Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mirrored, Darkly

"Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves." - James Allen

Day 3 of this new regime is coming up roses like the last two - I am rather semi-somnolent from ingesting my last meal - in this case breaded fish fillet and sardine sotanghon (ode to pad thai, natch) and the free-flowing sense of consciousness is ready to drift away with the next downloaded treat from the Internet.  So far banging on the keyboard feels oddly rewarding for some reason, and I am afraid that I will make no sense once I get to the end.

It was a stressful day today.  Lots to do but not necessarily lots accomplished.  We have gotten moving on a lot of things, but not fast enough.  My sense of urgency meter is on, but only with the pilot light.  The full satisfying whoosh and whoop of a steady flame just aren't there yet.  All our best ambitions and emotions are mirrored darkly- it's very difficult to put in words like "nobility" and some other high meanings given the occasional tedium of the work and the transactional nature of our field.

Today's quote is a good one for me, and for all expatriates based in the Middle East.  Nobody wants to be left out of the list of recipients of increments.  No one wants to come out a loser come the day when everybody else receives some form of reward from the Company.  The funny thing, it isn't so much whether the reward is deserved, it's that others are getting something.

My sense of justice is somewhat rubbed at this juncture.  Nobody gets a free pass at anything.  You want something?  Go out and earn it.  It isn't going to be given to you.  Second thought, of course, is that getting something you don't deserve through shortcuts is the surest way to lose your way.  Getting rewards because you happen to be somebody's friend or somebody's relative is the number one shortcut.

Almost everyone is familiar with the image of the bureaucrat,  that famed clogger of office space whose main purpose is to stopper up the flow of transactions through a slew of approvals and delays. Not surprisingly, a great many people associate this archetype with products of nepotism - it doesn't matter what you do/how you act or what you know, it's rather who you know, that determines the trajectory of this success.

Just this morning we had an interesting conversation in the car on the way to work.  We were remarking about the differences among sipsipchoo-choo, and epal.  I would categorize the first as doing everything in one's power to please the boss.  This would be well and good if the efforts to impress are sincere and are grounded in producing good results for the business.  The second is viewed more negatively, as there are people who go out of their way to point out the faults of others so that they would be given more trust by their bosses.  The third, an expression of more recent vintage, is a person who offers little in getting the job done but concentrates on ways to cozen up to the boss.  It goes without that epals are backstabbing, dishonest, useless people.

I just thought of one thing, though, at least they expend their energy for self-advancement, which is more than what could be about some other mendicants do, which is waiting for blessings to come down from heaven.

Sometimes, the veils of prejudice get in the way. I thought about the conversation in the car this morning and just another we had during dinner with my flatmates.  We can keep on reading so many motivations into each person, but what we actually think they are thinking are mere reflections of what we think we would do if we were in their position.  Yes, we can all sound astute if we make an accurate observation of their actions (a parlor trick for me, mostly), but no, we can never be certain.

Unless we mirror them closely and engage them on a daily basis, there is no way we can tell.

In the end, the positive and the negative are all tied up with integrity.  You can't get anywhere without it - whether you choose to expedite your career in one way or the other.  Your intentions can always be misread, but your methods, and your results speak much more effectively for you.  An echo to the lesson of yesterday's post - no amount of correct guidelines will solve the problem.  Or, as the Good Book simply says, "Judge not lest ye be judged."

I was itching to post on someone's FB post about his moral code, but I've stopped trolling since I got unfriended at least twice because of my irritating need to argue over crosshairs.  His morals are in the right place, bless his soul - but I fear he is overstepping his bounds in interpreting absolute morality.  The anger of the self-righteous is just another block to a greater understanding and engagement of others.   Don't judge too much from your heavenly perch, one day your world may turn topsy-turvy and you find yourself on the opposite end of judgment.

It is a fate I am sure all of us would share, come the Day, but I wish to be spared that delicious irony when my certainty in judging others becomes the case on which I am judged.   A little humility is in order, to light up that dark reflection staring from the other side.

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