Sunday, July 8, 2012

...when two or more come together

Time to think

One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, said, "In college I learned how to learn from other people. As far as I was concerned, writing in college didn't consist of what little Annie had to say, but what Wallace Stevens had to say. I didn't come to college to think my own thoughts. I came to learn what had been thought."

"To learn what had been thought." Wish I had said that, along with everything else Ms. Dillard has written. Dip into Pilgrim at Tinker Creek or Teaching a Stone to Talk. Or soak up her brief but excellent essays in A Writer's LIfe. 

The rest of life is a joint venture: the application of this knowledge and the development of personal, critical-thinking skills. We stand at the corner of  "I came to learn what had been thought" and "I think".  Nexus-ville.  Defined as "a connection, where multiple elements meet", nexus (not to be confused with the hair product with the extra "x") is derived from the Latin word for "binding". According to the Wiki, nexxum was a debt bondage contract in the early Roman Republic. The debtor pledged his person as collateral should he default on his loan. In the South, we say "owed his soul to the company store". Nexus was the person in bondage. 

You and I are bound to one another, for better or for worse. I choose to think for the better.  Nothing is original but derivation/distillation is the work of a lifetime, best done in tandem. My friend, Mary, retired last week after thirty-three years with a large corporation. The ranking female member of management, she sent two memos, one written in 1980, the other in 2012. The final sentence of the first reads "my conclusion was that it was not possible to do a comparative study of the career path of women in [insert corporate name - almost any would do in 1980] because as yet women had not had a career path."

The 2012 memo written was reflective: "I began to understand that change would be an evolution, not a revolution.  I was determined not to be a militant who would make men uncomfortable, but an example of a competent woman who would help them become more open to women in their own organization. I realized that part of the problem with becoming more comfortable was they were never around women at work. I convinced my colleagues that from now on, our goal should be to have at least one woman attend [heretofore, all-Our male function]."

It doesn't stop here...and nor will Mary. She will simply be out of uniform. That rarest of creatures, a person who began and ended a career with one company, on her last morning at work, Mary spoke with the son of the man who was on watch in her early career. The son shared that his father was outraged that Mary (and all women) were turned away from a managment event at an all-male club. This occurrance coupled with her reason-based response led to passage of an amendment to include women. She never knew this before her last day. Her email ended "This is an odd bookend to my career. The day begins with laughter through tears."

Think on this: A woman who has traveled the world, packing respect for all, went to work for a company, grew herself and others,  and stayed the course for thirty years never knew the full reach of her efforts.  The vital red "and" covers the years between start and finish, years spent not simply marking time but practicing the nexus of humility, perserverence, discipline, laughter and tears.  These ingredients - shaken and stirred - brew a heady mix.

Our mutual friend, Marie, wrote to Mary:  "Your genuine interest in and enjoyment of all flavors of individuals has served you and your fellow female employees well." [Note from me: insert "males, too".] "Opening doors and keeping them open is an art. Leading a velvet revolution is a challenge and an honor. Job well, done, Mary. Job well done!"

I am grateful for and indebted to those whose shoulders - and words - lift.  (See "nexus", last sentence, paragraph three.) The years have shown me that good can trump the hard/sad/bad/evil parts if I remember that my needs and wants are not the center of the  universe, known and unknown. Should I forget my name, my left sock, my phone number, help me to remember this.  

As for those who didn't [appear to] lift, thank you, too. I love the lyrics of "For Good" from Wicked. Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Bad  Witch, friends since their days at Shiz University ("Dear Old Shiz"), embrace and sing this duet of love and forgivenss prior to the scene where Dorothy dumps a bucket of water on Elphaba. Enjoy.

Nexus, y'all.


Think of someone who has lifted you

and say "thank you." 

If they are alive, email or write.

If not, send a message to the heavens.

Either way, pay it forward.

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