Quietude in Qabul
We think about and write about development on this blog, but not every inspiration has to be from another development worker or writer or thinker. We can keep a certain perspective by taking in diverse inputs—licking other ice cream cones, if you will. My favorite blogger right now is the Economist writer Andreas Kluth, who writes about writing, and classical philosophy, and greatness, and thinking. Among other things. If he were still posting every day, I would have a few hundred words in response every day. Over the weekend he wrote about the great thinker Gregor Mendel, and the importance of quietness.
Mendel was a monk that lived a monkish life, and in doing so laid out the framework of modern genetics. Kluth is pithy and condensed in his explanation, so click through and read. A few of his lessons are relevant to Kabul’s frenetic life (or Dili’s, or New York’s, or Port au Prince’s) and especially while we are nurturing some creative thinking about our project’s future.
Good stuff can happen during downtime (even if you didn’t volunteer for it).
Corollary: Can good stuff happen during uptime? You may have to take time out to be creative.
It’s very easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of meetings and emails, tweets and lunches and women’s business events. That’s no different in Kabul than anywhere else. One difference here is that the stakes are very high; passions tend to run on a concomitant level. As our guest blogger said to me the other day, “Kabul is such a theory/practice rich environment that the mind races.” We are in the center of a vortex of ideas; to keep one’s head above water is a struggle, a fight.
Kabul itself is a convenient physical metaphor. The city is illogical, dirty, and hard-edged. But it’s also in the middle of gorgeous snow-covered mountains, the capital of a country dedicated for a millennium to poetry, learning, and trade. There really are verdant gardens behind the high compound walls; it’s a short trip to Qargha Lake or the Panjshir Valley. Quiet time in the garden doesn’t create a synergistic partnership with a stakeholder, but it does give the mind space to work through problems and find simple solutions.
Don’t expect the world to get it right away.
Corollary: If it took us a century to understand Mendel’s breakthrough, we might take a while even for yours.
That one is worth pondering…it’ll be a nice little hook for later.