Saturday, November 17, 2018

How Not to Crash and Burn (33)

Antisocial behavior, innuendo, laziness and false confidence: there’s a lovely quartet for you.

Misty water-colored memories. Four more ancient proverbs, each of which reminds me of somebody I know or knew, usually more than one. Sometimes they remind me of me. Times change, people don’t. Not really.

Thankfully we have the word of God to guide us, because not too many of us seem to learn much from history.

And they don’t really teach history anymore anyway.

Assorted Proverbs (Proverbs 18:1-24)

Out on the Fringes
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.”
This may be one of those proverbs with an application that was more obvious in the time it was written than today. A variety of interpretations have been offered, some more likely than others. What is certain is that in Solomon’s lifetime, there was no easy way to go it alone. He makes this point repeatedly elsewhere: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Remove the social safety net we all pay for with our taxes, and this is how it is. A thousand years B.C., forsaking community was rarely a safe prospect. You had no city wall to hide behind, and no friends and relatives close by to whom to appeal for help if attacked. Sticking together was simply safer. Common sense dictated there was safety in numbers.

Today, in a relatively peaceful society, being antisocial is almost trendy. With technology that makes it possible for men and women us to get by without regular real-time human contact, and without social pressure, necessity, charity, habit or shame compelling us to put up with people we don’t feel like putting up with, we can easily sustain the illusion that we are fully independent from one another and can exist just fine on our own.

But war, economic collapse and the fragmentation of society always provide evidence of the wisdom of Solomon’s counsel. As Christians, we can be 100% sure their time will come around again.

Delicious Morsels
“The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.”
Back in my teens I was quite the whisperer. I was good at watching people and drawing (largely correct) conclusions about the darker side of human nature, so it was easy to insinuate myself into a girl’s confidence and insinuate others out of it. What I couldn’t foresee is that when you open the eyes of the previously-na├»ve about the motivations of men, one of the consequences is that they eventually become suspicious of you too.

The things we eat work their way through our bodies and become part of us. Likewise, the wrong sort of verbal input has a lasting effect on the listener. The wrong ideas we allow into our ears cannot be un-heard, and the things we indulge in our minds become part of who we are. They create suspicions and divisions where they do not need to be. They change how we respond to one another, and not in a good way.

Confronted with gossip or innuendo, some of the best people I know have a way of putting up a hand, looking the culprit in the eye and saying, “I’m better off not hearing that.”

They’re not wrong.

Slacking It
“Whoever is slack in his work
is a brother to him who destroys.”
When you’re writing code, there is usually more than one way to do things and get them to work. Initially, that is. When other features must be added later on, you quickly find out whether the script you’re working with is elegant and robust, or whether the original writer has just done a quick and dirty job that won’t stand up in the long run.

When I see really bad code these days, I just close the file, go back to the beginning and rewrite it myself from scratch. It’s actually quicker than trying to heavily edit a botched job. The same probably holds true if you are assigned to build the top half of a wall whose first few rows of bricks have been incorrectly laid, or tasked with drywalling a basement that has been shoddily framed. You may as well rip it all down and start again as waste time trying to right it.

A lazy employee creates more work for others than the employee you don’t hire in the first place.

A Strong City
“A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.”
On October 19, 1987, the stock markets crashed all over the world. They called it Black Monday. By early 1990 the bankruptcies and lawsuits that were the inevitable fallout from Black Monday were beginning to make their way into the court system and the lawyers and financial folks were engaged in the process of discovery. I got to sit and listen to “rich” men and women talk about how they were unable to get their brokers on the phone and lost everything. People who had mortgages on multi-million dollar homes and three or four cars were now living with relatives trying to put the pieces back together.

Some people play in the markets because they are greedy or power mad, but most are just looking for security. But wealth provides no guarantees. The “security” it offers is a fantasy. By way of contrast:
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
I didn’t see a lot of Christians in the court system in 1990. Just saying.

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