Thursday, March 27, 2014

Supposed former validation junkie

"I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem."
Practice never makes perfect, it just makes progress towards continued practice.
Beau Barrett, of Evolving Creations, who makes the most stunning boro glass art, posted this original thought on Facebook. It struck a chord. [You can follow Beau's philosophical musings on his blog, Identity Optional.]

Here are some of Beau's amazing beads.

There's a quote I like that goes something like this. "I don't shoot for perfection, I shoot for magic." I thought it was by Walt Disney or possibly Roy Disney, but I couldn't find it at all in a Google search, so maybe I made it up. We talk about perfection, we call some things perfect, but make it your goal and you set yourself up for failure. Shoot for improvement, shoot for excellence, shoot for your best shot, sure, but leave perfection as some mythical ideal. Shoot for magic.

I believe that, but sometimes I have trouble living it.

I'm always learning new things about myself. Some good, some not as good.

I've known for ages that I'm a validation junkie. What I realized only recently is that, for me, a validation fix is amazingly short-lived.

For example, validation for my art comes when someone likes my work enough to purchase it. Compliments are nice too, such as when someone "likes" a bead I post online, but easier to write off. I "like" a lot of beads that I would not have an interest in owning. I "like" beads for many reasons - to encourage fellow bead makers when I see progress in their work, to return the compliment when they've liked something of mine, and OK, sometimes because I seriously admire it.

I'll admit to a dirty little secret here. If I really like something enough to ponder owning it, on Etsy for instance, I don't mark it as a "favorite" because that just might bring it to the attention of others who follow me. I put it in my shopping cart so I can find it again. This doesn't reserve it, others still can buy it until/if I check out and pay for it, but it doesn't flag it for others either.

I have removed "favorite items" and "favorite shops" from my profile but I suspect they'd still show in my activity feed. I do "favorite" shops because that enables newly listed items to show in my activity feed. I like to keep up with what my favorite artisans are creating and suppliers are offering.

So, how long does a validation fix last for me? Less than a day usually. A matter of hours mostly. A really big fix might last longer but I haven't had enough of those to benchmark. So I sell a bead or a frit blend and I get a buzz. Multiple beads and blends a bigger buzz. I pack the order, print out packing slips, purchase postage. Sometimes before I've even made a post office drop, I'm already jonesing.

I've become obsessed with the new Facebook site, Lampwork Beads For Sale. I'm still flummoxed by what sells and what doesn't. I'm sorry to say that I see very indifferent beads selling for nice prices. I'm sorry to say that some of my beads don't sell in a 24-hour window and those that do most often sell for the opening auction bid. And I'm pricing beads to sell, because I have tons of inventory, lots of nice beads, and they aren't doing me a bit of good just sitting in my trays.

So, to ramp things up, I'm running "Bargain BINs" (buy-it-nows) with some of my odds-and-ends focals at prices in the $10-$15 range. I had some success the first time, if you can see past the fact that it takes just as much time, effort and packaging materials to ship a $10 bead as a $40 set. But I get that little validation fix each time someone posts "BIN". I suppose it's a loss-leader too. People will see the quality of my beads and will pay for them when I go back to running auctions and higher-priced BINs.

The only trouble with this strategy is that I have to stay on top of my listings so I can keep my listings cycling. I can have just one listing at a time. I posted a Bargain BIN before I went to bed last night and when I woke up this morning, it had been claimed 8 hours earlier. I have a new one listed now. They are supposed to stay up for 24 hours unless purchased, but if it doesn't sell within a few hours, I have to fight the temptation to pull it and list another one. It might have been purchased by a dark horse, you know.

In case you are wondering why I haven't been talking about my classes, there's a good reason. Spring Break. We're back in session now, but I went ahead and did this week's work for my WWII class over the break so I'm in a lull.

One of our last films were Civilians at War, a documentary narrated by Peter Jennings, one a 15-part ABC series about the rise of the United States as a superpower. I posted these thoughts in the Colgate discussion
I also found that watching this documentary was hard. Often I had to avert my eyes from the images and just listen to the audio. No matter how many times I see those images, it's painful. Many (most?) of us were born into the post Hiroshima-Nagasaki world. I for one have taken America's super-power status for granted. I've comfortably and securely lived my life.

