Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Big Picture Thinking

My job, of late, seems to be filled with lots and lots of details... lots and lots of details... and while I'm very good at detail work, I despise it. It's probably the main reason I hate grading so much. Yet to be good at grading, you have to look at the details and how it fits in the big picture... which is often why my assignments take so long to grade. I don't like doing anything that is pointless, and I don't like asking my students to do pointless work, either. They deserve feedback, and so do I - that's how we grow.

Now, big picture thinking - I love that. I love thinking about how the big picture ought to be, and given my preference would let someone else hammer out the details. Yet, truth be told, you can't think big picture if you don't also think about the details, because each one impacts the whole.

Much like this picture above - it's made of a lot of other little pictures. Independently, they are complete, but together, they provide a view of something completely different. 

I've been fascinated by my collective friends on social media the past few weeks. The presidential election concluded yesterday, and I have a number of friends cheering loudly their candidate won, and a number of friends acting as if it is the end of the world. 

Yet - if one looks at the big picture, one can see that the world is ever changing, with lots of different stories, needs, wants, and desires coming into play. In USA political terms - there are Republican ideals that help or hurt people and there are Democrat ideals that help or hurt people - no matter who "wins," someone "loses." As I see friends of mine exhorting loudly, "am I wrong?" or with equal measure friends trumpeting, "See! I'm right!" I want to answer, "no, you're not - and yes, you are," because, truth is - the answer is not black or white. It falls somewhere on a spectrum, looking more gray than it seems most want to admit.

I think as I get older, I recognize more that the spectrum of opposites is what life is really about. One can't have joy without despair, winning without losing, power without struggle, life without death - yet very rarely is anything clear cut one or the other... it falls on a scale. Even death in its seeming finality is not a complete death because of the pieces of those who came before us making us who we are. Simply put, life and all of its processes - including an election process - is just a big picture with many details that make it interesting. Change one, even by just a fraction, and you change the picture. Hopefully, we adjust to the new picture. 

For me, to live a truly ethical life, I have to weigh many facts and act with decisions based on what seems to be the greater good, knowing that in some way my decision has both helped and hurt because I'm sure I've missed some details. That's what I did when I cast my vote yesterday. What's most important in all of this is that I act, and reflect on that action so I learn something along the way and can start attending to additional details that I uncovered because of the learning process. 

My opinion: we all won yesterday. We also all lost. That's something you only recognize if you look at the details you can see clearly in the big picture, and also start looking at details that may or may not become more clear over time - like those details that pertain to someone else's lived existence that don't match your experience or knowledge base. Any way you slice it, change, and the continual struggle of existence filled with lots of details that causes us not to always see eye to eye remains. For all of this, I am somewhere on the spectrum between thankful and sad. 

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