Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Carrots and Sticks

So I got an e-mail:

I understand what you say here, " The point I'm really aiming at is the value of being accountable to yourself rather than to someone else. " Sometimes however I feel motivated by the enthusiasm of others. There are days like today when I just want to ask, "am I on the right track." Of course I'm looking for an affirmative response so if I received the contrary, I might be utterly shattered. But if I can get some dialogue and discussion to affirm that I am on the right track, it helps me keep going just a little longer. I'm still doing the work for myself (I think/hope) but sometimes the energy to go after that carrot does have to do with the support of someone else...don't know if that makes sense, but it's what I thought about when I read...

I was wondering about this.
Because, of course I believe in the power of getting encouragement from others and from having your own work appreciated.

Here's answer number 1:

Last night as I wrote about sticks and carrots I was thinking about something I had heard from George Lakoff. I cannot remember what source this material was published in; I remember reading it, but not where; I do remember George discussing it in a lecture. Anyway--sorry for the lack of a real citation--the story is this:
Lakoff (and perhaps a co-author) had analyzed a set of proverbs translated into English. They were looking for metaphorical structures that were repeated in different languages. One proverb--Chinese, I think--was "Cows run with the wind; Horses run against it." In the brief analysis of this proverb Lakoff suggested that proverb favored horses, i.e., one should persevere in the face of difficulty. And so it was published, but according to Lakoff a native speaker of the language whence the proverb came contacted him to say that the proverb in its native language and culture favored cows: one should go with the flow and be wise.
But the way I see it, they're both right. Both the horses and cows are worthy of respect and emulation.
Or, in other words, we need to find a balance between the self-righteous ego-driven sense of purpose and motivation, and the sense that we are connected with a larger whole.
Living in Berkeley, I have had the opportunity to meet some interesting people--people drawn to the city for its intellectualism, and for its radical reputation; people who are passionate about their causes that they have researched extensively. But I can see these people--they're all preachers of their own little religion in a way--and they are so far removed from what other people are seeing and thinking that they have trouble connecting. I respect their intelligence and their passion for their cause. But there's a part of me that says: "I'm a writer; if I'm writing to share my ideas, then I need to understand how to connect with the people around me."

Answer number 2 is forthcoming.

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