Monday, 2 September 2013

A nutrasweet year

The city streets are full of people going nowhere making time. . .
           The change from night to day is  really only hours. . .c
           it's just along the line can't you see the sign.  <Tightrope, by Jeff Lynne>

This evening finds me three days before the new year in my religion, Judaism. . . Yesterday we read the portion relating to the passing of the man considered the paragon of humility and wisdom, Moses. This is something we read annually as the new year approaches, and it brings closure to the saga of one of the most exceptional people who ever walked the earth. The above quote talks about people making time for nothing, but in Moses' case even the greatest human specimen had a limited window on earth to what he could and succumbed to mortality.

I sometimes try to imagine Moses as a person, and end up drawing a blank. This week a black studies professor at my school declared that Moses, along with virtually every other figure in scripture, was black. Does that really explain who he was? The legacy of this man was in his words and his acts, not in some superficial aspect of his appearance. 

The reason that I think of Moses today, is because of another unique aspect of his life,  one that I've found lacking in my own. It's become clear of late that I've failed to earn the trust of my peers. I go into my job, or my class, or some other activity, and I throw my best effort into it. Success eludes me, and my sleep is restless, because satisfaction is foreign to me.

I don't think that this internal problem translates into the image projected outward. In fact, it seems that I chronically need to prove to the rest of the world that I mean business. It seems that with most people I can't earn the status of being a trusted colleague, but only a service provider; someone to do the more mundane work, like editing a term paper or a programme code. I'll give a brief example. This summer I pitched an important project to two  students in my department, both of which have seen my work. I'll call them Jeff and Sharon.  The project is an idea from somebody much older than me that I respect and view as a mentor.

Jeff responded that he really was interested and would be up for it. Sharon also thought it had potential  but expressed reservations. She didn't think she was ready to commit to a group. When she told me this I took it at face value, knowing it was still over a month until the class was due to start. But as the weeks dragged on and there was no word back, I realized that I'd better start looking someplace else. I viewed it as a worse rejection to receive no reply than a negative one.

Contemplating this now, I can come to only one conclusion: My offer wasn't ignored because it was a bad project. Not because I have a reputation for poor work, either. I really think that the only strike against it was the fact that I am involved, and nothing else. Maybe Sharon thinks I tried to put the moves on her. I know, however, that my main need for her in the group would have been her design and solid mechanics skills. I pitched the project using ample topic information for her to investigate.

I think this issue is rather far from that of Moses facing imminent death, but it's moments like this that I wish I could have some of the trust that the Israelites placed in him. For forty years they relied on his judgment, and with few exceptions gave Moses the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't just craving power and prestige.I think that even in my modest station in life my credibility is low, and people second guess me.

The only recourse I have is my patience and the desire to defy those expectations. I hope that I've caused some people to regret their mistrust of me in the past, but it doesn't matter. It would stand to reason that I reciprocate this treatment to others around me, and I hope to correct that in the coming year.