The Long Game

I just opened my email to a nice surprise. Several years ago, I co-wrote a chapter on permaculture as a systemic design practice. Even I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it’s the title of the chapter: Permaculture As A Systemic Design Practice. It came out of having carpooled with someone to a conference, ensuing conversations, and then agreeing to edit an article. I ended up having so much to say on said article that I was graciously added as co-author. I never really thought it would actually¬†get¬†published, because everyone wants to write a book and almost no one ever actually does. But it was an interesting topic and a challenging editing project and I thought well, at least the challenge was worth the effort. (In my books, it nearly always is).

So to open my Inbox and see a little congratulatory note from Springer and my co-author that the book would be coming out in print, we’d each get a complementary copy, et cetera, was definitely a good surprise. And it gave me something to chew on for today’s writing, because I find myself getting caught up some days in what I’m doing, and moreover, not doing. There are many days when I say to myself (this is the running joke now, in fact) that I used to be pretty nimble with multivariate statistics, and now I get excited when my daughter’s cloth diaper cover matches her outfit.

The reality is that both those things are true: just a few nights ago I did actually lay awake thinking about the application of multivariate and novel statistical methods to adaptive management – in other words, how to circumvent p-value thinking and pure hypothesis testing, and replace it with something more agile to reflect the complex nature of real systems with emergent properties. I was thinking about the little bit that I know about Bayesian statistics and methods and still think that might, or probably will, be something to explore further.

But on the other hand: I do get kind of extra happy when that cute little kid’s outfit matches up with her diaper cover. It’s just a weird thing, I guess; it’s cute to have a bright lime green diaper cover with her crazy floral print, and change it up for an orange cover, and… So I won’t go on, but I just get a little kick. And it doesn’t mean that I can’t still digest multivariate statistics; it means I have a different dimension of my life to appreciate now.

And that’s where the long game comes in. In the short term, it’s usually more important to really hone in and focus on a topic, pick a specialty and skill up hard. But in the long term… we need goofier things to keep us happy. Like diaper covers matching outfits, and baby giggles, and dogs with striped socks (that’s another story, but real nonetheless). I think I’d never really grasped that until now, with a kid in the picture: we’re playing the longest game we’ll ever play, because in the best case scenario, she outlives us both by a long shot, and then her kids do the same, and so on down the line for many, many, many generations to come. In the worst, of course, none of us survive; hers is the last generation of humanity on Earth, and the curtain closes.

But I’m going to play the long game, because it’s worth the wait to see if it works out.

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