Wednesday, June 23, 2010

limits of sight and advice

I had a friend suggest that I bail on the United States and the Seattle area. Job market is in bad shape, the key industries in the area are not going to recover (e.g. Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks) and the particular job niche I have had in the last ten years in particular is going to be nowhere. I ought to just pull up stakes, leave the city, leave the state, maybe even leave the country. Maybe go to England and marry somebody there. Heh, well, uh, people DO tend to advise you to emulate THEIR example in what worked for them.

Thing is, I have a rather unique medical history. In fact it turns out there are only three specialists in the whole state who are even qualified to handle the uniquely catastrophic medical history I have for a particular thing (macular detachment). I have the miserable situation of having vision far too poor to ever be able to drive but not poor enough to genuinely qualify as having a disability. It basically amounts to the worst of both worlds in terms of physical limitations. I'm not handicapped enough to benefit from any hiring practices that seek to assist the disabled but I'm too handicapped to even be a candidate for any number of jobs that require a valid driver's license.


I have gone through my life functionally observing the world through one eye. I often suspect that this is not just a literal limitation but also a figurative limitation. My weak eye only operates under unusual circumstances. I can close the strong eye and look at things through the weak eye and since the retinal detachment in the strong eye the weak eye hhasslightly higher visual acuity.


But there's a downside to this--the weak eye can't read. The problem is not merely a function of the eye itself but the brain that handles what the weak eye sees. I've made due, mostly, going through life only being able to read with one eye but I am at a stage in my life where this handicapt that isn't really bad enough to be considered a full disability has felt more confining than ever. My vision isn't getting worse, thank God, but it's still at a very poor level and I have had to resign myself to the realization that a couple of jobs I could have done had I vision enough to drive are impossible for me to consider. So part of me gets why my friend would say I need to bail on the Seattle area. The industrial/production base this region used to be famous for is mostly down or gone altogether.


I also, how do I put this delicately, hardly have the funds to consider a move to another city, let alone another state, that involves the expense and time of finding a place, dumping first and last month's rent and a damage deposit and paying for moving expenses. I am, in other words, stuck in the most stuck sense of the term stuck that could be stuck to any degree of stuckness. But for a well-meaning friend who got X to work it's only natural to suggest X. This is what I have seen happen a lot in the last nine months.

I was advised by a well-meaning fellow that non-profits are a dead end. Well, sure, that can be said but after nearly a decade IN non-profits for-profits have no interest in even speaking to me and one's capacity to not pull off a non-profit does not necessarily mean everything about the job market in non-profits is dead. We can be prejudiced by our failures as well as by our successes. It's true that non-profits can sure feel like a dead-end for career continuation right now but not all non-profits are in the same boat. More to the point, I'm discovering that no one in for profit settings is even interested in talking to me so the well-meant advice still unintentionally ends up feeling like somebody telling a hungry man "Be well fed". If I could even pull off volunteer stuff to transition into a career that would be better than trying to apply to places that keep refusing to talk to me because of a decade outside for-profit settings.

Much like a man who has been shot down by women so much he blames them for his own failures I "could" decide to blame systems and society for not being more accomodating but I tend to reflexively feel that my failures are mine. I'm often of the feeling that I'm just not a very employable sort of person and that most ideas run by me are by well-meaning people who don't know that I am actually not very qualified for the jobs that are open these days.

The kinds of jobs people do seem to be hiring for are for people who have a "proven" track record with this or that thing that I don't have. I could try going into continuing education but that, again, costs money I don't have and we don't have the kind of job market where it seems like borrowing yet more money will make that worthwhile. I am, after all, still saddled with the costs of college from thirteen years ago and that undergrad degree didn't land me any particularly great jobs. Why incur more expenses now when there's no certainty I can land a job and if I did pursue continuing education the project would take a couple of years. I don't have a couple of years to acquire skills that would allow me to pursue more gainful employment. I need something now.

In this context few things feel more stupid and empty than the axiom that "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." It is a Job's comforters' theology to me at this point in my life. Yeah, I get that there are many positive things about the lordship of the risen Christ but my ability to be thankful that He is King does not mean I'm going to get a job tomorrow and it doesn't mean that any of my problems will go away. I can be grateful that He is risen and still have a miserable situation. The victory in Jesus is a victory that we put our hope in even though there is no worldly evidence that we are benefiting from it right now.

Surreptitious prosperity gospels in which performance in the job or success in ministry or leadership or what-have-you do not make us really Christians. The good news of Christ is good news for losers and the loser is not always the weak or the foolish. As Koholeth warned in Ecclesiastes the race is not to the swift nor victory to the strong nor succeess to the wise but time and chance happen to them all. You cannot look back and say "My hands did this" even when they did because there was more going into your success than you being a worthwhile person. Time and chance happened to you, too.


