I like the metaphor of quest. … [If you approach your work as a quest,] You’re working from a clear premise but you don’t yet know what the promise is.
—Dr. Jason Fox, interviewed on The Great Work Podcast
In a world shifting to Project Land, I find it disconcerting to be… let’s say… post-project in my orientation. I have a premise: poet, writer. And there are a certain amount of list-able activities around that. Sending out poems, for example, and the tracking processes around that. Writing here. Even taking seminary classes, in an oblique way, provides compost for The Writing to take root in.
What Dr. Fox assumed, in his interview, was a work-world where tasks and projects are givens. Where there’s always a certain amount of sustaining, incrementally-improved activity that enriches a company’s bottom line. Using his language, a promise, already made. He encourages organizations to expand their view to include a hazy vision—a quest, a premise—in order to pull them out of the near term and toward a much longer term. To a horizon they can’t quite see from here.
I’m wired for the long horizon, myself. Most activities I undertake I weigh across a long timespan before beginning them—particularly relational activities. Nope, not very spontaneous. But I treasure watching a long plan slowly blossom and bear fruit… as I did with my Girl Scout troop. When they were in 6th grade, so six years in, they began to take hold and lead the troop. So we had six more years of watching their skills deepen and expand, as they lived into the vision I held for them when they were five. Rearing A&B has been like that, only more so.
I suppose, though, the difference between then and now is that I had, to use Fox’s language, both premise and promise. I clearly envisioned what I wanted to see—hear—smell—taste—touch when we arrived together.
I don’t know what me-as-Poet tastes like beyond how I’m flavored today.
Fox speaks about premise as something that lives in the time before projects can be made. And since it’s an interview about his new book, and not the book itself, perhaps in the book he discusses that one bridges from premise to promise… and then to project.
Perhaps that’s what I’m reaching for in the fog: the promise that blossoms from this poet-premise.
Last night I read “who, for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross” (Heb 12:2) and thought about Christ’s long view. Shorter in earthly timespan than the twenty-some years of rearing a child, but since it was substantially more intense than most child-lives, it outweighs it. Yet the approach is the same: what one looks at is the vision of the far side. The struggles immediately in front of one will be true, and often awful, but they don’t obscure the vision. One steps forward looking at the vision: is this closer? Farther away? Off to the side? Everything else then loosens its grip, drops away.
God, I miss having a big promise to focus upon. A promise slightly smaller than your Kingdom, so that I could wrap my brain around it… mostly. This year, my word-for-the-year has been EXPECTANT. As 2017 shifts into fall, I feel my word more and more in my center: how long, LORD? How long?
I went looking for an echo in the Psalms, or the Prophets, and didn’t find a true one there. Perhaps what I ask for is, as we now say, a ‘first-world problem.’ Because the echo I found was this:
Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. …” —John 10:23-25
Hmph. Sigh. I’ll keep listening.