At the beginning of Civilians at War Peter Jennings references "civilized combat." But is there really such a thing? We talk about "fighting fair" and "not hitting below the belt," etc., but what I also heard a lot in this film was, "they did it first." Germany targeted British civilians, therefore Britain could justify or rationalize bombing German civilians.

And at some point, America jumped in too. First it was military and industrial installations, then it was Hamberg and Dresden. You firebomb one village, one town, one city, where do you draw the line? At some point it escalates, and, having crossed that line, it's a short leap to "whatever it takes." All's fair in (love and) war. The boys with the best toys win.

Is it really so ethically different to drop hundreds of smaller bombs on cities throughout Japan or one big definitive war-ending bomb? (OK, two.) Someone was going to drop an atomic bomb. It might as well have been us. Collectively maybe we had the wherewithal to anticipate the consequences, but I'm not sure it wasn't as eye-opening for us as it was for the rest of the world.
I surprised myself, because I wouldn't have predicted I'd ever come around to condoning our nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945. But that's one of the purposes of education, to broaden your perspective, to explore alternative paradigms. In a perfect world of course, no bombs should have been dropped at all, no hand raised in anger. We would all have just been nice and gotten along.

The Day After Trinity was the other "atomic film" we were assigned. It's a 1980 documentary primarily about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who led the project to build the first atomic bomb. The plutonium fission bomb was tested in July 1945 in New Mexico, at a site Oppenheimer named Trinity.

One of our weekly discussion prompts was to explore the reactions of the scientists and military personnel upon witnessing the Trinity test. Here are the thoughts I posted.
Reactions varied greatly, from elation, to depression, to just another day's work.

It's curious that Fermi's betting pool about the power of the Trinity explosion ranged from zero, (i.e., no explosion) to the equivalent of 45,000 kilotons of TNT. The winning bet was 18,000 kilotons of TNT equivalent by Isidor Rabi, whose wager was based on the fact that all lower bets had already been taken.

Only one scientist, Edward Teller, lost because his bet was higher than the actual power of the explosion. Oppenheimer himself reportedly bet on a mere 300 kilotons.

Different reactions can be chalked up to different personalities, values, world views, contexts, backgrounds and visions. During the Manhattan Project, I think all the Los Alamos scientists had a sort of tunnel vision, to get the gadget designed and engineered. Having spent years of six- and seven-day weeks driving toward that one goal, it makes sense that all the next steps, testing and deployment, were only logical. Why go through those years to create something and then, when it worked even better than their wildest dreams, just walk away.

Writing this I thought about the story in the news about the Copenhagen zoo that has been so roundly criticized for euthanizing a healthy young giraffe (and feeding its body to the lions - in public) and then euthanizing four lions, including two cubs. Harsh as that sounds, neither giraffes nor lions are endangered species. In the wild they'd be culled by natural predators. We think nothing of thinning out wildlife such as deer when they get too prolific and disruptive. We eat poultry and meat raised to be butchered as expeditiously as they can be brought to market.

Perhaps the zoo could have been more discreet about its actions, less unapologetic in its attitude But as I thought it through, my initial reaction of outrage changed to reluctant acceptance.

So much in life is a matter of context.
Another discussion prompt was the trajectory of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life subsequent to the Trinity test. This was my contribution.
Oppenheimer was 41 at the time of the Trinity test. After the war it seems like he drifted a bit, transitioning back to theoretical physics from work on the bomb. He briefly returned to teaching, but then played to his strength, gathering scientists and intellectuals to tackle research questions that had been set aside during the war years.

In the late '40s he served as advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission, lobbying for nuclear weapons control and opposing development of a fusion bomb. The early '50s found him embroiled in various scientific controversies, as well as investigations regarding his communist affiliations. In 1953 his security clearance was revoked.

In the last 13 years of his short life, he continued to speak, write and work with physics until his death in 1967. One of the most poignant moments in the 1980 documentary The Day After Trinity is footage of a 1965 interview with Oppenheimer where he is asked for his opinion about the U.S. initiating talks to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

"It's 20 years too late, Oppenheimer said. "It should have been done the day after Trinity."
Spoken like a man with some profound regrets? We can't rewind time and un-drop Fat Man and Little Boy. Undoubtedly it was late, but maybe it wasn't too late. Because never would really have been the ultimate never.

"I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem."

(Steve Earle)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz