Tag Archives: philosophy

Sources of Ambiguity


Because I’m a tool and I make bad decisions at times, I waited many years to start grad school. Honestly, I’m glad I did. It was the best academic experience of my life. No, the conditions were not ideal. I was overworked and emotionally and mentally exhausted at that point in my life. Years of bad habits continued to encourage non-productive and non-progressive habits. However, something had shifted in those long years after my undergrad degree and later “degree enhancement” of adding teaching credentials. I was pretty pissed at myself and ready to put money toward something substantial–something that would lift me academically, if nothing else. Good God Almighty, I found it. The seven-point checklist you see above is but one of the many gems lurking in the Leadership Studies pathway I took as a specialization. You may say, “But Vince, are you going to be a principal or an administrator? Why Leadership Studies? That doesn’t make any sense.” On one hand, you’re right. On the other hand, who cares what you think? I rocked 33 hours in eleven months, put myself through hell, and got more out of that than my previous thirty years of education combined.

Let me break down the brilliant simplicity of the Sources of Ambiguity. They’re everywhere. They’re in every organization that isn’t airtight. Guess what? Few organizations are airtight. Are you ready to try something with me? Apply those seven principles to everyday life. Frightening, isn’t it? What we have here is a framework, my lords and ladies. And it applies to everything. A little bit of honesty, and a lone resource, and you may be on your way to drawing a line through those ambiguities. That’s what I try to do, one day at a time, in all kinds of situations. After my current contract comes to a close, I’ll share with you all the ways this checklist helped me laugh through an entire year of suffering. For now, give it a try in whatever context you would like. While you’re at it, search something like “solutions for” paired with your specific industry or application, and see if smarter people haven’t already written about what we could be doing.

Special shout-out to Bolman and Deal’s Reframing Organizations and all of the inherent truths in the 4th edition.

Time to Live: An Invitation

One of my chief regrets is not following my energies earlier in life. Looking back across the Void, I see that habits affected most of my efforts. For three decades, I have entertained bursts of ideas, but I have never spent time cultivating. I fell into the trap. I ran up debt, drank myself silly, stayed in jobs longer than I wanted, and every once in a great while, I had a moment of clarity. My plan is simple: create. That’s it. That’s my one word.

In the coming days, I have some ideas I’d like to bounce off of you, but mostly, I would really like all creatives to get back to doing what they would like to do. I’d like us to really be honest about where we are and where we are going.

As I return to this site with a re-imagined view of what I need to do, I extend an invitation to any and all of you. Let’s write. Let’s draw. Let’s paint. Let’s explore.

For heaven’s sake, let’s do anything other than just pay bills until we die.

Revelations

one-mans-trash

Abandoned dream

At 10:37, I take a left onto W 28th Street and enter the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and I slowly drive through the campus until I pop out on the other side in a sketchy neighborhood. I circle under and around the southern end of the campus, take a right onto University Avenue, and this time when I enter campus, I park in a remote northern parking lot. I don’t have a pass, but where I pull in looks like the end of the land development, so I’m not too worried about a parking ticket. I walk at a decent clip (might as well try to raise the cardio a little and make the steps count) to arrive at the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology building. I’m early for my appointment, so I slow my pace and take my time looking around the lobby before I decide to take the stairs to the next floor. The building is impressive, and I decide to check the directory to make sure I don’t do something stupid, like assume the floor number for the room where I’m headed. I feel a measure of relief when I see that room 547 is, indeed, on the fifth floor.

At 10:49, I sit at a small composite round table adjacent to 547, and I flip through an issue of Arkansas Living. In the July 2016 issue there is a two-page spread about the Bachman-Wilson House at Crystal Bridges. It’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house, acquired in New Jersey, and transported and rebuilt in Arkansas. I make a mental note to actually see the house, instead of just making a mental note to add this to a future unfulfilled To-Do List. Three minutes have passed. Thomas Wallace, Program Coordinator for Web Design and Development and the Information Technology Minor program (among others) says, “Vincent?” as he walks down the hall toward his room. I stand, shake his hand, and walk inside his office. He has an iMac and a MacBook Pro on his desk. His room is Spartan (environmental irony) and he has a genuine delivery. His hair is cut short and he wears a darker blue UALR polo shirt. His age is indeterminate, but I feel that he might be close to my age. He is in shape, physically. We make small talk before the information starts to flow, and he tells me that he has climbed in West Virginia a few times. He encourages me to check out northwest Arkansas, as it is clear that I like the outdoors and Arkansas has much to offer.

where-have-you-been

Where have you been?

Before the actual appointed time of 11:00, we’ve already begun to get down to the heart of the matter–why I have contacted him, and why I asked for a face-to-face with him. I explain how I am ready to leave my English classroom, but that I am not quite “through” with education. I explain how I have a deep love for technology, but that I have not formally studied it. I offer truncated versions of why the education industry, at least at my level, is fairly terrible, and why I am attempting to evolve my employment. I talk about a failed online school with massive funding and zero buy-in, and I share three anecdotes about students really not knowing how to do anything with technology. I throw in the term “digital native” and scoff at it, mostly due to the fact that I will never miss a chance to mention Mark Bauerlein’s Dumbest Generation.

I have been a teacher for 3,711 days. That is 5.34 million minutes too long.

Mr. Wallace breaks down the details of what UALR’s IT departments aim to do. He profiles some of the partnerships, and he shares some insights as to how he thinks certain programs may benefit me. He mentions that he feels I could also be an asset to a few of the programs. I shake his hand at 11:36, and I am filled with something I do not understand as I walk out of the EIT building. I cross two parking lots and stop to take two pictures as I try to sort out what I am feeling. It is hope. It is a different kind of hope.

where-are-you-going

Where are you going?

