The Unsettlement of Personal Complacency

February 6, 2007 | By | 1 Reply More

We take many things for granted. We expect the ground to sit still, the people we love to live forever, the lights to come on at the flick of a switch, and the job we hold to stay there for us.

Last year, most people in my community went for unprecedented long stints (a few days) without lights, heating or cooling. Several days in the hottest part of the summer, and some more during the first serious cold snap of winter our metropolitan grid was hit hard by storms. This was a very unsettling experience, even if it really didn’t affect our survival. It felt unreal, surreal, absurd.

Another unsettling event for me was that my father died last year. Everybody dies, but one somehow doesn’t ever see it coming. This is another form of a disruption in ones personal landscape that one can accept intellectually, but have trouble absorbing emotionally.

Yesterday I was working along on a tight deadline for one of my customers, coding and testing and so on. Just after noon, the only other guy working on this project, the inside man, phoned me and said, “Dan, they canned me.”

Flat. Like that. A pure surprise. He had been an employee for the company for several years, and one of my regular contacts there. I have been a part-time contractor for that company for 19 years, and have a contract good for another few months. I don’t yet know what effect this will have on me, but I know that the deadline is dead-in-the-water. It was a sweeping re-org by the company that bought the company that bought the company that originally contracted with me.

More surprising than the laying off of my lateral colleague was the news that the corporate director of IT got the ax! He had just been put in charge of a programming group when he first brought me on to do special projects back in the 1980’s. Although I’d only done occasional odd jobs directly for his division in the last 10 years, we’ve always kept in touch.

The events that most disrupt personal complacency are generally not newsworthy. They only become that way if they affect some critical number of people. Like the earthquake in Afghanistan in 2003 that left half a country homeless as winter approached, just after its infrastructure had been gutted by a superpower trying and failing to arrest one man. This was a relatively small article in the papers compared to our fearless leader’s “Mission Accomplished” speech.

So my message (after all this verbiage) is simple: Be grateful for those things you generally don’t notice. The car starts. The house is warm. There is food in the fridge. You can communicate with others.

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Category: Culture, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

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  1. Dan Klarmann says:

    Posts like this are useful around Thanksgiving. Just this past week my brother got the axe from the same company as the colleague mentioned herein. No warning, just one of a half dozen positions that were discontinued.

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