. If it is not part of someone else's properly defined job, it is probably mine. Which is okay, because I like learning things.

So much so that I have gone back to school part-time. I am 45. I have 9 courses toward a psychology degree so far. I hope to have the bachelor's degree by the time I am 50. After that, we'll see. Frankly, I have a dream of a tiny little restaurant- 60 seats tops, with an ever changing menu and a clientele I can sit down for a glass of wine with at the end of the evening. I think that might be a fine use of a psychology degree, an instructor's diploma and a carpenter's Red Seal. Don't you?

The crowded skin in my title comes from his song, "The King in Yellow" for which I cannot find a video. Perhaps you would enjoy this, which may also be apt: