Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"to do" an essay

Greetings lovers of life and children after my heart! I haven’t worked in so long: hiatus at the job. Been congested with more and more notes, building up more and more ideas, my eyes and mind getting dizzy in complications, and meanwhile I feel like I am floating through the world and its duties without any true grasp of reality. Well this is it, this is the essay on where theory meets reality, where we actually plan our days: an essay about the to do list. This is the final section about the strategy of order, another way to win at the game. After this I go on to the strategy of direct speech.


Take care, caretakers!










7. To-do

                A child is done being raised when he is able and willing to continue raising himself; a student is done being taught when she is able and willing to continue teaching herself. All other cases are spoiled, and only justified by the others who succeed. Consider yourself prepared for life when you are able and willing to prepare for it every day. All hail the to-do list!

                The movie KillBill, ridiculous though it is, illustrates the power of the to-do list. The plot of both parts of the movie are structured around a to-do list -- specifically, a hit list. It is as if the assassin in the movie, the heroine, had smuggled a steel leaf from the book of fate, and written her list on this, so that the people she planned to kill to exact her revenge for nearly being killed herself would be finished against all odds, even though this meant defeating over a hundred trained ninjas with her bare sword, as if by the same mandate which the Arabs hold sacred when they say that God has written the time of your death in the book of life, and nothing in the world can alter it. Regard your to-do with equal reverence.

                Ideally, we should use our fine eye on the details, and our Odin eye on the big picture; when we set down our goals for life -- we should have a separate blank book for this! -- we ought to plan today, this week, this month, this year, this decade, every decade of our life, and our place in world history, all more or less simultaneously, since we participate in each of the concentric spheres simultaneously.

                When you make your to-do list, remember to tax yourself daily. First plan the must-be-dones, and fit in the extras around them, like a stuffed car trunk which already holds the big bookshelves, and can yet fit the extra small things, shoes, books, plates, so that when you are moving to your new house, you only need to make a few trips.

                My daily doings are structured like the United States government—I balance power against power, drive against drive, to keep them strong and fighting. My to-do list is the Executive Branch, by which I put my laws into practice; my journal and letters to friends the Judicial branch, by which I judge my actions; and my goal sheets the Legislative, by which I set new laws. Letting my sayings and writings incarnate into the daily to-do is their fullest flower, their mundane incarnation. Let a man say what he will, but what he does is the shine of his words.

                Don't start a thing until you have planned how to end it. Start each project with the end in mind. First, plan just a smudge, then throw yourself into your task, and then emerge again, like a diver to the surface, to really plan it, because now you've broken the temptation to procrastinate, and felt firsthand how long the project will take.

                Tax yourself daily, and tax as the government taxes. You get a paycheck, and it is taxed by an income tax. You spend your money and you are taxed again, not only on the sales tax, but also implicitly in the cost of the product, for the manufacturers of, say, your car, had to pay every manner of tax on each part, for each laborer, on each transport and process, every step of the way. Who knows but that the car you bought is mostly tax? Well then, know how to tax all the things you do, the things you were going to do anyway, so that you can not only, wash the dishes, but spend a little extra time on them and listen to a college lecture on audio while you do so. Or not just go to the store, but ride your bike so you can also get exercise. The question is not only "what is the most expedient manner to do this one thing?" but "how can I do this one thing so that it can accomplish more than one goal?” Kill a dozen birds with one stone.

                Draw your to-do list from your context. Do what fits correctly to the environment, just as a Wright building grows from considering the geography of its place. Incorporate your context into the big picture. Take a rock from the yard to use as a paper weight. Take a quote from your friend and make it into a slogan. Be generous and use some materials from your immediate environment. You thus honor it as worthy of being incorporated into your life work. The popular sitcom "Grey's Anatomy" tells the story of a dozen or so surgeons and doctors sharing a hospital. The show uses a plot device where some general hospital incident -- say, a very fat man needs surgery -- serves as the center of gravity for and commentary upon the various side-plots of each character. In the same way, let the day-to-day unpredictability of life feed back into your planning; let chance be mastered, bridle that horse, make him do his work as well. Must an urge or drive cost  you effort? Well make your prisoners earn their keep!

                The big picture must be appreciated to put the daily doings in proportional context. Even the most perfect assortment of parts are awkward and ugly without the determining big picture. If the paintings of Raphael were chopped up and put back together by Picasso, they would never again be beautiful. Pandora was the archetypical woman not only because she had perfectly made parts, each handcrafted by a certain god or goddess, but because the knot that tied them all together -- feminine curiosity – was put there by Zeus himself. Write at the top of your list, therefore, the theme for the day, the name for the day. In this, planning is like drawing, cutting, lifting, or dancing, in which the best execution is in grand graceful sweeps, in pauseless confident gestures.

                Do well and the world will do you well; be harmless and you won't be harmed. For great pride never advertises. Trust me and I will be before your eyes trustworthy. Each man is in reciprocation with his world. He is a new center, and the more centered on himself he is, the more others gladly orbit him. It is true that intelligence seeks its level, and so it will flow into the minds of all others who hear. Be wise, therefore, in your prudence: impose simple order on your day, a routine to abide by. Emerson would awake at 4:30 a.m. each day, write letters to his friends, and make perfectly wrought sentences in his journal, which amassed like wealth, ready to spend into his essays. You can't beat a man at his own game. Find a system that works for you -- nobody else's will.

                Find yourself a notebook for your goals. On the first page, write your life goal; on the second page, write a breakdown of your goals for each decade of  your life; on the third page, write your goals for this decade; on the fourth page write your goals for this year; on the fifth page, write your goals for this month. With such a scaffolding, your daily todo will fall into its inevitable place.












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