Friday, June 24, 2011

Those With No Power

I have found a new job that might pay in a year or two. I am particularly well-qualified in fact with two master's degrees in just the right areas of expertise- nursing and business. I aim to write a business plan for a private medical practice and write myself into the jobs of office nurse and office manager. These plans are evolving from my husband's plan to retire from the Navy, buying a house in his hometown this summer, and his intention to open a private practice. With these thoughts, Japan's grip on me momentarily loosens as I contemplate new directions. I would not have predicted this career trajectory- my husband keeps referring to me being his "office assistant." I don't think Johns Hopkins' Nursing Program will be flagging this as a promotion to their graduates, but then perhaps this is a step up from "Navy Wife;" although my husband has always referred to me in this capacity as "Captain Honey Bunny"- not sure if "office assistant" stacks up to that. Even though it might lack a snappy title, there is much to be said for being able to create and set up a practice together. It strikes me how we are each perfectly prepared for this endeavor without having ever given it much thought which adds to its rightness for me as it has evolved naturally.

Today I listened to On Being's  Krista Tippet's interview, The Meaning of Intelligence, with her guest Mike Rose. There was a discussion about the tension between the mental and physical components of work and how it it is valued and viewed in history. Dr. Rose quotes his cousin, "You know, it took a guy with a college degree to screw this up and guy with a high school degree to fix it." This doesn't accurately reflect Dr. Rose's interests or writing as he thinks we need to avoid splitting into either or and his stories open up the intellect within manual jobs such as that of a waitress or a plumber- reading the room to know when orders are late or visualizing pipes through a wall based on feelings of wetness and rust in the hands. Respecting the value of work, the skills at work, and not just the titles we get at work such as the miserable lawyer, were touched upon too. In Japan, the value of having a job- any job- seems to be the point; work is respected here whatever it is you do, and it is done politely and respectfully. No one is ashamed of their job or their work, however, I wouldn't be surpassed if someone was miserable. In the States- I sense more of the "I'm doing this temporarily" which lacks respect for the moment you are in, the work that you do, and this lack of respect creates a discomfort others have to interact with as well. Plenty of miserable people hide behind titles there too.

I loved his description of his experience with his teachers who devoted a great deal of time to helping him learn, "I can't tell you how many times, ..., I'd be sitting at the elbow of one of these folks..." (italics for emphasis). Another point was that testing and metrics do not get at the environment or experience that help us "have this feeling, this sense, that you matter and that your mind matters and that this is a place that's safe and respectful and where I can take chances and I can learn something. And that can have an effect on who I'm going to be." "You know, in this kind of test-based world that students grow up in, you're penalized if you take a risk but yet just about any intellectual breakthrough of any kind that you'll study has seen it's been a path of breakthrough and failure." Their conversation made me think about thanking those at whose elbows I sat, and of being more giving of the time I spend working with my own children (on English) since; personal attention is a piece of the learning pie.

On the way home from my mundane tasks of updating my car paperwork and other sundries at the base, my iPod launched into another On Being show Fragility and the Evolution of Our Humanity with Xavier Le Pichon. He is the geophysicist who put forth the theory of plate tectonics as well as a spiritual thinker, "...the earth is an extraordinary living being with the motions of the oceans and continents continuously changing, evolving, and this was a tremendous shock." He caught my attention with, "I was working all the night at the computer, and one night finally I put everything together and I found, you know, that Hawaii was getting closer to Tokyo every year by eight centimeters and things like that. And when I came down for breakfast with my wife I told her, 'You know, I'm going to be the most famous man on the earth.'" That was in the early 1970s or maybe even before. Having lived through the most recent (2011) eight centimeters drift, I did go on line to look at where the plates were located. I had never thought about who or when this theory came about. This man had used eight centimeters to see how alive the earth really is; I liked this way of thinking about it. Krista Tippet and Le Pichon have a wonderful discussion of weakness being the very points of growth on the earth and within people and communities. He says, "Communities which are very strong, very rigid, that do not take into account the weak points of the community, the people who are in difficulty and so on, tends to be communities that do not evolve. And when they evolve, it's generally by a very strong commotion, a revolution, I would call them in French." He gives the example, "It's a couple who gets its first child. The first child is extremely weak. He has no power, nothing. But he is really the boss in the house, you know?"

You have this kind of big awakenings when the big catastrophe happens, either a collective one like a war or major accident, but it can be also a tragedy inside the family, not just outside. And they may react in a way that you cannot predict. Sometimes it's very bad. Sometimes it opens them up. So it's something difficult but my experience is that once you enter into this way of, I would call it companionship, you know, walking with the suffering person that has come into your life and that you have not rejected, then your heart progressively gets educated by them. You know, they teach you a new way of being. 
Xavier Le Pichon