Poem: The Word

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning — to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing,

that also needs accomplishing
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue

but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

– to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.

— Tony Hoagland

A Lesson in Variation

I love this dialogue between Daddy and Daughter. People who know me will recognize me in there somewhere. I am not a chemistry professor, but I did spend 30 minutes recently trying to explain the concept of process variaton to my daughter Girlzilla who keeps missing the bus, requiring a ride from me.

I started charging her $30 per ride. She was outraged. So I explained to her:

    Think of all your morning out-the-door times as a population that has an average and a standard deviation
    Not all of your out-the-door times meet standards (you miss the bus)
    You can look at your morning prep from waking time to walking out the door as a process that produces this critical measure — out-the-door time
    You can choose to change your process to make your average out the door time earlier, allowing for your current level of variation in your morning prep process (scoot the average)
    You can choose to change your process to reduce the variation in your process (be more consistent) thus allowing you to have the same average, but make the bus more consistetly (squish the standard deviation)
    But I admit change is painful. Especially if it involves getting up earlier in the morning
    So you can also decide to live with a certain amount of non-conformance (missing the bus)
    Apparently you have been deciding that the considerable pain of change is greater than the incovenience of missing the bus for you
    But you have not accounted in your considerations the inconvenience to me
    So I am charging you $30 (or six hours of babysitting) for each ride, thus shifting the pain back to you so you can make an informed evaluation of your morning preparatory process results
    Now that your non-c0nformances are sufficiently painful, you can do any combination of three things:
    Wake up earlier or do something to “scoot” your average ready time earlier, thus making it to the bus in time
    Streamline your process to reduce the variation, allowing you to wake up at 6:15 and leave by 6:40 on a consistent basis and still make the bus in time
    Or pay me for each non-conformance
    Now you get to make the decision of how much money you wish to spend to avoid the pain of change, and thus I am treating you like an adult

Having explained everything so well, can you be surprised that she still was not convinced? Apparently my logic “Sucks.” But her on-time performance went up over 80% over the next month. So Daddy does know best. Heh.

Forget Hating the Sin, Just Love the Sinner

“Those in union with God, when aware of the sins of others, live in this gentle light. . . Therefore they are always peaceful and calm, and nothing can scandalize them because they have done away with what causes them to take scandal, their self-will. . . Even when they see something that is clearly sinful, they do not pass judgment, but rather feel a holy and genuine compassion, praying for the sinner.”
– St. Catherine of Siena

Righteous anger and moral outrage are often mistaken to be Christian virtues. “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner,” right? I prefer, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” When I feel righteous anger welling up within me, may I always remember that it is a call to prayer, not a call to action.

Back to reality

“Strive to preserve your heart in peace; let no event of this world disturb it; reflect that all must come to an end.” — St. John of the Cross

Indeed, Holiday vacation has come to an end and I am back to work. And so we ramp down the back side of the Christmas season, working our way to Epiphany this Sunday. This morning I strive to preserve my heart in peace and gratitude for so many gifts and focus on my work.