But I Get Up Again

I didn’t hit publish on my latest until after midnight, so it looks like I missed two days, not one. I could fudge the record by back-dating posts, but I’d rather not. Instead those gaps in the calendar stand as an example, assuming I continue writing.

Everyone stumbles and falls. Some get up and keep going.

How we approach failure matters. Even in this one sentence, this one paragraph, I keep writing even though I’m not quite sure how best to say what I’m thinking. I could wrestle over each individual word used before I put pen to paper, and do — that’s how I normally approach the page — but when I do that two things happen: I forget what I was trying to say, and I don’t write. Why would I even do this to begin with? I’m not producing permanent etchings on rock; I can change words as I go along, or come back later and revise whole sections — and that’s just on paper. Digital ink is even more flexible. But I’ve done this for decades; I stopped writing in a journal when I was 11: my scribblings were defacing the beautiful book.

I recall some author attempting to make the case that these specific lines in Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” were proof that they were a Satanic band, because you can’t get to Heaven on the highway to Hell:

Yes, there are two paths you can go by / but in the long run / there’s still time to change the road you’re on.

Which is funny because this point is made several times in the Gospels: there’s still time to change. We are all sinners, redeemed by the grace of God. As Paul argues in Romans, because God has forgiven you, refrain from continuing to sin, and instead walk in the path of righteousness.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. — Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

(Now that I think about it, that commentary on Led Zeppelin hides a temptation. Shall we despair and continue to sin because there is no hope?)

Let not your sins be a heavy burden, but get up and walk with God, “for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” That attitude applies not just to grievous faults, but to every little mistake we make. As the Zen Buddhists say in teaching mindfulness, and the yogis in teaching yoga, approach with beginner’s mind. Return to the breath if your attention wanders. It is still there. Observe that thought passing through, how you are not your thoughts. Begin again.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 18:3 (ESV)

We carry the mistakes of the past with us, as lessons: The bee may sting if you try to pet it. What lesson will we learn? What will we teach? If we do not risk failure, if we win without effort, is that success? Each moment, this moment, is new. Pick up the pen and write.

Stop the World, I Want to Get Off

The most satisfying work I’ve done has been sweeping an empty room, turning off the lights, and closing the door. Because the work was done. Had come to an end. Fin. Entropy reduced to zero.

Having small children and other creatures living with me, it rarely happens that a task is completely done. There’s one more dish to wash, another sock to put in the laundry, more crumbs on the floor, another meal to make. The work is over when I die. For small portions of life, we can pretend that each beginning has an end. We empty one house before moving to another. What if there’s not? How burdensome!

Stop the world, I want to get off. Button, c. 1960I like to imagine a revolution, the world swept clean by fire before the dawning of a new age. There’s something so easy, so glamorous about a clean slate for starting over. It eliminates all concerns about the moment of transition.

And doesn’t exist.

The other day I watched a lovely little presentation on the benefits of treating infrastructure as code, and managing it holistically, as a software project. It’s a wonderful thought, and one I’ve been an advocate of since reading “Bootstrapping an Infrastructure” around the turn of the century. It’s nice to see the attitude gaining traction some some n years since virtualization made it possible for nearly everyone. But this is an attitude shift, a change in mindset rather than a drop-in replacement for whatever software ails you. What if one, unlike a fancy new software start-up, has existing infrastructure, policies, procedures, and people? How does one adapt to a new paradigm where computing resources aren’t expensive, and the most expensive cost is history and tradition?

Burning it all down is not an option.