Monday, June 20, 2011

All Apologies

Macaque monkeys in Jigokudani hotspring in Nagano, Japan

          In yesterday’s beautiful sun I had a long conversation with someone about “breaking habits,” the reasons we form habits in the first place, and why we tend to pick up the habits of family members.  My partner in conversation was a psychotherapist and she spoke about mirror neurons, which I had never heard of before, but which I’ve read about now.   Apparently, the macaque monkey has been an important focus of mirror neuron study, but incurious as this may sound,  and considering that breaking habits is very much on my mind and the macaque monkey work is considered highly important, I’m deliberately shying away the details of the science.   I assume that at some point vivisection comes into the picture and I don’t agree with that.   Among other things, I already know a family of macaque monkeys in the Central Park Zoo very well and we consider them family friends.  From the first time I saw them interact, they reminded me exactly of my family, for better and for worse.

Newborn macaque imitating facial expression

         The conversation yesterday was extremely stimulating – it actually became one of those “translating thought into action” exercises -- even though to an outside observer I would have appeared simply to be a person eating lunch  -- and it pulled me in some new directions.  This morning, for instance, I discovered that unlike the ants predictably moving along the same pathways day-after-day that we spoke about, I actually did a large number of things quite differently than I usually do them.  This must have been the result of pre-bedtime and sleep auto-suggestion because it didn’t occur to me that this was the case until about 30 minutes after I performed these actions.    

Planets and dwarf planets of the solar system, sizes to scale


        Still, there are the things we need to do every day in order to keep the earth on its path and the sun in the sky, which now include, oddly, checking email, and today’s trove seems to indicate that everyone else’s habits are still unbroken and in place.  One such missive, a letter sent to me by a “talent acquisition executive” (this is the new name for the business area formerly called “human resources” and, before that, “personnel”) and received at 6:24 am EDT, was clearly written in response to a follow-up note I transmitted  on Saturday to an attorney at her company inquiring about the status of a couple of positions this lawyer is currently seeking to fill.   After some initial, seemingly strong interest from the company, my resume and phone number had clearly and quickly found their way into the “overqualified” pile (assuming this pile wasn’t actually or virtually shredded and incinerated a long time ago), but following an old, still unbroken habit of my own, I actually require “no” for an answer in matters like this.  As a lawyer, I am absolutely able to decide actively and deliberately to let some things drift, but I cannot do this passively and negligently.  Having sent several follow-up emails and left follow-up voicemails for this personnel representative, I felt I had no choice but to go back to the hiring attorney, politely re-state my case, and mention to her that professional courtesy (a convenient, but entirely valid, attorney standard) really required a response from her.  

Driftwood on the Potomac River

        In any event, the personnel lady’s note was cringingly polite -- all apologies --  but mealy-mouthed, unsatisfactory and poorly written.  It contained all the usual dodges, feints, tricks and lies, including predictable references to vacation, overwork, and threatened massacres in Benghazi.  It did not mention my Saturday email to her senior executive as the precipitating cause for the early morning letter. 

It helps to think of it as a game. 

        Oh – and also a promise for further communication -- very, very soon.

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