Friday, February 27, 2009

Lesson #29: If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day. (John Wheeler)

Driving to work this morning I saw a parade of six Geek Squad Bugs heading toward some unknown destination.

This doesn't seem like a very big deal, except that it got me to thinking philosophically as I sat at a light on my normal route to my 9-to-5 job, something that honestly rarely ever happens anymore. I take this route every day: It winds through the little bit of pretty that exists in the city in which I live; I like this route better than any other, because I can watch the seasons turn in the colors of the leaves of the trees that line the street and in the blooming of the flowers in people's yards. I usually think about what my nine work hours will bring me, what tasks need to be done, what fires I will need to put out that day. I think about my home life and my children and who needs what medical appointment or chauffeuring service or shopping trip. I think about school and what assignments are due, what applications are still waiting to be filled out, what professor requires massaging.

But these aren't thoughts, they're task lists guiding the everyday grind that is my life. I mentally prepare my task list for the day and week ahead on my way to a workaday job that, unfortunately, has become burdensome and, well, normal.

So, when I saw that line of black and white Geek Squad cars, unlike any string of vehicles I have seen in a while, sitting at the intersection ahead of me, I smiled. And it got me to thinking.


I started thinking about patterns. We, humans, create patterns for ourselves. It's a sort of comfort mechanism, in that we recognize patterns and naturally gravitate toward them. I think this is why so many people are content to dedicate their lives and souls to 9-to-5 jobs. Those jobs allow us to wake up at the same time every morning, complete our morning preparation ritual (our patterned morning behavior), drive to work along the same route every day (or on one of two or three patterned routes we have established), work tasks all day that are the same tasks we've completed many times before in the same way, drive home along our same route, and complete our evening "wind-down" rituals, whatever those may be. Without variation, or with very minor variation, this is the way very many of us in America live. By a set and reliable pattern.

The thing is, we don't notice this pattern when we're caught up in it. It's just what we do. We wake up, go to work, come home, and that's that. But that's the nature of patterns.

Once we are familiar with a pattern, it's hard to notice it, or more importantly, the individual bits and pieces that make up the pattern, until and unless something breaks the pattern. Think about it. Imagine a herd of zebras in the savanna. How can you tell one zebra from another? If you stare at them long enough, they all blend into one striped, black and white pattern. Until you introduce an anomaly into the mix. Throw a solid golden lioness into the middle of that black and white herd, and suddenly the pattern becomes a flurry of individual zebras fleeing for their lives.

So, it was good for me to see the parade of Geek Squad cars. Though it might seem anticlimactic after all this philosophizing, that small anomaly on my way to work reminded me to take a look at the pattern of my life. It inspired me to consider whether I still find the pattern of my life beautiful or interesting.

Those answers I'll leave for another blog. But let's just say, I liked the change.

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