Feb 28, 2009

To Serve Man

No, not like on that Twilight Zone episode but rather in a dining hall. For me the "work" part of being a Work Scholar at Esalen means kitchen duty. It's generally a good time, working with fun people, being around beautiful fresh produce, being able to sample all the good food, listening to music. And cutting all the beautiful produce has even given me fodder for a new photo series.

However, like any job there are drudge aspects to the repetitive tasks and stressful aspects to getting everything ready in time. The latter reminds me of a scene from Shakespeare in Love, when the actors backstage talk about how somehow, miracliously, the show does indeed go on despite whatever comes it's way. The Esalen kitchen is very well run and when the unexpected happens it responds dynamically, like an organism responding to changes in it's environment. I've always been interested in organizational behavior and the impact of individual decision-making on the organization's efficaciousness. There is a loose-tight aspect to the kitchen's organization -- individual chefs are given lots of latitude with each meal, so long as they stay within budgetary and dietary guidelines. This is similar to the structure of the software companies I've worked where the product managers play a role equivalent to the chef, albeit less hands-on. As a result the success of each meal, and of each software app, tend to be highly dependent on the chef's vision and his/her ability to marshall the required resources to make it happen.

As a cog in that machine, I find the drugery more tolerable when I keep the above mantra of service in my mind. I came here to steer my life in the direction of being of more service and while I want my service to offer significantly more leverage than slicing vegetables, for right now it's an excellent way to reorient my attitudes. I like the feeling of satisfaction that comes from it and need to figure out how to achieve that same feeling in my New York life.

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