Even though I would like to say that my failures as an employee (i.e. I got laid off) were because I did something bad the world doesn't work on that sort of karma and though I can tell myself rationally that' s not how it works I can still feel as though I had to have been a screw-up or failed in some secret, unobservable way to have gotten to this situation. Okay, perhaps this line of reasoning is not so blunt as to suppose that person X's computer died because person Y was looking at porn, that's a rather extreme form of sympathetic magic as far as those things go, but in many ways my own view has not been so far off from that. A big chunk of me still feels like I somehow deserved to get laid off.

Sure, I can remind myself that camping out in the office for half a week during the worst snowstorm Seattle had seen in years so that, just in case some servers actually worked, I could get work done as promised and that this indicates a strong committment to doing a job well. I can remind myself that my work was cited at an interstate level as an example for other people in the same profession to follow. And I can remind myself that my boss and his boss said that I was without peer in my understanding of the data I was given charge of not just within my division but possibly in the territory. But when I send resume after resume and letter after letter to places in the hopes of at least landing an interview, to say nothing of a job, it all still seems to be not-good-enough. What I find depressing in the midst of all this is that even among Christians there is still a kind of entrepreneurial industrial-strength "are you good enough to be on our team and are you committed enough to give 110% with the quality of work we define" ethic.





I don't really know what to do and when people have given me advice I appreciate how well-intentioned it is but it is also discouraging when it has been meant to be encouraging. I have a problem of seeing liabilities where other see possibilities. I have cobbled this unorganized blog entry over the course of many days and the lack of focus shows.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Toy Story has just become the greatest pop-culture cinematic trilogy of all time

I grew up watching the Star Wars trilogy and I still enjoy visiting Episodes IV-VI. I still consider Episodes I-III as best having never happened. Spiderman 3 proved that Sony should have left Raimi alone even if that meant letting him make a weak third entry on his own terms. Superman 3 is best left forgotten. Lord of the Rings was a solid trilogy given the over-rated source material. Sorry, folks, but Tolkien's trilogy was just a little too self-important.

The paradox to me is that Toy Story, a children's entertainment franchise that clearly builds its whole premise around toys as sentient characters, has, with Toy Story 3, toppled all possible contenders for a cinematic trilogy. In some ways this is the weakest of the three and yet the way in which the story explores the unsettling possibilities and inevitable moments anticipated in the previous two films it is, as a weak link, far stronger than any other third film in any other entry of any other franchise. This is a sequel that makes good on the artistic and philosophical dillemas posed by the earlier entries. For a movie franchise about toys this is a more profound, thought-provoking series than any would-be competitors.

As I have blogged extensively elsewhere Pixar films have continuously explored in delicate yet paradoxically blunt fashion the anxiety of death, loss, alienation, and the struggle to establish or maintain identity or relational standing. I'm going to need some time to collect my thoughts but I have a few things I can put down as themes I intend to explore not just in Toy Story 3 but also in Toy Story as a trilogy. I don't think a Christian could find a more compelling cinematic exploration of the observation that he who seeks to save his life will lose it but he who gives up his life will find it. Since this alone is a spectacularly significant thematic thread in the trilogy I'll need time to explore just that in each of the three films.

But there's more that can be considered in the greatest pop cinema trilogy than just how one observation of Christ can apply to the narrative. Having read not too long about the career of Elijah I would say that we can explore the surprisingly dynamic Woody as a kind of prophet within the world of toys. It is he, despite his often significant character flaws, who calls other toys to be and recognize who they truly are despite temptations to other identities and despite the temptations he himself faces to cast off who he is in favor of who he would wish to be. In the end when he has the opportunity to be taken up in a favorable position over against his friends and fellow toys he, like Moses, refuses to have a favor that does not extend to his own people. Woody, in a sense, represents a prophet who wavers but utimately succeeds in perservering and urging his fellows to perservere and, in return, is rewarded with a new life he couldn't have imagined for himself. But this outcome was unexpected and along the way he reconciled himself to the terrifying reality that death is inevitable.

Like I said, there's so much to unpack for me from not only Toy Story 3 but the trilogy as a whole it will take several entries.

P.S. for the truly nerdy fan of animation you may have found it gratifying, as I did, that along the way in Woody's quest to save the day he gets some help in getting back to his friends fromTotoro. Miyazaki fans who are also Pixar fans get to see the mutual respect of the two most artistically significant animation studios on either side of the Pacific play out in a sweet little way that would be easy to miss unless you're really familiar with the cinematic output of both Pixar and Studio Ghibli.