Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

High Bid

Janet and I went out to "The Rites of Spring" party for parents of the Emerson Waldorf School last night. It's a charity event, with a big live auction and silent auction on goods and services donated by parents and friends of the school. A few small psychological insights fell out of the experience:
  • I understand the whole notion of fundraising dinners and events now. If you want to make people especially generous, above and beyond their usual threshholds of generosity, you need to make them feel rich. And the best way to make someone feel rich is to have them dress up in their best clothes, go out to party with everyone in the community, give them something to drink, and glorify spending outrageous sums on things for the heck of it. For all of its low transaction cost and convenience, online fundraising will never compare to the glowing aura of irrational exuberance that surrounds a charity auction.
  • One of the community pillars had dressed in drag and was "Vanna White" for the auction, and it actually worked surprisingly well. I wondered for a while: "Why is that working?" Is someone behaving in utterly ridiculous fashion good for generosity? Well, maybe not, but it is good for loosening inhibitions. When someone behaves ridiculously, it gives everyone else permission to to go a little wild, too. Maybe it makes it just a little bit easier to raise your number. I've got to remember that, the next time I'm trying to make people go outside their comfort zones.
  • Going in to the auction, I had the preconception that the whole point of the auction is to have ferocious competition between bidders to stack up extra value to a given sale. But as I watched, there weren't that many hard-fought bidding wars. What I did notice, though, was that the auctioneer was very good at keeping the increments of bidding relatively high. If someone opened a bid at $100, he would have no trouble saying, very quickly, "Who'll give me $200!?" He could just as easily put the next bid at $150, or even $110, but it's his job to make that impulsive grab for the item go as high as possible. It probably added quite a bit to the average final price . . . which, of course, is why people hire auctioneers in the first place.
  • We got home really late, so of course I was completely off my usual mandated 10:30 pm bedtime. No problem with that . . . I could sleep in on Sunday. But then my day started with dealing with the kids, and then covering for Janet while she's at yoga, and then getting group work done, and it's halfway through the afternoon before I think, "Jeez, I haven't even blogged! I haven't even exercised!" And I felt a nudge of stress that I hadn't felt in quite a while, as I wondered how I would get those things done, and felt the fleeting temptation not to do them at all. Everything that routine had made effortless, now became an effort, once it was out of its usual context. It reminded me again of why the routine was so important; if you want consistent virtue, you have to make it as easy as possible for you to do the right thing. Its so much easier to do the right thing out of habit than to do it out of manifest conviction. "Lead us not into temptation," indeed.



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