Monday, September 08, 2008

Not Making a Fetish of Planning

I believe that Everything Will Work Out Just Fine.

I do not want to make a fetish of planning.

Nonetheless, I do like to plan ahead. I value other people planning ahead, especially when their plans take account of other people's plans. I think planning is a basic bourgeois virtue. Planning is the counterpart of being able to defer gratification, one of the defining bourgeois virtues.

People who plan ahead are more likely to succeed in this life.

I think it is reasonable to wish to that people in positions of power plan ahead, and try to act according to a plan.

Still, when we were in college, Mrs. G. and I discovered that our lovely, wonderful, caring friends in Christian Fellowship were never on time, never fully prepared, never really planned ahead. They had the vice of their virtues. They were never on time because they lived life able to drop everything for someone in need. We had to say to one another "They toil not, neither do they spin ..." to remember Jesus' admonition to properly appreciate the lilies of the field. This is the old conflict of Mary and Martha. So we tried not to sweat it when planned activities came off half-baked. And we brought extras and allowed extra time, knowing what was likely to happen.

What inspires this self-reminder about the proportionate value of planning is that I have been reading with various classes a set of excellent books about poor people, in the slums, on welfare, and how many of them got that way. Truthfully, how most of them got that way. Visit the characters in American Dream or Code of the Street or Promises I Can Keep. They have little, and are building for nothing, because they do not live according to a plan.

So I consider the lilies.

I still plan, but try not to be an insufferable prig about it.

2 comments:

Katie said...

The Mary/Martha conflict is one of my greatest struggles when reading the Bible. I can't write much more without digging myself into a deep theological hole, but I really want to side with Martha on that one.

halifax said...

I thought that this would be at least somewhat appropriate. The lines of the poetry are cannot be replicated in this cramped little comment box, however.

The Planster's Vision
John Betjeman

Cut down that timber! Bells, too many and strong,
Pouring their music through the branches bare,
From moon-white church-towers down the windy air
Have pealed the centuries out with Evensong.
Remove those cottages, a huddled throng!
Too many babies have been born in there,
Too many coffins, bumping down the stair,
Carried the old their garden paths along.

I have a Vision of the Future, chum,
The workers’ flats in fields of soya beans
Tower up like silver pencils, score on score:
And Surging Millions hear the Challenge come
From microphones in communal canteens
‘No Right! No Wrong! All’s perfect, evermore!