At 11:47, I drive east through run-down neighborhoods that eventually lead to the area near the capitol building. Barred and boarded windows abruptly become Starbucks and the Childrens’ Hospital, and I’m on 13th Street, looking left and right at scores of businesses, some of which I might not ever see unless I take an errant route. My phone keeps updating my route and offering multiple upcoming turns in the hopes that I may course-correct and take the most efficient path. I decline.

 

At 12 noon I am drinking a scarlet red Berliner Weisse at Lost Forty, and although it looks like fruit punch or a sorority girl’s jungle juice, I don’t care. It’s delicious. I eat a small lunch. At 12:26, I am unexpectedly near tears when I hear Thom Yorke’s falsetto voice float down from the warehouse ceiling. Denial, deniiialll. It’s “House of Cards.” That strange hope that now made it hard to swallow, and I have to lean back to redirect my watery eyes. I crane my neck to make sure it’s Radiohead, and I pay the bill as I listen to the rest of the song. I snap a picture of Bald Bull on “Punch-Out!” on my way out to the car. I have a Crowler of Wet Hop Ale for when I get home.

retro-hit

Retro hit machine

I listen to a few songs as I drive north across the bridge and head west toward home. I have my phone plugged into an FM modulator and I am playing a few songs from a Playstation video game soundtrack. At a long red light, I pull off to quickly check out a sizable junkyard hidden in a grove of trees right off of the main artery of Maumelle Boulevard. I’m surprised by the gems hidden inside. There is a miniature mansion across the street from the entrance. I leave the Acura running; I don’t know who runs this forest, or if there are surprise guard dogs. I snap a few pics and retreat. Before I climb back in, I look north behind my SUV and see the sun reflecting from the Arkansas River.

another-mans-treasure

Rusted treasure chest

Hope persists as I pull into the driveway, and I realize that in one hundred and fifty school days, I will not teach English again. I may not be in a classroom again. Ashley has become a pioneer (O, pioneer!) and has 2,400 classroom minutes remaining, if she finishes her notice. She is free. I am not far behind.

I will finish the school year. I would like to break contract right now–today–but I won’t. I can carefully shape the clay of this dream, and I can cultivate the energies to direct them efficiently.

1996

*An immediate disclaimer, as I genuinely enjoy the fluidity of memory: some of this could have happened as early as 1995, and may have stretched into 1997, but probably not. 1996 was pretty important.*

In no particular order, here is how I construct it: Lauren was responsible for Underworld, Meggan was a go-to for rap (hip-hop) and random industrial, and Phil guided me to the best of the best. Many others contributed heavily, and you know who you are. This is a necessary trip back.

Dan had more skate- and ska-inspired rock than I knew. I borrowed or was gifted countless CD samplers, and honestly, to this day, Gracie is responsible for some remote part of my brain randomly surging forth an energized rift and Oi Oi-stylized vocals. I couldn’t ska-dance for shit, but he would break out mad custom moves right by the register or the fryers without hesitation. Dan is the reason I know a tiny bit about NY Hardcore. I might never have found the Wrens without you, good sir.

Lauren handed me Second Toughest in the Infants one night after work and said, “Hey, you might like this. I got this disc through WaxTrax (I think she had a subscription or something very similar), and it’s not really my style.” I had bought a Panasonic head unit from Chris (double-floating anti-vibration system) in a 1986 five-speed hatchback Accord, and I inserted the disc on a Sunday night. The parking lot lights made the empty streets amber, and there was a slight haze on my windshield. “Juanita” started playing, and it has not stopped playing in my head since. I even get a little upset when other fans play the remix of the song–the original was that strong. Thanks, Uncle L.

Meggan could finish any lyric I started. It was super-weird. Fast food (or most teenage jobs, for that matter) are tedious at best, so it’s kind of a big deal if you can entertain yourself and each other while going through the motions. I must’ve thrown everything from “1nce Again” to “Doin’ It” to “Wish” at Megs, only to have her immediately complete the lyric and send it back my way. Sometimes, like a true fool, I’d be so excited I’d sort of hop rapidly while completing some mundane task. I can’t be positive, but I feel like maybe she was the first to show me mustard and lettuce directly on top of a chicken tender, with no bun. You can’t learn that type of thing yourself. It’s taught to you. To this day, a raised eyebrow or a slight head tilt can signal, “Look at that asshole over there.” I bet it always will.

Phil and I went to see Depeche Mode. Millie dropped us off way back at the entrance to Star Lake (it will always┬ábe Star Lake, regardless of corporate sponsor), and I got to see Dave Gahan command a stage under purple lights. Phil always had the drop on The New, but it was his portal to the Older Unheard that really blew my mind. I think he took a lot of pride in casually, stealthily introducing super-rad shit. I was listening to NIN before I met Phil, but I’ll be damned if our combined Trent efforts didn’t result in a brand-new universe of sounds and art to which I definitely would not have been privy. For the thousand nights of sitting cross-legged on carpeted floors and feeling unholy rage at bad A.I. to a few dozen live shows, thanks for being that guy who can pick up where he left off six months or six years ago without a beat missed. This is where I should slip in a “First” reference, but it’s true, and we all know it.

In about an hour, I’m taking a meeting that will likely set the stage for the next ten or twenty years of my professional life, even if it begins with the smallest of steps. It helps to look back before we storm forward. Always forward.

Play a tune for me, and send some energy out there.