Thursday, April 21, 2016

Of The Small And Silent

Today as I was driving to work in the rain, I got to thinking about all of the great things that I was supposedly going to be and do in my life.

I was, at various times after college, destined (I use the term loosely) to be a performer, a professor, an import/export business owner, a pastor, a real estate broker, an elder/deacon, a writer. When I say “destined”, I mean that this was the thing that was going to be the focus of my life, that would be the vehicle for my success. Big things, public things, visible things. I was to be important and respected, a man of parts in a world that sorely needed one, to set policy and solve problems and be the visible leader of great things and great change.

None of that, as you know, worked out. Every one of those avenues ended up leading to a dead end and the thing that I had chosen after graduate school, the industry that I am currently in, – mostly for desperation of a steady paycheck and benefits - became the one that has essentially been my constant companion for 90% of that time.

This thought wove itself in and out of my head until, at work, a small discovery was made. An error, an oversight -not vastly significant but one that should have been caught by several (including me) but was not.

And all of a sudden I realized my life has become of the small and the silent, of the details that underlie the main focus of activity – critical work, necessary work, but the quiet work of the backstage at the play, of the editor on the author's work, of the lineman that provides power to the coder.

I have resented this role, to be sure. This is the role not of the great, of the mover and shaker, of the significant but rather of the shadowed, the small, the silent. But if I look at all the time past since I graduated from school, every road that lead to a cliff forcing me to retrace my steps, my life keeps coming back to this.

There is a message here for me, I think. And not necessarily a message I have always wanted to hear.

Maybe this is really is my role. Maybe the path to my success or influence, to whatever degree it will exist, is to be based not on being grand and doing the great things but quite the opposite: the filling of small gaps, the completion of the silent tasks, the completion of the minor tasks that make the thing complete even when no-one else realizes that those are the things that made it happen. Maybe it is less about how that success or influence is achieved and a lot more about my ego in the whole matter, the fact that I may be effectively invisible and largely unacknowledged except as part of the grand summation, not as the great individual.

But that is really my problem. The question is, will I let my perceived need for greatness and recognition get in the way of actually doing the sorts of things I was perhaps put here to do?


Dawn McHugh said...

I think in this day and age if I had to go out to work again I would rather be the invisible person, the one that no-one notices, devoid of stress devoid of having to impress others, just doing what I had to, the bare minimum to bring home a pay check.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

I guess what I struggle with Dawn is the sense of meaninglessness that goes along with the tasks of the small and silent. Most everything I have worked on up to about 3 years ago is either offsite in a box somewhere or has been destroyed. Most of the products I worked never went anywhere or have already been superceded.

The other part is (and perhaps this is just me) the current employment environment does not leave one the option of not worrying about impressing and being devoid of stress. The push to perform, to be noticed (because that is only way one moves forward) and not be the weak link in the chain, is intense.

PioneerPreppy said...

It's the debt. They enslave you with it and make sure you go into the mundane employment to pay it off but the carrot never seems to come into view. Reject the debt and you can end the silent, small cycle:)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

True in one sense, but I would argue the work remains small and silent - it is just for yourself rather than someone else.

Dawn McHugh said...

you are but a small cog in a big wheel but without that cog the wheel will not preform as it should

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

It is truth. The reality is that with a complex economy there are (literally) millions of people in the same situation. We are so dependent on the small things yet so often fail to acknowledge them.

Anonymous said...

Read your poem "The Between" again. It helps put things into perspective. Julia

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thank you Julia. It is a very applicable, now that I go back and read it. And only precedes this present state by some 8 months. Sometimes I forget how long it can take things to work through.