Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The German way and the feminine way

I know that all people are capable of steady concentration and all people are aware of the value of neatness and cleanliness.  Similarly, all people have the ability to pay attention to and appreciate beauty, whether it is our remarkably blue and clear Wisconsin skies or a bird's song or some other arresting beauty.  But for the sake of a label meaningful to me, I label intense cleaning or other immersion the "German" way.  It could also be mnemonically labeled "intense focus", or continual busyness.

Focus, meaning concentration, is a popular word in self-help writing these day.  It is true that the first item on my To Do list can be a joy to focus on, to do well and to complete satisfactorily.  Cleaning the barracks, digging holes in the earth and filling them up again as in the movie "Holes", some distraction that calls for physical effort and/or mental concentration is something to do.  Often, political or administrative individuals have tried to motivate increased attention with the use of punishment for poorly done jobs.

So, one way to achieve a level of happiness is to focus and work.  However, the very focus is to some extent, blinding.  Enough focus and you don't realize other important things.  I read of a WWII  American pilot parachuting into the Pacific during a dogfight with a Japanese scrambling up the chute lines to avoid the enemy plane.  He was focused and didn't feel he had lost a foot to the enemy propellor until he was in the raft he had inflated.

Mothers often can't afford such intense focus if they are to be aware of the needs and situations of little kids.  They have to be open to experience but that means they are hit with continuous interruptions and fears.  Oh no, he just fell!  Aw, poor baby, he has cut his knee!  This is analogous to Robert Sapolsky's zebras in Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.  The striped beasts are very close to the lions, who eat them.  Danger!  But not now, the lions are sleeping.  The feminine and zebra way seems to be more like Feel it, fear it, take care of it, weep a bit and then get over it.  Don't block life out.  Expect dangers, disappointments and downfalls but appreciate love and beauty when and where you can.

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