doubt is better than certainty

I guess I better blog since I skipped it yesterday and I’m late today. I usually do it in the early morning. But this morning I slept in. 

My sister-in-law Nancy contacted us Tuesday evening and asked Eileen to come up to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon on Wednesday morning for a family pow-wow about “Do Not Resuscitate” papers for their father. It wasn’t clear what kind of condition he was in (conscious?) but we dutifully climbed in the car early yesterday and drove up.

Eileen’s father’s health is declining. But he was conscious and the DNR papers were routine Hospital instructions. He was recently diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmanary disease). He also has some evidence of asbestos fibrosis from his time in the US navy. His lung problems are stressing out his heart. So he isn’t doing great but he is not dieing.

Eileen found the whole thing physically and emotionally exhausting. She came home and crashed. I finished reading “The Broom of the System” by David Foster Wallace. Very funny. Recommended. Then walked over to church and practiced.

This morning I emailed a church in the village in England where my daughter Sarah lives. I have been debating about learning a pretty tough organ piece to play immediately after I get back from England. If I schedule it, I will need to do some serious practicing on vacation. I am thinking of scheduling it but having a back up piece that will require less prep.

I am finding life a bit stressful these days. Church is weighing me down as well as famiy stuff. Time for a vacation I guess. 

In the meantime I really like these excerpts from Milton Glasser’s talk I mentioned in the last post (

The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body. I have a friend named Gerald Edelman who was a great scholar of brain studies and he says that the analogy of the brain to a computer is pathetic. The brain is actually more like an overgrown garden that is constantly growing and throwing off seeds, regenerating and so on. And he believes that the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have. ..


… Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable.


Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.’ ‘It doesn’t matter that what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life. It does not matter if you are late or early, if you are here or there, if you said it or didn’t say it, if you are clever or if you were stupid. If you were having a bad hair day or a no hair day or if your boss looks at you cockeyed or your boyfriend or girlfriend looks at you cockeyed, if you are cockeyed. If you don’t get that promotion or prize or house or if you do – it doesn’t matter.’ Wisdom at last. Then I heard a marvellous joke that seemed related to rule number 10. A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’


The rabbit joke is relevant because it occurred to me that looking for a cabbage in a butcher’s shop might be like looking for ethics in the design field. .. I remember reading that during the Stalin years in Russia that everything labelled veal was actually chicken. I can’t imagine what everything labelled chicken was. We can accept certain kinds of misrepresentation, such as fudging about the amount of fat in his hamburger but once a butcher knowingly sells us spoiled meat we go elsewhere. As a designer, do we have less responsibility to our public than a butcher? Everyone interested in licensing our field might note that the reason licensing has been invented is to protect the public not designers or clients. ‘Do no harm’ is an admonition to doctors concerning their relationship to their patients, not to their fellow practitioners or the drug companies. If we were licensed, telling the truth might become more central to what we do.


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