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Waiting for Cats to Bark

August 29, 2010

This short story received an Honourable Mention in the 2009 Acrostic Story Contest (each of the 26 sentences in the story starts with successive letters of the alphabet) sponsored by Brucedale Press (Port Elgin, Ontario); it was published in The Leaf, Vol 24 (Spring 2009). © Margo Karolyi, 2009

According to my boss, I’m trying to get cats to bark.  Barking, of course, isn’t the issue – the real issue is change.  Cats would only bark if they understood the value of barking and embraced the need to do something that is totally out of character (but not impossible) for them.

Despite the rather curious analogy, I do sort of see his point, even if I don’t agree with the idea that what I’m trying to accomplish is implausible.  Essentially, he’s saying that my attempts to get people to pull their heads out of the sand and embrace a ‘change for the better’ attitude is not likely to happen any time soon. 

Fortunately, I believe that anything is possible – and that change should be welcomed as a positive influence in everyone’s life, including the perversely change-resistant people I am surrounded by every day.  Growth simply isn’t possible without an open mind and a positive perspective on transformation, modification, alteration, adjustment, and variation, or – in a word – change.  However, my boss keeps telling me that I “protest too much” because I am continually pointing out things that could (and should) be done differently (i.e., better).

I see looking at old things in new ways as a natural process and an antidote to tedium, stagnation, and that festering pool of mediocrity that permeates much of our world and the people in it.  Just because something has ‘always been done that way’ doesn’t mean that is the only (or best) approach.  Knowingly making the same mistakes over and over again, rather than trying something else, is totally counter-productive and quite possibly even harmful to those caught in the monotony of it all.  Life is too short to ignore the possibilities of trying something novel, fresh, or innovative.

My father always challenged the idea that people ‘at the top’ or ‘in charge’ (of whatever they were at the top or in charge of) got there by knowing everything there was to know about what they were put in charge of.  Nine times out of ten, he would say, they simply got there by not ‘rocking the boat’, and by continuing to do things the way their predecessors had always done them. 

Once I started working for a living, I realized he was right! Perhaps, I thought, I can make things better by simply pointing out (to anyone within earshot) that there was very likely a better way to get a job done just waiting to be discovered.  Quite to my surprise, very few people listened to me, and those who did generally resisted what I had to say (even when I backed up my fervent discourse with facts, figures, and projections of the successes that would result from implementing any number of original ideas).

Regardless of these setbacks, I refuse to give up my quest for a better workplace, environment, society, and life in general (for myself and others).  Such is my belief in my power to be an agent of change that I now regularly raise the ire of my current boss, who thinks I should just “leave well enough alone”.  Truth be told, I don’t know how to do that – and I’m not sure I could or would if I did.  Unless he – and others like him – can disprove my conviction that change is the only constant in the world, and that it brings about betterment for those touched by it, I’m going to keep on campaigning for it.

Very little can be gained by ‘maintaining the status quo’, as evidenced by the general malaise of people in general, the abysmal state of our environment, and the daily reports in the news of a society on the brink of collapse.  Where would the world be if all the great thinkers, inventors, artists, and engineers had just shrugged their shoulders over the years and said, “Well, there’s no point in trying THAT when, after all, the way we’ve always done things is working just fine.”

Xanadu is a mythical land of beauty and contentment, a wonderland of perfection that is a much sought-after ideal.  Yet most people resist the idea of such a perfect world simply because they can’t imagine changing enough to make it a reality.  Zero change means that the promised land will always be out of our reach, and I, for one, refuse to accept that – so I’m just going to keep trying to get those cats to bark!

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