One Thousand Words or So

A Little Last-Minute Chaos

I have 58 minutes to get one thousand words written. Believe it or not, I don’t like to procrastinate, and I actively try to avoid it. That was not always the case. For a long time, I was one of those who believed I worked better under pressure. Sure, ninety-nine percent of the time, I managed to do a great job when I started a paper at the last minute, and I’m still upset about the miserable senior thesis I turned in after starting it months before it was due, but if I’m going to be honest, I need to own up to the likelihood that waiting until the last minute didn’t make my papers and newspaper articles any better than they would have been if I had budgeted my time and gotten started with plenty of time to spare. What working under pressure did for me was cut out the option of second guessing my work and exploring different venues in it. A certain amount of confidence jumps aboard the speeding train of work begun at the last minute, and there’s no time to search for it and throw it off so it can roll down a hill, gather its wits, and position itself to hop onto the next caboose that comes around the corner.

It seems to me that my days should run more smoothly than they do. I try to keep a relaxed attitude, expecting and accepting interruptions, feeling grateful for any bits of time I can gather together to use for reading, writing, or artistic pursuits, but the clock has it in for me. I simply cannot find a way to become aware of the ticking minutes and appreciate how quickly they get one with their business.

Hey, I just realized that managed to get some of my thousand words written earlier today, when I was reading all of about 100 words in Jordan B. Peterson’s Maps of Meaning. I have the book, the Moleskine in which I took notes, and The 12 Rules for Life sitting on my desk, not even a foot away from my left wrist. I stacked them all there this evening, after I had finished my tea, because I wanted to write about them for today’s post. So, I’m going to do myself a favor and transcribe the notes I took.

To end the introductory section of Maps of Meaning, chapter one (set apart from the body text of the chapter with a smaller font), Peterson gives us something interesting to remember (and even left justifies it to help us realize that it’s important):

We need to know four things:

what there is,

what to do about what there is,

that there is a difference between knowing what there is,
and knowing what to do about what there is

and what that difference is.

In my notes, I wrote the following:

To discover what something is means most importantly, to discover its significance “for motor output” within a particular social context. In other words, what we’re really concerned with when encountering something new is figuring out what value it holds for us in whatever social setting we happen to be in or anticipate being in. For instance, the objective/material reality of a small, gold clutch does not matter to me. I don’t care its dimensions or the material it is made from. I do care about it looks with the evening gown I’ve picked out; whether it is roomy enough to hold my small, blue wallet, my phone, and a lipstick; whether it is small enough to look and feel right; and perhaps even if has a conspicuous enough label to communicate to those around me that I have good taste and can afford to buy expensive designer accessories.

All of that relates to the world as a place of action, wherein everything has value/meaning.

You know, that specific example provides a rather nice segue to the next paragraph I have marked in the Overture to 12 Rules for Life: an Antidote to Chaos. The paragraph that I shared yesterday ended with this line (but I can’t remember if I included it and don’t want to take the time to look; I have only 25 minutes left, and I still need to get a photo edited and posted): “I described how I had come to believe that the constituent elements of the world as drama were order and chaos, and not material things.” Okay, with that in mind, I give you Peterson’s next paragraph:

Order is where people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity. The state of Order is typically portrayed, symbolically—imaginatively— as masculine. It’s the Wise King and the Tyrant, forever bound together, as society is simultaneously structure and oppression.

So, to continue with my evening bag analogy: I am expecting to go to the fancy dinner party and find other people dressed in evening gowns and tuxedoes. I want to encounter people I want to impress and have them not be quite as stylish as I am. If that happens, all will be right with the world, and I’ll have a wonderful time. What if my date and I show up at the shindig, though, and find that other people are wearing jeans and t-shirts? Will I be able to hold my head up, appear unflappable, and manage to have a good time, or will the shakeup of the Order I was expecting rock my world, at least for the coming few hours? What if I get to the party and find everyone there as dressed up as I and my date are, but in the middle of the evening find myself hiding beneath a table because a man at the next table just stood up and started waving a gun around? It’s not likely that I’ll be at my best, because the Order I was expecting and enjoying has suddenly been replaced with Chaos. A breakup has the same effect. You expected your significant other to play by the same rules as you, but when he made up his own rules, you suddenly found yourself living Chaos.

I did it. That’s more than one thousand, and I need to attend to that photo.

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