And a place in his mind was a wrestling-ring
Where the crownless form of an outlawed king
Fought with a shadow too like his own,
And, late or early, was overthrown.
It is not lucky to dream such stuff –
Dreaming men are haunted men.

John Brown’s Body, Stephen Vincent BenĂ©t

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

– I Have a Dream Speech, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I have said several times in different places that I live in intersections. Intersections are marvelous places: they reveal connections, context, that might not previously have existed. To borrow yet more words, they are “intertwingled”; as one tugs at the strings or weaves them, the concepts become inseparable from one another until the very meaning is changed because two things have been brought together.

I would like to think that the human race, innately, is a race of explorers, an inquisitive one at that; our explorations are necessarily stubborn, for if we stop exploring, we lose some piece of ourselves. We find ourselves creating our own battlegrounds where our wars of exploration are fought, where we try, as the great Dr. King states, to lay the hills low, to make the crooked places straight.

We fight in our rings with our crownless forms, our ideas, our unknowns, and we find ourselves haunted. These ideas, these unknowns, imprint themselves; even when resolved, when the idea is revealed so clearly that its utility is revealed at long last as a fog lifting off a riverbank, they stay with us.

Intersections haunt me. They tug at me, they dart through shadows, and though they are very clearly rough terrain, mountainsides as yet untamed, they are there, beckoning. Every once in a while, I explore them: government and user experience, environmental sustainability and information management, the practice and art of tutoring with information management. Indeed, my very life is an intersection; I have pulled threads of knowledge out of the ethers and woven them into my personal and professional interests. We all do this, though I find some more adept than others.

Should we ever reach the end, where we cease to be haunted and we all share the same visions, that will be a day indeed, for it shall mean we no longer dream; the world, as we know it, shall cease to exist, for we shall no longer find ourselves interested in it. We shall be shells, discarded and useless.


If there is one thing that disturbs me as a professional, it is apathy.

I believe that whatever work you do, you should endeavor to do it well. It should be relevant and have value to the person that the work is being produced for. I do not believe in working somewhere where you, as a person, are not valued, and where you do not feel a direct relationship between the work being performed and the benefit to others. I believe that if you work somewhere, it should be because you are willing to invest in the business, whatever that business may be.

Thusly, I fail to understand those who are working simply to work. I further fail to understand those who are working to work who actively sabotage efforts. It is not their opinion that matters. The work being performed has a particular purpose, traceable (one hopes) to a particular business need, well-defined or otherwise. Indeed, we would hope that the work is not being performed for no reason. The performance of that work, then, is not an invitation: “hello, we’re working towards something important, please feel free to sabotage us in any manner possible!”

Nor is it an edict: “we decided we must do this, so we must do this, even though we’re clearly failing. Failure is not an option!”

Failing is always an option. Indeed, sometimes failing is the only option that actually makes sense for a project – X number of dollars invested over Y number of hours for a low or nonexistent payoff would tend to suggest that perhaps a company should not invest much further in the endeavor unless gains are provable within a reasonably short amount of time. Small failures are not necessarily bad either, nor is failing often (in fact, failing small and often can easily be preferred over almost never failing, but failing spectacularly the one or two times you do).

The problem is, not all sabotage is necessarily evident immediately, nor is it particularly obvious. Sabotage might be achieved by willingly failing to actively consider all possibilities or all impacts of a particular unit of work. A single refusal to do so does not, in and of itself, necessarily fail a project; it is the accumulation.

Why, then, is apathy so bad? Quite simply: it hinders. It hinders the ability of the organization to work effectively toward its shared goals. It hinders you as the person who is apathetic; simply working for a paycheck, while not necessarily bad, does not contribute to the overall well-being of the organization or of the work you are assigned to. But perhaps more devastatingly, it hinders the people who are there to not only do the work, but to understand why the work is being done and who endeavor to do it well.

To put it more personally, you hinder me.

Now, I am not one to tell people to shut up and get out of my way; far from it. I believe that an investment in helping others become interested in the work again is well worth it. I do not believe that is easy – it most certainly is not. But if not a full restoration of interest, every organization can benefit from having all of its members at least agree that they will work for common purpose.

Because, really, if we are not all working towards a common purpose, what, exactly, do we intend to achieve?