Call it what you will: arranging, calculating, conspiring, contriving, designing, framing, manipulating, mapping, planning, plotting, scheming, strategizing. Sure, these are variations on a theme, each distinguished from the other by etymological and practical dint, but they get at what we do in our personal and professional lives, and what we witness on reality television shows and soap operas (really, is there a difference?!). We often think out how we might most efficiently and effectively secure our preferred outcome.
Put basely, we want to get our own way, and we work to ensure that we do.
Recently, a colleague offered an unexpected retort to a position I took involving some matter: "you really hate to make this political, but..."
One can interpret that statement, taken out of context as it were, in a variety of ways, no doubt "you are naive" being one of them. That thought crossed my mind for a fleeting moment. I was at first slightly taken aback, but only slightly. I have the utmost respect for this particular colleague, and so quickly dismissed my negative mind and focused on the broader issue. (I do not think that was the underlying meaning intended by my colleague...but who knows? Perhaps it was and I really am naive! Ha! Self-deprecation is such an effective analgesic, a salve to let slide ever so much.). The statement is true.
Aside from the fact that I find some academic politics distasteful, petty, ridiculous, and even trivial (I suppose I can never be department chair), I approach these issues and battles to be with the (admittedly) pollyannish view, "why would we want to muddy what has got to be the best job in the world?" (Sorry Madeleine Albright, who once quipped that being Secretary of State is the best job in the world. True, she has served as our country's top diplomat and has taught, and thus may possess inside information I do not. But I can only speak to what I have known and experienced.)
And so I work to build consensus and avoid the squabbles, as another colleague recently mentioned. Hmmm...might that be my strategy?!
In any case, I approached the arrival of winter at the gardens of 410 this morning with a strategy. I could simply throw will-nilly the somewhat wet and heavy snow onto the plants that peered through the snow, crushing them or breaking their perhaps now brittle branches, or I could neatly arrange it around the bases of plants, to capitalize on moisture as it were.
Nearly an hour later, I achieved my goal:
snow placed strategically around Blue Fescue
and atop Creeping Phlox.
Yes. I was proud of myself. Strategic placement of disposable snow, a nod to environmentalism and plant appreciation and preservation. Sure it took a bit more time than usual, but I got what I wanted.
Taking off my winter wear, I smiled, and then heard the tell-tale sign of the brash strategic plan of the neighbor: throw the snow wherever. I peered out just in time to see him dump a heap of wet heavy snow onto the Rosemary I rooted from the parent plant in the main garden late this summer.
Sigh. Conflicting strategies. This is how battles really get started.