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Atlas

Squeaky wheels and paying attention

Watching The Remains of the Day, I was struck by the tension between the commitment and duty to service and the responsibility of giving voice to conscience. Even in the best settings, it's an issue that will likely arise at some point. For my part, I'm working through that in a jumble of other stuff regarding work and service. Thankfully, there are no pressing concerns regarding character or ethics in my current mix; it's largely a theoretical consideration.

What tends to stir up the tension in my case is my tendency to see things: big things, small things, connections, potentials, possibilities. My fear is that keeping my own counsel on all of that would be negligent, but insisting on bringing all of it to the fore would be maddening for all involved (myself included). Of course, it's not an all-or-nothing proposition, but deciding where to draw the line is terribly tricky.

One of the ways I deal with the tension is to keep watch over the things I see, gathering data until some arbitrary line is crossed when feel the need to bring it to someone else's attention. I don't have any control over what happens when I do, and that can be hard, but I don't know another way that respects the authority God's given to others. It can be even harder if someone else can successfully call attention to the very issues I've unsuccessfully tried to raise, but I suppose the message should matter more than the messenger (it's likely just my ego being bruised).

Paying attention seems a lost art in our time and culture. People don't notice things, and when or if they do, they can't be bothered to keep watch over them—they're either seen as action items (often too immediate and rash) or they're discarded and forgotten. This fosters systems that notice and are concerned with only the squeaky wheels, relegating far too much of the rest to the scrap heap. And often, the squeaky wheels don't get fixed, they just get squeakier—in an economy where attention is given based on squeakiness, proper function is penalized by having attention withdrawn, and the only way to continue receiving attention is to continue the conditions that require it. Such priorities are problematic anywhere, but are especially troubling when applied to other people.

Clearly, I haven't reached a comfortable place, and perhaps I'm not supposed to—it's just a jumble I'm finally finding the space to attempt to sift through.

Comments

So true, and simple yet not easy by any means.

Case in point- 5 wheels playing together in the basement right now. Me on computer. I'll probably ignore them until they squeak. Then be angry with myself with letting it go too far.
In some cases, the squeaky wheel gets replaced!