Everything in Order

I like to work in order. I love patterns, lists, schedules. I prefer to watch a TV series from start to finish, read a series of books from first to last. I feel compelled to start from the beginning and build a deep, solid foundation of understanding.

Like the rather solid foundations of 900 yr. old St. Margaret's Chapel within Edinburgh Castle

It makes me uncomfortable to jump into something in the middle without first knowing the basics.

Our education system primes us for that. There’s always an introduction at the beginning of the year, a lead-in. There’s even an order through the system: 1st grade, 2nd grade… B.A., M.A., job, career

I get it. It’s expedient to present something in an ordered fashion, and sometimes it really is necessary.

But, Life doesn’t always work that way. Things often do proceed in an order or direction, but not in a way you can always control or foresee. Things tend to proceed organically, adjusting to new experiences and inputs along the way.

But this makes it harder to start something or make a big change when I can’t map it out. I think all the cards have to be in place. I don’t like feeling that the foundation might be shaky, that I don’t know enough to start. (Perhaps this is why my new ideas often start with “Maybe I could go back to school…”)

I’m learning, though, that so many successful people I admire started in a small way, and things often went in a better, if different, direction than they ever predicted.

So I tell myself:

  • It’s ok not to know everything; you can always learn along the way.
  • There are few right and wrong decisions–just actions with different outcomes.
  • The purpose of our effort is as much about the journey as the outcome.

When that need to start from a well-defined beginning creeps up, I think back to one of my all-time favorite reads: The Chronicles of Narnia.

If you were to buy the set today, it comes in chronological order. But originally, the books jumped around within the history of Narnia.

Mike's very old copy of the series.

I resent the publishing change (and I’m apparently not the only one). Part of the magic of the series was letting the “earlier” books fill out your understanding of the later events you’ve already read.

There’s pleasure in conjecture,  joy in discovery, and beauty in the way that pieces unexpectedly come together into something greater than you could have imagined (even if the not knowing is unsettling).

In the sidewalk in Edinburgh, near St. Giles' Cathedral

Are you the start-at-the-very-beginning sort? Or are you ok with just going for it, even if you don’t have all the background info? 

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6 responses to “Everything in Order

  1. Pingback: Habits and Routines: The good, the bad, the non-existent… « the self-styled life·

  2. Pingback: Have I Graduated from the Kid’s Table Yet? « the self-styled life·

  3. I’m teaching my first online class. I started at the beginning, but then jumped around preferring to work on a ppt. here, a photostory there, test (sigh) right here, explanations, suggestions, labs. I could only jump around like that knowing the beginning, middle and end. Very Aristotelian.

    • That sounds great! I am a big-picture person, and I also feel comfortable jumping around if I know what it’s all ultimately about. Sounds like your class went well, but I’m looking forward to hearing more about it!

  4. I am a start-at-the-very-beginning girl but not a start-at-the-very-beginning-end-at-the-very-end kind of girl:) I get bored easily if something gets dull so I am very naughty and impatient like that! perhaps i should change my ways… for instance the castle wouldn’t be what it is without its roof! 😉 hehe

    • Thanks for commenting! That’s funny. Do you abandon books, too, if you don’t like them? I tend to just power through even if I really don’t like it–I just feel compelled to finish it. Depends on what it is though–I have definitely left some projects unfinished if I get bored or hit a wall!

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