I’m not sure where this is going but that should keep things exciting. I read Scott Faith’s article on Afghanistan (“Afghanistan: We Give You Our Dead, You Give Them Their Meaning“) and it reminded me of what often happened when I was working for a big computer company. There’d be a problem at a data center and, after trying to resolve it remotely, they’d call in the experts, me being one of them.
Being on-site – if you will, being boots on the ground did help especially since we got to interact with the locals (techies in my case). Almost every time, I’d scratch my head, I think, well, what they’re saying makes sense, let’s try it. Of course, we’d have to have a meeting with upper management and then carefully feed them what the locals had suggested. Nine times out of ten, their suggestions worked, or at worst, needed a little tweaking from another pair of eyes. Mission accomplished.
The difficult part was getting the people at the top to understand what was obvious to those of us at the bottom. Often I guess the observations and suggestions as to how to make things work were not what they had in mind. Sad. In Afghanistan it was self-defeating.
So I’m wondering what’s going on here. Do those at the top have a different agenda? Not a case of “Cherchez la femme” or “Who Profits” as in a dime mystery novel. And looking for the femme fatale is a non-starter, nevermind, no longer even a joke – I apologize if anyone is offended. The suggestions are meant to provoke – to make us think differently.
Now I’m going to jump from WAR and WORK to personal matters. Day-to-day stuff when we’re struggling with complex problems and situations. There were plenty of times in the past where I wrestled with a problem and came up with a solution or was fed a suggestion that while plausible, just didn’t feel right. And yet I was stuck with this non-answer – couldn’t let it go when at the back of my brain I knew it was wrong. Something inside said, “Uh-uh, this is wrong, don’t go there.”
Of course, I’d first have to admit that I was wrong and “Hey, let’s start again, maybe from scratch.” Usually, I didn’t have enough strength, intestinal fortitude, to own up I was wrong. So I’d muddle through, sticking to the path I had laid out in front of myself no matter how full it may have been with mines or IEDs. Yeah, life is a struggle. Occasionally, I get it right before getting myself completely lost, and back off, admit that I made a mistake. “Should have followed my gut feelings.” Or, “So and so was right all along, why didn’t I listen?”
Not easy to do this. But then, I was able to get up off the ground, wipe the crap off my clothes, regroup, and get on with things, moving in a better direction.
I little bit of wisdom gained at a price – take the time to listen to yourself and others, not just once but again and again. And especially listen to those who may not be your mirror image or at your pay grade. Chances are they may see things differently and a lot clearer. All too often my mistakes came from pride and thinking I was right. I ignored my inner voice. And sometimes I think that this inner voice is one that we all have and one that connects us all to one another in a very profound way. We just need to listen carefully and have those conversations. Maybe those conversations will help get us out of at least some of the difficulties we now find ourselves in. Some will say that RESPECT for others (and oneself) is a good first step.
Ken was a Professor of Mathematics, a ceramicist, a welder, and an IBMer until downsized in 2000. He taught yoga until COVID-19 decided otherwise. He continues writing, living with his wife and beagle in Shorewood, Wisconsin. He enjoys chamber music and mysteries. He’s a homebrewer and runs whitewater rivers. Ken is a writer and his literary works can be found at https://www.kmkbooks.com/
He welcomes feedback on his articles and can be reached at email@example.com.