Saturday, May 23, 2009

What's for breakfast? Have to ask the committee

I'm sitting by the dining room window. A lovely breeze is coming in, the sun is shining, birds are singing, and very few cars have been driving by. A serenely quiet Saturday morning.

May has been a lean month for blogging. I think I'm suffering a bit from burnout, between work and the interfaith forum I'm helping to organize (more about that later). Every time I sit down to write, no more than a sentence or two will come to me. I was listening to the radio last weekend and someone was talking about burnout. They said the cause was not too much work but rather boredom. I can see that. My life seems to have devolved into a never-ending cycle of committee work.

Committee work has to be one of the most diabolically vapid inventions of the modern era. I mean, wasn't France ruled by a committee during the Reign of Terror? You go to a meeting, you get your assignment, you work on your assignment, to bring it to the next committee meeting, your colleagues tell you how it should be tweaked, you tweak it, you bring it back to the committee, etc., etc. Or else you bring your assignment to the next committee meeting, your colleagues are happy with it, and as a reward you get a new assignment.
(at left, Le Comité de Salut Public)

If you're on a tolerably good committee (a "good committee" is an oxymoron), your colleagues are cordial and fairly reasonable. If you're on a nightmare committee, there are a few colleagues who drag their feet and whine. That's how it is where I work. No one one yells at anybody. That wouldn't be civilized. People who yell aren't "nice." Instead, we have the Reign of Passive Aggression: individuals who hem and haw as though they have a superior idea that the rest of us are just incapable of grasping and then who finally deign to join in the consensus after striking a martyr pose to make us feeling guilty for twisting their arm. Anyway, I usually emerge from such meetings wishing the guillotine would put a swift end to it.

Much as I love my Quaker faith and practice, I have to admit that the downside of it is all the committee work. (I console myself with the thought that at least we don't have to try to lead our spiritual lives according to religious decrees emanating from some central authority...might be restful now and then, though..) Right now I have some long-term projects as part of my participation on one committee, projects that I haven't been able to work on much because of the interfaith forum project. Which leads me to projects, another modern invention. But that will be for another time. Right now I'm hungry and I need to ask the committee what's for breakfast.


  1. Candide après avoir pérégriné pendant des années à travers le monde a fini par écouter son précepteur qui lui a dit: Pose ta valise et commence à cultiver ton jardin! Il faut cultiver son jardin, chaque geste a alors son importance, alors que dans les comités, on cause, on jase, on cause et on glose et ni thym ni chèvrefeuille ne poussent pour le bonheur des petits oiseaux.

  2. Très bien dit, Dr. Pangloss ! Ah, si je pouvais guérir notre patron de sa manie de lancer des comités !!

  3. À la fin du conte, Candide répond aux stupiditiés de Pangloss en disant: “il faut cultiver NOTRE jardin”, c’est-à-dire, qu’il faut travailler ENSEMBLE pour améliorer les environs où nous vivons. Il est bien évident que Voltaire ne connaissait pas les comités dont parle Liberata!

    What an awful choice---either a squabbling committee or a dictatorship! I just hope you don’t have a Robespierre on your committees, or you’ll start executing each other.

  4. >>you’ll start executing each other.

    No, that wouldn't be "nice." Slowly poisoning people with arsenic is how it would be done where I work :-)


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