Negotiating Reality


Nina Housman

Urgent and essential, sometimes they’re not the same thing.

As I was sitting at home last Tuesday, the day the temperature dropped to 7 degrees with a wind chill making it feel like -20, with the heat turned up wearing fleece pajama bottoms a sweater and a jacket and still feeling a cool draft from the not totally sealed out wind, I found my thoughts drifting to how glad I was to have central heating. Thinking of the video games creator I mentioned in my piece last week who thought the games were the greatest thing since the discovery of fire, I realized how important context is to what we (at least he and I, if not you) think is important, even if we don’t realize it at the time.

At various times I might think movable type, the wheel, antibiotics, or writing is the greatest thing since the discovery of fire (I doubt sliced bread would be one of them despite the once popular expression extolling it). But given the world I inhabited Tuesday which primarily consisted of COLD, once I’d determined I had enough food of some kind (mostly spaghetti and tuna) to sustain me, avoiding COLD was all I cared about.

Somehow, (I don’t know how, my mind works mysteriously even to me) this led me to reflect on how limited we are by our own imaginative lacks and our personal environment. It makes us think the only problem we have currently, in this case COLD, is all there is and the only miracles that matter are the ones that solve it.

Negotiating Reality Nina Housman

MIchael Davis photo

Perhaps these dramatic imperatives- in this case AVOID COLD, although productive of miracles (in this case central heating, hot chocolate and snugly socks) can sometimes blind us to other equally important imperatives affecting other people, other communities or even ourselves if we look at things more broadly. Maybe the COLD we assume is all that matters because it’s all that we see and care about right now is not the only issue to be addressed, maybe not even the most important one, not just for others in different circumstances, but even for ourselves. Staying warm and thinking about COLD are preoccupying me right now. But that preoccupation is, as they used to say, overdetermined, by more than one cause. I know the COLD is a real concern. I also know I’m using it to hide from other less visible but personally vital issues. For me, once the COLD lifts, I have to return to less dramatic long-term concerns: what direction to pursue in my career, how to build fellowship. And I wonder what else I may not be seeing that I or the larger community needs to address because of a natural tendency to focus on what’s right in front of me right now and not necessarily what’s most important for the long-term.

Email Nina Housman directly at [email protected]


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