Task Avoidance

Today I was casting about for a topic and it occurred to me to add a "tag cloud" to the front page of the blog so that it would be apparent which of the Precepts I hadn't written about as much as the others.  Isn't it ironic that the smallest word in the cloud is procrastination, otherwise known as TASK AVOIDANCE?

(Technically, AUDIENCE and WASTE BOOKS are the smallest actual Precepts; I'll get to them next week.  Maybe.)

TASK AVOIDANCE/procrastination is the central joke of Lichtenbergianism and of the Lichtenbergian Society, the group my creative friends formed to celebrate our inability to finish projects.  Our motto is Cras melior est — Tomorrow is better — and we mean it. 

Every December for the past ten years we have met for our Annual Meeting, a RITUAL of profound significance for all of us, part of which consists of our Recording Secretary reading out to us the Proposed Efforts we claimed we would work on in the year just past.  We are invited to talk about accomplishing the goal, or to confess that we didn't get around to it.  (The correct liturgical response is Cras melior est, of course.)

About five years ago, we began to notice that all of us were being more productive and more creative.  For a Society based on procrastination, this occasioned an existential crisis: what were we doing right?  And what did procrastination have to do with it?

It got so bad that three years ago we added "Censure for Betrayal of the High Ideals of the Society" to the Annual Meeting agenda.  Those who had been so successful that they actually accomplished something — especially something that attracted the plaudits of the world at large — were shamed before the congregation.

Leaving aside for the moment the topsy-turvy nature of the Lichtenbergian Society's attitudes towards failure and success — I will come back to that in a later post — I'd like to share an insight that Lichtenbergian Mike Funt offered in expiation for his Censure last solstice.  (He keeps doing these international tours teaching clown, as well as becoming the artistic director for Four Clowns theatre.  And that was just last year.)

Mike posited that the fact that we call them Proposed Efforts and not Goals is a critical distinction.  By stating that I intend to work on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, for example, I am opening a space in the universe for my creative effort, which may or may not be filled by the specific project in which I expressed an interest.  The universe may say, "Got it—you want to help other people become more aware of their creative process," and I will find myself doing talks about Lichtenbergianism or starting a writers group at Backstreet Arts.

But not necessarily actually working on finishing the book.

Cras melior est.