Do you have those times when your body and your mind just decide that something is supposed to happen in a hurry even though there is no rational reason why it should? I do. They seem to be a periodic occurrence in my life. I am not diagnosed as OCD but this particular tendency is the reasons I sometimes joke around about whether or not I am Obsessive Compulsive.
Life has it’s rhythms. They hum along and like a lot of basic elements in the world we don’t think or talk about them most of the time. They just are. Nature has her pace, or his pace and everything gets done when it’s supposed to. I remember reading (50 years ago) one of Edward T. Hall’s tomes and thinking about his experience living among the Hopi and Navajo tribes who had no word for future time. There was no “scheduling” of a meeting according to a clock — meetings happened when everyone was there. You didn’t plan things upon some arbitrary schedule —they happened when they were ‘supposed’ to happen. It’s an idea I had forgotten about (and ignored) for mucho of my life.
Lately my conscience has been been nagging because a whole load of “things” need doing. I tell myself I should get after them. My reaction to my conscience has been that of a former employee of mine who once arrived at work an hour or two late and said, “I said to myself, ‘Self, get up’ and my self said to me, “Huh?”
All my life I have been schedule driven. Let’s be specific here: not goal driven — making ‘x’ number of dollars, or getting ‘y’ number of points, those sorts of things don’t move me; but getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’ in 30, 60, or 90 days does. For me life is all about process. The how things get accomplished. In those days, if I didn’t have a deadline I would create one — not for the sake of the deadline but in order to have a timeline on which to drop parts of a given task. The deadline gave me a matrix into which to fit all the details.
Since retiring I’ve been trying to detox; thinking maybe I could kick my ‘schedule’ addiction. Most of the time I’ve been happy with my slow progress. My poor daughter, however, has been driven crazy. She’s the out there in the workaday world — living with work hours and home hours and available vacation time and weddings to plan and withholding taxes to file and all that sort of stuff. She loves to plan. In earlier years I might have said she LIVES to plan but she’s getting smarter too! My need to de-schedule has conflicted with her need to have a timeline on which to plot out the details of life. We are working on that together and when she arrives here in a couple days it will be wonderful to spend time together. For a short time life will go back to what it had been; and then I’ll make her crazy again when she heads North.
Momma Nature has her schedule; she just doesn’t publish it in the New York Times. Sometimes I wonder why she is so slack! 🙂 In Wisconsin we knew never to plant tomatoes before Memorial Day — the weather simply wasn’t reliable earlier in the year; June could be quite cool; September was reliably lovely; you could not rely on there being snow for Christmas. One knows where one stands — sort of. Between the purchase of the home, getting the coach on the market, the dust and noise of road construction (as well as not being sure whether we’d be able to leave the park because of something being done to the road — as well as a variety of private activities I’ve had a feeling of congestion, of haste, and the need to get things done.
As the time for Mike & Katy’s long planned visit has approached and my list of to-do’s has grown I’ve been forcing myself to say “I don’t care” a little more than usual. That’s not like me. Usually, if someone asks me to do something I’d rather stop what I’m doing right then and get it done so that I don’t have to think about >> when << I’m going to do it later. I lose track of time, then I forget, then the person thinks I don’t care. If you’re going to break my concentration sufficiently to ask me to do something I might as well go and do it right then because my concentration is already broken — why do it a second time later; it’s easier just to get it done and off the discussion table.
So, I’m basically an impatient guy who doesn’t want to put things on a time line with now. Like my metaphorical Hopi brothers things will happen when they happen and not before.
On a NON-political note all of this has me remembering some pretty basic social constructs. We are facing a national challenge because we aren’t understanding one another. Just like our daughter and I who sort of wrestle with the need for chronological specificity the work of guys like Edward Hall who pointed out decades ago that huge differences in culture can exist even among people who live in close proximity. Those differences can hamper or prevent understanding and progress. Consider for a couple moments just three areas of divergence and ponder — for a few minutes — how they might affect you, how you interact with your neighbor.
In a high-context culture, there are many contextual elements that help people to understand the rules. As a result, much is taken for granted. This can be very confusing for person who does not understand the ‘unwritten rules’ of the culture.
In a low-context culture, very little is taken for granted. Whilst this means that more explanation is needed, it also means there is less chance of misunderstanding particularly when visitors are present.
Contrasting the two
French contracts tend to be short (in physical length, not time duration) as much of the information is available within the high-context French culture. American content, on the other hand, is low-context and so contracts tend to be longer in order to explain the detail. Highly mobile environments where people come and go need lower-context culture. With a stable population, however, a higher context culture may develop.
M-Time, as he called it, means doing one thing at a time. It assumes careful planning and scheduling and is a familiar Western approach that appears in disciplines such as ‘time management’. Monochronic people tend also to be low context.
In Polychronic cultures, human interaction is valued over time and material things, leading to a lesser concern for ‘getting things done’ — they do get done, but more in their own time. Aboriginal and Native Americans have typical polychronic cultures, where ‘talking stick’ meetings can go on for as long as somebody has something to say. Polychronic people tend also to be high context.
Contrasting the two
Western cultures vary in their focus on monochronic or polychronic time. Americans are strongly monochronic whilst the French have a much greater polychronic tendency — thus a French person may turn up to a meeting late and think nothing of it (much to the annoyance of a German or American co-worker). Similarly, an American may arrive at a meeting with a Saud expecting the meeting to be between him and the other person only to arrive and find that the other party is meeting simultaneously with three or four other groups as well as himself and the host simply migrates from one meeting to the other. The Saud is living a polychromic life — the american a monochromic one.
Hall was concerned about space and our relationships within it. He called the study of such space Proxemics. We have concerns about space in many situations, from personal body space to space in the office, parking space, space at home.
The need for space
Some people need more space in all areas. People who encroach into that space are seen as a threat. Personal space is an example of a mobile form of territory and people need less or greater distances between them and others. A Japanese person who needs less space thus will stand closer to an American, inadvertently making the American uncomfortable.
Some people need bigger homes, bigger cars, bigger offices and so on. This may be driven by cultural factors, for example the space in America leads to greater utilization of space, whilst Japanese need less space (partly as a result of limited useful space in Japan).
Some people are more territorial than others with greater concern for ownership. They seek to mark out the areas which are theirs and perhaps having boundary wars with neighbors. This happens right down to desk-level, where co-workers may do battle over a piece of paper which overlaps from one person’s area to another. At national level, many wars have been fought over boundaries. Territoriality also extends to anything that is ‘mine’ and ownership concerns extend to material things. Security thus becomes a subject of great concern for people with a high need for ownership. People with high territoriality tend also to be low context.
People with lower territoriality have less ownership of space and boundaries are less important to them. They will share territory and ownership with little thought. They also have less concern for material ownership and their sense of ‘stealing’ is less developed (this is more important for highly territorial people). People with low territoriality tend also to be high context.
Australian Aboriginal people will say that they belong to the land rather than the other way around. Before we scotch this, we should remember that they have thrived in harsh conditions for thousands of years. Western society, on the other hand has shown much barbarity over ownership of land.
You can figure out for yourself where wealth and other personal privileges come into the picture and how they might affects one’s views of context, time, or space. Culture is context. Context is culture. And we all move through both in a constant state of flux. Or at least I’m still changing and know it.
Thanks for stopping and check in again tomorrow to see what’s up.