Author’s Note: This is a post that Boo will not read. It’s too long, too ‘boring,’ contains no caps-lock moments, and no pictures. Consider yourself forewarned. : )
There was this moment today in class when I got so overwhelmed I couldn’t even speak.
I had raised my hand as my professor was explaining a concept, wanting to ask her a question. Alas, she was on a bit of a roll, so she acknowledged that she’d come back to me, and kept going. In the mean time, she barrelled on through a few more thoughts that only served to complicate the things she’d already been saying.
She was talking about public health interventions, complicated systems, how living in the tension of complexity fosters creativity, and about policy and how that’s the way we typically aim to implement positive change in communities (large and small).
She’d spent the first 20 minutes of the lecture talking about living in complexity, and how if you create too many rules, it stifles creativity. When that happens, communities have a harder time trying to implement self-initiated change. Then she talked about how these systems (or communities) are incredibly complex, and they are all interrelated, and if you change something in this one system/community, you’re going to be changing any number of things in this other system/community. And then she went on to explain that the way that we bring about change in communities is by way of implementing new policies.
Then my brain melted onto the desk right in front of me.
I reeled backwards at the mention of policy, another word for ‘rules.’ I thought, if we’re implementing rules to fix problems, how do you stop yourself from implementing so many rules that it hinders the community from being able to create solutions to their own problems? And what about the fact that we tend to create more and more rules all the time (as a society) and so if we put rules in place, we’re going to hang the policy/rules rope wtih which a community can hang themselves by endlessly adding to the restriction by creating more and more rules! And then on the other hand! What if we don’t put any policy into place? Things tend towards chaos, then everything goes downhill, so we need these policies! So, (and this is the golden question, I suppose) how do we find the right balance between having enough policies in place to guide people in the correct direction without implementing so many policies that people are locked down into legalistic parameters that don’t allow them to function inside of the community because of the ‘oppression’ (be it creative, legal, social, etc.) of the rules/laws/policies that have been put into place?
Like I said. My brain melted onto the table.
Then the professor chose that moment to return to me, allowing me to ask the question I’d had when I’d raised my hand earlier. I stuttered around for about 2 minutes, (an eternity when the whole class is melting the back of your head with radiation stares), and finally just gave up. I muttered something about it all being too complicated and oh my god. I muttered.
This isn’t the kind of professor you want to mutter in front of, by the way. Of all the people who teach at my school, she is the one and only professor who strikes fear into my heart. I try to carefully calculate every sentence I am going to say to her. She is a highly accurate, incredibly intelligent individual who has a firm grasp on more realms of knowledge than I can even count. The woman is brilliant. The woman is not the kind of person you want to mutter in front of.
So there I was, muttering. Muttering and awesomely embarrassed. I literally said something to the effect of, “It’s all so complicated, how can you ever move forward? Oh my God.” Then followed it with a, “Okay, nevermind that, I can’t even ask that question apparently,” and went on to ask my original question.
She said something like, “I’m going to answer both of your questions. The answer to your first question is just this. Yes. It is all really that complicated.” She affirmed that my baffled composure was really just a sign that I was starting to grasp the depths of chaos that is policy making and public health nursing. Then she answered my second, less profound question.
So what’s the moral of this story? Sometimes, when you forget about composing your sentences, and you just mutter around because your brain is all melty and you can’t even wrap your head around the concepts you’re trying to think through, that’s the right answer.
Bewildered muttering can be the right answer.