The PVP Diaries #83

“Hurrying with the modern crowd, as eager and fickle as any…”

Whitman, Song of Myself

Shrinkage:

I looked at the pile yesterday and thought “I don’t know if that’ll be enough to finish.” But I pretty quickly recognized the thought as vanity. As me wanting to believe in myself as clever and discerning. But there’s one very important thing to consider, to remember, and to take very seriously, which is that I don’t know. I have only done this once before, and that was a long time ago, and the circumstances were different. And anyway, even so, twice in 20 years is not enough experience to stand before the remaining wood, hands on hips, orange foam earplugs sitting askew in the canals, and declare, “no sir, I don’t think that’s gonna cover it.”

But we like to do that, don’t we? Near the end of a large jigsaw puzzle, when we’ve scanned and hunted a dozen times for a piece that we really want to find, but can’t seem to locate, we say, “I think there’s a piece missing.” It’s almost never true. The flight’s delayed and we say “It’s probably gonna be canceled.” It rarely is.

We like to predict failure. So we come to expect failure. It’s probably a defense mechanism. A desire to not be caught off guard when the world comes up short or our preparations prove insufficient. Nobody wants to look the fool. Except that it’s foolish to forget reality. It’s foolish to forget the limits of what you do and can know. It’s something that I’ve started to take very seriously as I’ve gotten older, something that I’ve embraced rather than resisted. The fact that, as my Dad is fond of saying “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Or something very similar. I don’t mean that in a layered ignorance kind of way. I am aware of the things – I know full well that I don’t know calculus or which gauge of nail to use for framing a wall. I can learn, but at the moment I have no idea. And it’s the moment that matters. I’m not going to waste any of it by looking at a differential equation and pretending I can solve it without first learning the steps, and then carrying them out.

In this moment I have no idea whether there’s enough wood stacked in the dining room to finish this flooring job. There’s no point guessing – that’s just a pantomime of discernment, and meanwhile the floor isn’t getting any more finished.

Be content to start looking for another piece, to work the puzzle until the end and find out then if you’re missing anything. You can always crawl around under the table or look for it in the vacuum bag at that point. But don’t bother until you know. Be content to keep laying the planks, pulling piece after piece from the dwindling pile, without guessing at square footages and pretending that you can out-think the ignorance. You can’t. You can only out-learn it.


“The report, the third in a series by IDM, affirms that while there are still risks associated with returning to full in-person instruction, the risks could be significantly reduced through school-based countermeasures, hybrid scheduling, and a phased-in approach that brings back K-5 grades first.

The report has quite a bit more to say. I’m always a careful reader of tone – I usually measure the things I say to my kids based not on what I mean, but how I expect they’ll receive it. There’s always a difference. I tend to read intentionally in the mode of how my kids listen subconsciously: picking up cues from the language, scanning for subtext. This report is all very cautious and non-committal up front, but it marks a shift from the message that “the risks are far too great,” to the message that “the risks are there, but we may be able to work with them anyway.”

Here in King County the positive cases continue to climb, and I think we hit some kind of a state-wide record in one of the last couple of days. But the election’s over – at least the part where leverage matters – so the doomsday attitude is probably going to abate to some extent. Especially if Biden wins. But even if Trump winds up winning somehow, his hardest detractors aren’t going to hold their constituents hostage for another four years – or I suppose two, in order to reach the midterms – over this ersatz plague. I think (says the guy who railed about guessing at things he doesn’t know) that the coronavirus gestalt is going to undergo a significant change here in the coming months. maybe even weeks, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach.

But maybe that’s just me being unrealistically hopeful. What do I know?


– For the love of God, learn to lose gracefully, Comrade Citizen –

2 thoughts on “The PVP Diaries #83

  1. Trust your math. I know when you calculated the sq. ft. of your floor project you used accurate measurements. I’m sure when you purchased the materials you got it covered. I’ll bet you even have extra because what you need never equals the amount of product in full boxes. Example: You calculate 12 1/2 boxes or whatever will give you exactly the right of flooring. But you have to buy whole boxes. So you will have 13. Every project I have done came out this way. I was never short. Or maybe it was the accountant in me that always took care to use larger number when calculating material needs. I always had leftovers except when I did the windows. That one is self explanatory.

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    1. I measured twice, and several days apart to try to avoid duplicating any mistakes. Then I added 10%. Then I rounded up and ordered 900sf. Then the wood arrived and it said they sent 910sf. I am very close to finished, and I definitely have enough wood.

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